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White House Stands By Call to Fire ESPN Reporter; Trump: Military Options On North Korea Are Effective And Overwhelming; U.N. Security Council Condemns Latest North Korea Launch; Trump Again Uses Terror Incident To Call For Travel Ban; Trump Travel Ban Must Be Larger, Tougher, More Specific; Twitter Co-Founder On Nefarious Part Of Social Media; New Biopic Showcase JD Salinger's Military Background. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 15, 2017 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He went on to tweet: the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific. But stupidly, that would not be politically correct, unquote.

[16:30:04] The president's immediate public speculation about the attack and the announcement that the perpetrators were in the sights of Scotland Yard, whatever that meant, that did not go over particular well across the proverbial pond.

Asked directly about President Trump's tweet, British Prime Minister Theresa May said this.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I never think it's helpful for anyone to speculate on an ongoing investigation.


TAPPER: May's former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, was even more blunt, tweeting, quote, true or not, and I'm sure he doesn't know, this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner.

This presidential propensity for jumping into the fray when wounds are still fresh and facts are still being ascertained, it does seem to have some limits, even after the world had seen images of vile, racists, neo-Nazis, and the Klan marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, people carrying torches, shouting Jews will not replace us and racist slogans in the streets. For President Trump, that was a time we saw restraint from him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like to be correct. I want the facts. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: The president's response to Charlottesville, as recently as yesterday, he was suggesting an equivalence between the neo-Nazis and those protesting the neo-Nazis. This continues to upset wide swaths of the American public, including Republican Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina who yesterday issued a statement that read in part, quote: Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but the KKK has been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There is no realistic comparison. Period, unquote.

Others, especially many in the African-American community, have responded to the president's widely criticized take on the issue of white supremacist with a harsher tone.

On Monday night, ESPN host Jemele Hill went on something of a Twitter rant against the president. One of her tweets reading, quote, Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded herself with other white supremacists.

On Wednesday, from the White House podium, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Hill's tweets a fireable offense. This is the first time that we know of in history that a White House called for the employee of a private company to be fired because he or she criticized the president. One can only imagine the response had then President Obama suggested that NBC fire a certain reality television star for pushing the lie that the first African-American president had been born in Africa. But I digress.

This morning, President Trump weighed in on this ESPN controversy, tweeting, ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics and bad programming. People are dumping it in record numbers. Apologize for untruth.

ESPN can speak for itself on programming and ratings, but Mr. Trump's demand for an apology from ESPN and/or Jemele Hill is interesting, when you consider how often the president has lashed out and attacked others and did not apologize. It's also interesting to hear him express offense for something he calls an untruth, given how many untruths he has not only shared but concocted.

But let us for now specifically address how offended the president is that an ESPN anchor called him a white supremacist, because that is a harsh assessment. It is an ugly charge.

Here are some context which you may not be aware of. In 2012, "The Daily Caller" got their hands on a 2007 Obama speech which the then senator, speaking before a largely African-American audience suggested that the U.S. government deals with some crises, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina for example, differently because the victims are largely black.

Here was President Trump's response on Twitter. Quote: Obama's 2007 speech which "Daily Caller" just released not only shows that Obama is a racist, but also how the press always covers for him.

In fact, a cursory review of the @DonaldTrump twitter archive shows that President Trump has called racists not only President Obama, he has made that charge against black journalists Bryant Gumball, Tavis Smiley and Toure. He's also suggested that Jon Stewart is a bigot and Senator Elizabeth Warren is a racist, as is the Quentin Tarantino movie "Django Unchained" and the title of a TV show "Blackish."

So, this is where the conversation all begins -- in Donald Trump's view, these people are racists and post-Charlottesville. Even though officials in his White House were dismayed by his remarks, the president feels he is the one who is owed an apology.

The White House doubled down today on their statement that ESPN's Jemele Hill's tweet calling the president white supremacist is a fireable offense. I'm joined by former NFL player Donte Stallworth.

First of all, what's your take on the White House demanding an apology from either Jemele Hill or ESPN?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think it's interesting that the president has used the power of the Oval, he's used the power of the executive branch to not only intimidate and to bully his political adversaries, but he's done this to our nation's allies.

[16:35:02] He's also done this to his own staff as we have seen today with him calling Jeff Sessions an idiot.

The president should not be calling for anyone's job because they're criticizing him. That is key characteristic of what an authoritarianism is. And the president of the United States of an open and free society should not be discussing those things.

TAPPER: So, his, I guess, their idea that -- where they're coming from is that that is such a horrific thing for her to say about him, that he's a white supremacist, that it just goes beyond the pale and is fireable. It is a really ugly charge, and obviously it does have some context.

I don't know what's in President Trump's brain. I would never call him that.

What do you think of the charge itself?

STALLWORTH: Well, I know one thing is that he has surrounded himself with white supremacists. I don't think that can be denied. And another thing that he's done is he has openly not defended people who have been victims of the neo-Nazis that are -- KKK on the street in Charlottesville, it took him a while to condemn those factions.

And so, when you enable those people and you don't condemn them right away, they feel like they have an opening since the previous eight years that a black man has been the president of the United States, for the most part, you could probably say that didn't sit too well with these folks, these particular folks.

And so then you hear them marching down the street, marching about "Jews will not replace us." I mean, these are ridiculous and dangerous things. He has not condemned those.

So the fact that he has not condemned those in the least tells you that he's emboldened these people.

TAPPER: Well, he did go on -- I mean, you might remember, there was a statement on Saturday and then a statement on a Monday and statement of Tuesday, at one point he did go out and say neo-Nazis and the Klan --

STALLWORTH: At one point, but it wasn't at the top of his mind. It wasn't something else at the forefront of his mind to come through and condemn those actions right away. To me, that says a lot about what he's doing.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about politics and sports, because obviously anybody who is a minor sports fan knows that it's happened. But it usually is fairly rare. You can think about the Olympic black power display. You can think about Muhammad Ali.

But there is just a rash of politics going on right now, a lot of athletes, not just Colin Kaepernick, but plenty of individuals making their political voices heard. Some people love it, obviously. Other people might think, you know, "Monday night football" is when I can get away from that and I just want to talk about the game.


TAPPER: What do you think?

STALLWORTH: Well, I'm reminded by what the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said. And he said that your moral compass should not be silent and no matter what it is. So he spoke on that.

And not only I think the main motivating factor for him to say those words was Muhammad Ali. He spoke glowingly about Muhammad Ali standing up to the United States government about not going to the war in Vietnam and not fighting a war when there was essentially a war going on here where he said he could not go to a restaurant and sit next to his white brothers and sisters and have dinner with them, so why would he go all the way to Vietnam? Martin Luther king said that. And at the start, the catalyst from him saying that was Muhammad Ali's actions.

And so, people will always have negative thoughts and issues, what they want to say about athletes when they're speaking out, especially when you don't agree it, right? It's -- when you don't agree with something, I think that's the point when you really need to check your hypocrisy and understand it works both ways. Free speech works both ways, whether you agree with it or not.

TAPPER: All right. Donte Stallworth, always good to see you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

She's the first daughter and adviser to the president. Now, Ivanka Trump is opening up how much influence she really has over her father. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:43:55] TAPPER: This just in to CNN. The U.N. Security Council

has just condemned what it called North Korea's highly provocative latest missile launch and called on all nations to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang. We have a lot to discuss with my political panel.

So, let's dive right in.

Jen Palmieri, let's take a listen to President Trump speaking to U.S. members just a moment ago about military options when it comes to the North Korea crisis.


TRUMP: After seeing your capabilities and commitment here today, I am more confident than ever than our options in addressing this threat, are both effective and overwhelming.


TAPPER: It's unclear if this is actually leading to a military strike by the U.S. against North Korea, but at the very least, the rhetoric has really escalated.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Escalated but within bounds. I mean, I think the language you heard today is not fire and fury and was probably scripted and it's part of a two-part series where we saw McMaster at the podium this afternoon at the White House, and now, President Trump in his scripted remarks making clear that we have the capability to respond and that -- what happened last time was North Korea was reminded of the military options, they backed off.

TAPPER: What do you think is the endgame here? Obviously, everyone would like to avoid a military confrontation, but do you think that they're just hoping that ratcheting it up this much will really pressure China to for instance cut off its oil supply to North Korea? Is that the hopeful end game?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that's what most of the Asia experts, you know, North Korea types think and hope. And the question is, do we have enough leverage on China to do it? Would China do it to risk destabilizing the regime that they regard as helpful buffer for all their headaches that North Korea gives on their border? It's a tough situation but I agree with Jen, it seems to me that -- it seems that McMaster and Mattis are running this policy and Trump is being a little less --

PALMIERI Spontaneous?

KRISTOL: A little less freelancing than he did a few --

PALMIERI: Reassuring?

TAPPER: Let's bring to another tweet morning from President Trump, a more policy-oriented one. After the London attack, he started talking about the travel ban that he has been instituting or trying to. He wrote, "The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher, and more specific, but stupidly that could not be politically correct." Now, I've been trying to figure out what larger, tougher, and more specific would mean, and I think I figured it out. Take a listen to then-candidate Trump in December of 2015.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's Representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.


TAPPER: I'm not trying to be cute here. I really think that's what he meant by larger and also more specific. Do you agree?

PALMIERI: Yes. I mean, what I -- what I found telling about those tweets is that it seems to be he's serious about Dream and about passing something on DACA. Because if he -- I feel he's reassuring his base. I still feel strongly about the Muslim ban and I'm still saying -- I'm still saying the words that you want me to say on immigration, but it's giving him room to do what he wants -- and it's giving him room to do what he wants on passing Dream and saving DACA.

TAPPER: Yes, and Maggie Haberman made point like that that all the tweets from this morning kind of had to be read in total as a -- as a gift package to his base.

KRISTOL: Yes. And he assumes they're reassured by bluster and some silly talk. On the other hand, there's (INAUDIBLE) North Korea, there was an attack in London, we don't know who did it.


KRISTOL: But we don't know if it's someone that would have been affected by the travel ban, or someone who grew up in London or whatever. And to take advantage of that in the way that Trump did to offend the British, OK, the British will get over, they're grown up, thinks Trump is Trump. But think of North Korea. I mean, you need to really -- you want to keep your allies close and you want to be sure of your allies. And I think his -- the gratuitous nature with which the way he offends the British, the Japanese, anyone, the Koreans, Mexico, you know, McMaster and Mattis and those guys spend a lot of time cleaning up after Trump and sort of trying to reassure people.

And luckily, we're the United States, they all kind of want to get along with us and keep us on board so they bend over backward not to be offended. I think that was Theresa May's reaction a bit. I just worry over four years, you can pay a pretty big price for just being offending, offending, offending. You can damage the alliance structure, which really is important to our security. The thing Trump cares the most about, keeping terrorists out. How do you do that without cooperation from our allies including in Europe, right? You want to be talking to the British Counterintelligence all the time about who's maybe getting on the plane in (INAUDIBLE)

PALMIERI: He's just counting on the fact of the rest of leaders will be more mature than he is.



KRISTOL: And he complains about them free riding on us. And they know in terms of defense which is somewhat true but we are now free riding, in a sense, on the responsibility -- on the responsible leadership of Theresa May and Prime Minister Abe and people like that.

TAPPER: You know, what's interesting also is the way that the British press is treating his tweet about Scotland Yard had their sights on this terrorist or whoever it was is -- they are acting as if President Trump is leaking classified information he wasn't supposed to share. I don't know that they know that to be the case. But either that tweet was meaningless or that's what it meant.

PALMIERI: Yes. Either he's making it up or he's leaking information. And we already had the Prime Minister of our greatest ally on television saying the President of the United States is intervening in a way that is unhelpful. Let alone maybe --

TAPPER: This would be the second time theoretically that the U.S. government would have under Trump, would have shared information shared by the British, theoretically if that's what he was doing. If he was saying something that was nonsalable.

KRISTOL: It's just this kind of human thing that there's an attack, a terrorist attack in a friend or an allied capital. You don't know how many people have been hurt. You don't know whether there might be a second one in an hour, and you're just tweeting away. I mean, you are the President. Honestly, I don't think any of us would do that just as private citizens. It's such an inappropriate -- it's such an inappropriate thing to say, they probably weren't on top of things. Really? How we know that? Maybe there were on top of things to stop other attacks at the same time. We have no idea, right? And I don't think Trump really knows at this point either.

PALMIERI: And how much you rely on the U.K. Foreign Intelligence to stop terrorist attacks. And if they feel like we have this experience all around this administration, if they feel like they can't be sharing this information with United States, it's not safe, that's a dangerous place for us to be.

[16:50:02] TAPPER: Let's not forget that the -- when he worked at the White House, Sean Spicer actually accused the British equivalent of the NSA of spying on President Obama -- I'm sorry spying on Trump on behalf of President Obama. So there almost -- it's almost as if in that White House it doesn't matter what you say to the British. You were involved in that, right? I mean, you were there --

PALMIERI: I was gone by then.

KRISTOL: The top-secret trip to London to coordinate the spying.

PALMIERI: I was busy losing the Hillary Clinton campaign at that point.

TAPPER: Breitbart is going to turn this into a video clip that said, actually saying that it actually happened. Let the record reflect that Bill Kristol was joking. Thank you so much, Jen Palmieri and Bill Kristol. I appreciate it. Great to have you here. Have a great weekend. With Facebook under fire, after it sold ads to a Russian troll farm, CNN is going to talk to the co-founder of Twitter about how tech companies should fight fake news, coming up next.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back in our "TECH LEAD," in a week where one of the biggest social media sites, Facebook, faces scrutiny for taking money from Russian propagandist spreading disinformation to interfere with the U.S. Election. CNN Senior Tech Reporter Laurie Segall spoke to Twitter Co-Founder Ev Williams about the struggle of social media companies face against fake news.


EV WILLIAMS, CO-FOUNDER, TWITTER: In my opinion, the most nefarious feedback loop that drives recent belief and misinformation on the internet and the media, in general, is that it's all driven by advertising and it's all free, and attention is valued. And if you can generate attention, then you can get paid. The thing that we should acknowledge is that anyone selling ads, these ad driven platforms are benefiting from a lot of the fake information and misinformation and these campaigns. And they're also benefiting from people just generating attention at pretty much any cost.


TAPPER: Williams went on to tell Segall that tech companies struggle to separate political opinions from misinformation and don't believe editorial guidelines fit with their business models but they don't recognize those editorial judgments have been already made every step of the way from the algorithm on.

Now, let's turn to our "POP CULTURE LEAD." We wrote the book we read in high school English, but so little is known about the notoriously reclusive author J.D. Salinger. A new film opens nationwide today hopes to capture one previously all but unexplored part of his life. The battle that the author and the World War II veteran waged with post-traumatic stress disorder.


TAPPER: He stormed the shores of Normandy, survived the battle of the bulge, married a Gestapo agent and oh yes, he went on to write the Catcher In The Rye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Jerome David Salinger.

TAPPER: Veteran and late author J.D. Salinger became famously private following the monumental success of his first and only novel about a jaded and rebellious teenager. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) in Normandy.

TAPPER: And now Writer, Director Danny Strong is bringing Salinger's life story to the screen with his film Rebel In The Rye.


DANNY STRONG, REBEL IN THE RYE DIRECTOR AND WRITER: This is actually what inspired me to make the film because I thought that that was so moving how a veteran, how someone could experience the horrors of war, could deal with it and how they were able to, you know, take that experience, that horrific experience and then channel it into this masterpiece.

TAPPER: A 2013 namesake documentary gave the world new images of Salinger. Now strong and actor Nicholas Hoult are bringing them to life. Salinger was a member of the Army's Counterintelligence Corps and wrote much of his holding (INAUDIBLE) tale while serving overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I would be alive if it wasn't for this (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: A traumatic events of war no doubt affected the author.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes I wake up and I'm screaming.

TAPPER: But who talked about post-traumatic stress in the 1940s?

This is a time when people didn't know what PTSD was. It was called battle fatigue. They didn't even discuss it. So to see the path that Salinger took, how he took up meditation, how he took up yoga and how his writing in its own way became a form of therapy. I think it could be deeply inspiring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can I do for you, Mr. Salinger?

TAPPER: Salinger had honed his craft with the help of mentor and one time professor Whit Burnett, played in the film by Kevin Spacey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to devote your life to telling the stories?

TAPPER: After fame came flooding in with the 1951 publication of Catcher In The Rye, Salinger retreated to New Hampshire where he did his writing until his death in 2010.

STRONG: The idea of making a movie about his life would have been, I think, horrific to him. I think this is the last thing he would have wanted. And I wouldn't have pursued it if he were still alive.

TAPPER: As for a movie version of Catcher In The Rye, Salinger made his feelings clear in 1957 letter, writing, "I toyed very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me to no end though to know that I won't have to see the results of the transaction."


TAPPER: Tune in Sunday morning to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nicky Haley joins us for a conversation on North Korea, plus an exclusive with Senator Dianne Feinstein. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks so much for watching. Have a great weekend.