Return to Transcripts main page


Pittsburgh Islamic Community Offers Support, Raises $190,000; Local Leaders Decline to Join Trump in Pittsburgh; Trump Repeats Racially Charged Rhetoric Against Gillum; Comedian Dave Chappelle Says Trump Gets Too Much Credit for Division in Country; Anti-Semitism Has Spiked in the Last Two Years; Anti-Semitism Rises on Social Media; DOJ Investigating Interior Secretary for Using Office for Personal Gain. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 30, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] COOPER: The Pittsburgh Muslim community has backed up those offers for Pittsburgh Muslim community have backed up those promises on an online crowd-funding site, called Muslims United for Pittsburgh Synagogue, has raised more than $190,000 so far to help families affected by the shooting.

With me is Wasi Mohamed, the man speaking in the video, and Rabbi James Gibson, of the Temple Sinai Synagogue located in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, less than a mile from the Tree of Life Synagogue.

It's an honor to have you both together.

Wasi, first, the idea of raising money, when did you decide to do that, and what has the reaction been?

WASI MOHAMED, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PITTSBURGH ISLAMIC CENTER: As soon as we heard about the tragedy, my phone was filled with phone calls and text messages from community members, what can we do, should we show up somewhere, can we send money somewhere, is there a link. We went to the scene to join the community. And by the time we got off to start a fund-raising campaign, celebrate mercy, they started a link. And so we all joined efforts.

COOPER: I understand some people online were saying this wasn't a real effort, that you were going to take the money or something.

MOHAMED: Yes. So unfortunately, some people just think it's a scam and that we just have all this money and the Muslims are going to pocket it because there's no way we could love the Jewish community like we do. But as the rabbi could attest to, that's not true. We know everybody involved. It's not like we had to get their phone numbers. There's a longstanding relationship.

COOPER: That's the thing, Rabbi, and important point. You have a long -- the Jewish community here has a longstanding community. This isn't something that's just happened -- a longstanding relationship with the Muslim community.

JAMES GIBSON, RABBI, TEMPLE SINAI SYNAGOGUE: Well, and we've worked at it. I have had dear friends in the Muslim community. Every time I come to the Islamic center in Oakland, I'm welcomed as an honored guest. We talk religion. We don't talk politics as much. We all understand we have a fierce attachment to our monotheistic points of view and there are so many more things that our religions have in common than divided us. History may have divided us but faith brings us together. And, frankly, common humanity and the belief in the god of compassion. We have the same notion that God is compassionate with us so we must be compassionate with each other.

COOPER: It does seem in this time when the person who did this clearly wanted to divide people, clearly hated people, and clearly hoped that this would spark further division. If anything, you are an example of the opposite happening.


GIBSON: No, after you, please.

Not only did the Muslim community immediately leap forward and in less than 24 hours raise $70,000, and it has increased beyond that. Wasi will be our honored guest at our shabbat service at Temple Sinai at 7:00 and he'll be our guest in my home with other guests in the community who are religious leaders, because breaking bread together reinforces the bonds we have built over many years, since before 9/11, and reinforced have we have pulled together after 9/11.

COOPER: You attended the funeral services today for Dr. Rabinowitz.

MOHAMED: Yes, and it's powerful. If these tragedies, it's difficult to remember these are real people, and that's important. And they're close to us as well as Muslims as Pittsburghers and family. Dr. Rabinowitz was an amazing person, one of the first to treat HIV patients here, was a pioneer in that field and --

COOPER: At a time when many people were too scared and they weren't being treated well at all.

MOHAMED: No. Nobody else was accepted and quickly became a leader in the region for that. For somebody like that to -- it's difficult to hear but it was really beautiful seeing what people said about them and the positivity that's coming from this.

COOPER: So many funerals ahead. You look at the ages of the people. Rose was 97 years old. It's just sickening.

GIBSON: I gave a talk yesterday at CMU because they packed an entire room of the students at Carnegie-Mellon University and they wanted me to offer some words. And I talked about what it is to be less than a mile away from the death of a 97-year-old, who had every right to be safe and secure at Shabbat at her synagogue.

COOPER: A synagogue she attended for 60 years, often taking the same seat.

GIBSON: And, at the same time, me holding a baby, going on lockdown in our sanctuary, and smiling at this baby and crying at the same time over the world she is coming into and hoping she will make better use of it than some of us have.

COOPER: Wasi, obviously the president is coming today. There's been a lot of discussion about that. What do you feel about that?

[14:34:56] MOHAMED: We were really happy with how the community came together and the solidarity and messaging. I got to say, the mayor said it best, check with the families and also come later. Public safety officers have been bending over backwards. Four of them were injured in protecting victims and jumping in. I think it's extremely disrespectful. I don't think it's a smart move. Coming here, we appreciate that sense, but not when the families doesn't want it, the community doesn't want it, and when the mayor tells you our public safety infrastructure is not prepared for it. It's not appropriate.

COOPER: Rabbi, every day the crowds have been growing, people coming here. How do you help a community heal? I mean, how do you -- how does this community continue to move forward?

GIBSON: You know, there's a national movement called Solidarity Shabbat, where we're telling people come and be in community. You don't have to cry in your room. You don't have to be obsessed with the news every moment and worry about what's going to happen to you. You can come to community where you'll be embraced and your fears accepted and validated and you'll be loved. We are so much stronger together, not just in the interfaith community but alone in the Jewish community where people are often at loose ends and not necessarily connected.

COOPER: It's also so touching to me that the two brothers who were buried together, had special needs, so many people knew them. So many people who may not have known them personally, attending their funeral today. To me, that's a message of support.

GIBSON: A lot of those people never knew the doctors or knew the brother or they heard about them or simply want to be with the Jewish community as we go through our anguish and grief and those who are right now suffering. Dan Leger, has already had three surgeries, is, thank God, stable but extremely tenuous in ICU right now. We are just desperate that he recover and come to full health.

COOPER: And Rose's daughter was also injured.

Rabbi, thank you so much.

GIBSON: You're welcome. Thank you.

COOPER: And Wasi, thank you.


MOHAMED: I appreciate it.

COOPER: Brooke, a lot of great people bringing this community together. Services for the next several days. A lot of sadness ahead -- Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: What a beautiful community, though.

Anderson, thank you so much. We'll come back to you in Pittsburgh.

Meantime, President Trump inserts himself right into the middle of the Florida gubernatorial race calling the Democratic candidate a thief. Critics say, yes, that is a racist dog whistle one week before the midterm election.

A CNN exclusive. Why Comedian Dave Chappelle says President Trump gets too much credit for the division in this country. Hear from him next.


[14:42:35] BALDWIN: President Trump has officially stepped into the Florida gubernatorial race, attacking the Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, who, if elected, will become the state's first black governor. The president recently slammed Gillum without any evidence as a stone- cold thief. His comments have been criticized as a racist dog whistle.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's a guy that, in my opinion, is a stone-cold thief. And his city, Tallahassee, is known as the most corrupt in Florida and one of the most corrupt in the nation. He's a disaster. How he's even close to being tied is hard to believe. But Florida can't have -- if Florida has a governor like that, and I know Florida better than I know practically anywhere, Florida will become Venezuela. It will be a disaster.


BALDWIN: Gillum responded on twitter, "I hear Donald Trump ran home to FOX News to lie about me. But as my grandmother told me, never wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty. But the pig likes it. So ignore him and vote, Florida."

With me, Van Jones, CNN political commentator and host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW," and Nia Malika Henderson, our senior political reporter.

Van, just starting with you, your reaction to Trump's repeatedly calling him a thief?

VAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's disgusting and also it's desperate. Nobody thought that Andrew Gillum, this young mayor, African-American, in a state that Trump won would get anything but blown out of the water and this guy has caught fire in Florida. And the loyal DeSantis who has run as a Trump clone has got the floor wiped with him. He's an embarrassment to himself and others and now Trump has to step in.

He cannot step in and tell the truth about this young guy, he has to just make stuff up. At best he's trying to hang it on the fact there's an FBI investigation going on in his city, not against him and that's basically the entirety of the claim. What I want to say about that is, you know, as an African-American man, to have someone like him who is an upstanding guy, a well-educated guy, who has done a great job, to be called a thief, to me that is as racist as racist gets.

There's no way around it. That is not -- that is, as far as I'm concerned, he's just basically trying to say if you put a black guy in charge, he's going to steal everything. And that's not subtle. And there's no basis for it at all. I hope it blows up in his face.

[14:45:01] BALDWIN: It's racism. It's racism.

Nia, you've been covering and watching how the president has injected race into this race. And you wrote this piece for where you talk about in the days before the midterms, Trump is all about the white part of white working-class voters. Explain.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. We often focus on identity politics on the left. We don't focus as much on identity politics on the right and Trump does. It's white identity politics.

You can see him playing to what exists among a lot of white voters and that is a cultural anxiety about a changing America, a changing Florida. It is increasingly African-American, increasingly Latino as well. It has 40 percent black and Latino, and about 54 percent white. You see Trump running to one of his opening arguments of why he should be president and that is there's this coming hoard of Latinos from the southern border.

You see him as a closing argument playing to that sentiment again, going to the border, talking about the caravan that is about two months away from the border. It's something that worked for him in the primary. The question is does this continue to work, does it continue to rile up white voters and make them emotionally attached to his candidacy and presidency now. We'll have to see whether or not this works in Florida and works for broadly in the midterms.

BALDWIN: That's the key question. We'll find out in seven days. Midterms next Tuesday.

One this whole issue of race, Dave Chappelle was just interview by Christiane Amanpour and he said this.


DAVE CHAPELLE, COMEDIAN: Even when they say that Russians -- is like is Russians making us racist? Is that who's doing this? Thank goodness, I thought it was us.


CHAPELLE: If they killed the country that way, then we're the murder weapon. We've always been.

AMANPOUR: So is the Trump era a good era for comedians? Is it just unbelievable fodder or not? CHAPELLE: I would not even name the era after him. He's given too

much credit.

AMANPOUR: He's the president.

CHAPELLE: He's not making the wave, he's surfing it. All he does is sing those people's greatest hits, build a wall. He just sings all the songs. He's the only one that's been brash enough to do it.


BALDWIN: So, Van, I wanted to ask you about that. You hear Dave saying he's singing the greatest hits, racism, and a lot of this has existed before Donald Trump. He's there in the White House, the pot is on the stove, and instead of turning the heat down, he's stirring it.

JONES: When I'm working with young people in a neighborhood, I don't want to hear so and so made me do it. People have to take responsibility for their own actions. That said, leadership matter, words matter. You set a tone in a room, you create a certain conversation. You get a different tone in the room, you get a different conversation.

The president has to take responsibility for the fact that, yes, we have years of very bad history on race, but to have someone in the White House who is at least insensitive as he is incendiary, has had a negative effect and you're seeing in the country.

BALDWIN: Van and Nia, thank you very much.

Check out Nia's column on

Let's go back to Anderson in Pittsburgh.

COOPER: Brooke, thanks.

I'm here in Pittsburgh where funerals are under way for some of the 11 people killed yesterday worshipping inside the synagogue. That's where the 11 were killed, a senseless and violent act that stole 11 lives.

It's obviously part of a disturbing trend. According to the Anti- Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. over just the past two years have surged to their highest level since the Jewish civil rights group started keeping track.

CNN's Sara Sidner has been looking at this for us..


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators say Robert Bowers wanted all Jews to die. The suspect using his arsenal of weapons to try and kill as many Jews as he could. Now facing a myriad of hate crime and murder charges. In Squirrel Hill, the center of Jewish life in and around Pittsburgh,

resident, Halle Goldstein, says fear was never part of the equation until now.

HALLE GOLDSTEIN, PITTSBURGH RESIDENT: Before, everyone was just saying how they felt stronger and they felt braver. I don't feel brave. I just feel scared.

SIDNER: Now there's reason to fear. Eleven people were just slaughtered in a synagogue in America.

For years, incidents of anti-Semitism were on the decline in America. Then came the 2016 presidential election. Since then, a meteoric rise, 34 percent increase in 2016, a 57 percent increase in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League that tracks it.

[14:50:21] JONATHAN GREERBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: That's the single largest surge we have ever seen since we started tracking this data.

SIDNER: Nothing is sacred. Not human life or places of worship or even where the dead are buried.

In Omaha, Nebraska, a veterans' memorial scarred with a swastika. In Indiana, a synagogue desecrated. In Sacramento, California, fliers targeting Jewish students on campus.

MICHAEL GOFMAN, STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT, U.C., DAVIS: It screams of the same type of graphics and the same type of designs that Nazis used.

SIDNER: This is in Pennsylvania just a few months ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my country.

SIDNER (on camera): It's great. This is also my country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys didn't win the culture war.

Good get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of here now!

SIDNER (voice-over): And no one can forget the torch-bearing men in Charlottesville, Virginia, spewing their hate-filled rhetoric.


SIDNER: What is behind all this? The ADL and those who track hate say there's no doubt political rhetoric is in part to blame. That rhetoric can be subtle or in your face, like U.S. Representative Steve King, for example, retweeting messages from a known Nazi sympathizer.

REP. STEVE KING, (R), IOWA: I'm not deleting that because then you all pile on me and say King had to apologize, he was wrong, he knows he's guilty. I'm not. I don't feel guilty one bit. I'm human.

SIDNER: This Trump political ad raised eyebrows, featuring prominent Jews to target global special interests.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- to the global special interests.

SIDNER: While those accused of anti-Semitism for years, like Louis Farrakhan, continue to tweet and make inflammatory statements.

GREENBLATT: When Jews are literally under attack, we should have a zero-tolerance policy on intolerance. It's unacceptable that anyone, from the president to Minister Farrakhan to anyone in between, should make comments and all of it should be called out. All of it should be unacceptable.


COOPER: And Sara Sidner joins us now.

The Internet has allowed a lot of people to connect in private and even the chat site that this killer was using, which has since been taken down but too little, too late.

SIDNER: Yes. Gab, we've been on Gab for many years. Because I cover hate in America. We went on there solely because many of the people who got kicked off of Twitter, for example, who are white supremacists or Neo-Nazis, were spreading anti-Semitism rhetoric, they migrated to that particular social site.

They have all kinds of anti-Semitic messages. They are the most-vile pictures. They're using all sorts hatred and spinning it amongst themselves. I think it emboldens people and makes them feel they have a group of people who make them believe what they believe. And then it compounds it and makes them think this is actually true.

So some of the falsehoods you know about the Holocaust, for example, and people denying that, they are having that reinforced again and again and again and again, and it just completely shades their mind. They don't understand what it is that they're reading, that's false and they start believing their own rhetoric.

COOPER: Or they understand it's false but they just don't care.


SIDNER: Don't care. That's true.

COOPER: Sara Sidner, thanks very much.

A lot more to cover. We'll toss it back to Brooke right now -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Anderson and Sara, thank you both so much.

Moments from now, President Trump will be leaving Washington, D.C., heading to Pittsburgh where funerals are underway for those killed in that synagogue attack. City leaders in Pittsburgh are divided over whether the president should be there today. We'll have that. [14:54:02] Also, breaking news on one of the president's own cabinet members. Sources tell CNN the Justice Department is now investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.


BALDWIN: Breaking news involving one of the president's cabinet members. Sources tell CNN the Justice Department is now investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown, is with me now for more.

Pamela, tell me what you know.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, what we have learned is the Justice Department is investigating Ryan Zinke for using his office for personal gain. This is following a referral from Interior's inspector general. This is coming from two sources familiar with this investigation.

Brooke, we should point out the full extent of the inquiry is unclear, but we do know that Zinke has faced ethics questions during his time in office at Interior. And the inspector general's office has multiple public inquiries into the secretary, including the department's handling of a Connecticut casino project, whether the boundaries for a national monument were redrawn to benefit a state lawmaker, and conversations between Zinke and Halliburton about an ongoing project.

Zinke has said he has not been contacted by the Justice Department. Here's what he says about our story: "They" -- as in the Justice Department -- "haven't talked to me. It will be the same thing as all the other investigations. I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and most importantly the law. This is another politically driven investigation that has no merit."

That is what Zinke, Interior Secretary Zinke is telling CNN about our story. And the Justice Department --