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CNN TONIGHT

Hate And Violence Rising In America; President Trump Condemns Anti-Semitism But Not White Nationalism; Donald Trump And His Take On The Rise Of White Nationalism; Trump Aides Continue To Defend The President's Comments; Donald Trump Congratulated Nick Bosa. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I'm not calling him a bigot. Don't cheapen the argument.

This is about more than that. It's about the truth and seeing about more than that. It's about the truth and seeing which way we are headed. This is not a coincidence that the president is saying these kinds of things on these kinds of issues. They are not separate. They are the same.

Thank you for watching us tonight. Now time for "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon, looking good.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Thank you, sir. So, let me ask you this, Chris. So this whole idea about, well, there are people who were protesting the dismantling or the removal of a statue, OK, you're just a normal person who's there, you don't like the statue being taken down and then all the sudden you see people with signs calling people, you know, the "n" word and making monkey -- you hear them making monkey noises, calling out the black folks in the crowd saying Jews will not replace us.

If you're a very fine person, what do you do? Do you say, I'm not going to watch those people?

CUOMO: You leave, you leave.

LEMON: So, Jake Tapper, very brilliant question to Kellyanne Conway, who were the very fine people? She didn't -- couldn't answer it. Who were the very fine people?

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: So today they had an answer. So today they went back in the New York Times --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And who's that?

CUOMO: -- and said that they, remember they interviewed this woman at the time who said I'm about free speech and I like -- yes, but she wasn't marching with the Nazis. LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: She was there to say I think we should have this discussion; these things mean something in the south. Now look, that's debatable. I don't know what the relevant cultural value of something that represents slavery in a country that fought against it.

It's a debate you want to have, fine. But they're conflating it. And I don't know why, Don. I know -- I know what the suggestion can be, well, he does it because he likes this. I think it's something worse. I really do.

Because people who you grew up with who judged you that way because of the color of your skin --

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: -- in general ignorant, raised in a vacuum, somehow tainted, somehow damaged, or maybe just pure out evil. But it's usually some kind of combination. But the man who perverts that anger and uses it for advantage, that's a different kind of human being. That's not about ignorance.

LEMON: Well, you took --

CUOMO: That's about an advantage.

LEMON: You took the words right out of my mouth. Because I was just going to say one of my very best -- probably my best friend, in my later adult years now is a friend named Jamie who lives in Georgia, grew up, born and raised in Georgia. When I worked at CNN in Atlanta, we became very good friends.

And we would talk about issues of race. He's this white guy, red hair, you know, we couldn't be any more different but we're really good friends. And we talk about the Confederate flag all the time and he couldn't understand and he said my parents and the people around me taught this meant southern pride.

And then when I started to educate him and told him what things he should read and explore, he started to realize that that flag wasn't necessarily about southern pride and actually what it meant to other groups of people, and that that flag was being used to fight for really something that was treasonous and something that was reprehensible, which was the enslavement of people who looked like me.

And then in the end, he realized, he said well I cannot condone that if I'm going to have a friend like you then what has been told to me does not make sense.

CUOMO: You know, when you keep the flag, when the streets are filled in protest with African-Americans.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: When the African-Americans say we want to keep the flag, we want to keep the statues, then you know that it's about cultural adaptation and memories of a heritage that's worth preserving.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: But I'm telling you, this Trump trifecta is real. You're going to have the economics. You're going to have competing plans and competing people. But I'm telling you, abortion, immigration, right wing extremism, they all play to the same persuasion sensibilities in certain voters. Him saying --

LEMON: Fear.

CUOMO: -- that a newborn child can be swaddled and then executed, the president of the United States saying something so dumb --

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: -- so grossly inaccurate, I've never heard him lie any worse, Don, than if he called himself Frankie.

LEMON: Well, could be, my grandpa used to call me Frankie and then he would, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: What is bigger than this?

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He's saying that people want to kill babies for real.

LEMON: And it's not true. But I will --

CUOMO: Of course, it's not true.

LEMON: I will say this before I move onto the show. If you believe in the history of this country, you should read it. If you want to have statues, that's fine. If you want to have the flag, that's fine. Put them in a museum, a museum that can explain correctly the significance of those objects and those monuments. They don't have to be displayed.

[22:04:55] I'm just wondering, and I know this is an extreme example, and I've used it before, Robert E. Lee high school, there was a Robert E. Lee High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I come from.

Would people want to go to a school that was named Hitler high school, would you want a statue of Hitler erected anywhere in the United States? Those things mean the same thing to African-Americans as the other things mean to Jewish people, Jewish-Americans.

So just think about that, America. Before you say this is history and it's our pride and all of that. Fine. But it represents the worst of our country and not the best of our country.

CUOMO: And that is the one piece of context that people need to remember about what the president was saying around Charlottesville.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He was siding --

LEMON: Exactly.

CUOMO: -- with the people who want to keep the statues and saying, where do we end, Jefferson, George Washington? It's a meaningful distinction. It's not about having owned slaves, it's about when there was a line drawn in the side, about what this country would be about which side you were on of that line.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: It's different. To say Washington, Jefferson, that's about picking men in the moment in which they lived and what their weaknesses were. Fine.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Fine cultural criticism. It's different than the Civil War.

LEMON: Agree.

CUOMO: It's different than the role that was played there and the decisions that was made. I'm just telling you, Don, I'm telling you he's touching these buttons for a reason and I'm not saying he's a bigot; I'm not saying he holds these things in his heart. He keeps them in his head because he thinks they're working, and that's dangerous.

LEMON: Yes. well, what a man says, so is he.

CUOMO: Swaddling a baby and then deciding whether to execute it. Never thought I'd hear that. Not from a president.

LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

I'm in Los Angeles and this is where there's a new terror plot tonight coming on the heels of the deadly synagogue attack in Poway. That is a memorial service held today for Lori Kaye. Lori Kaye is a 60-year-old woman who died trying to defend her rabbi from the shooter.

I want you to just listen to this very powerful moment from when Oscar Stuart, who tried to tackle the gunman when his gun jammed, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein led the entire congregation in singing "God Bless America," not as an anthem, but as a prayer.

(CROWD SINGING GOD BLESS AMERICA)

LEMON: As the members of that congregation are in mourning tonight and with the alleged shooter facing charges of murder and attempted murder, now a 26-year-old army veteran is charged with plotting multiple terror attacks here in the Los Angeles area. Targeting Jewish people, police officers, and crowds at the Santa Monica Pier. Well, from the criminal complaint the defendant, Mark Domingo, quote,

"planned and took steps to manufacture and use a weapon of mass destruction in order to commit mass murder.

On April 23 and 24, 2019, Domingo purchased several hundred nails to be used as shrapnel inside an explosive device.

The suspect is a former army infantry man who was deployed to Afghanistan from September of 2012 to January 2013. He was allegedly caught on tape talking about ISIS and Jihad."

So, make no mistake, the rise of hate in America is tearing this country apart. It is killing Americans. It's making us afraid to go to our churches and our synagogues. It is making us afraid, just to walk down the street.

And it's Americans who are killing us, not terrorists from other countries. In the middle of Saturday's deadly attack, President Trump started his speech with a forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, praise for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president was exactly right to say that. He stepped up. He said the right thing. So why, when he was asked today if he thinks white nationalism is on the rise, why did he refuse to even answer the question?

Here's the thing. You cannot condemn hate while simultaneously giving a wink and a nod to those who peddle hate. You can't ignore the threat from white nationalism like this president did last month after that horrific attack, attacks on Muslims at a prayer in New Zealand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:10:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?

TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You can't whitewash white nationalism with a bogus argument that the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who openly paraded their hate on the streets of Charlottesville were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee who waged war on the United States, a brutal slave owner, who fought for the continued enslavement of millions of African-Americans. Millions of people who looked like me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said there were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: I've answered that question. And if you look at what I said you will see that that question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general, whether you like it or not he was one of the great generals.

I've spoken to many generals here right at the White House. And many people thought of the generals they think he was maybe their favorite general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Everybody knows, we all heard what went on in Charlottesville. There were not very fine people on both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You cannot have it both ways, if you condemn hate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think one of the most important things we can do is use the bully pulpit of the president and call out this hatred by name, condemn it as the president has done and will continue to do anytime something like this comes up.

Hopefully we don't see another incident like this. It's a horrific and heinous moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You can't let your campaign try to argue that when you said there were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville that you were talking about people who wanted to preserve a statue.

I'm going to be very clear here. Charlottesville was not about a statue. It was about hate. Hate on display in America and the world to see. And this -- I mean, this is amazing. A White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity, telling the Washington Post that the president is committed to combating white supremacy and violence in all forms.

I want you -- everybody listen, think about this. Since when do you have to be anonymous to condemn white supremacy and violence? That seems like something a president would say in an impassioned speech from the Oval Office out loud, not something that would come from an anonymous source.

But for this president it's all about politics. It's about dog whistles. And why is the president relitigating Charlottesville anyway? Why is he trying so hard to rewrite his own history, with some twisted revisionist history of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, why is he trying to do that?

How many fine people do you know who would go and march with people who are saying those things, who are carrying all of those things, about a Civil War? This is supposed to be about a Civil War, a war that tore America apart? What the hell are you talking about?

He's doing it because Joe Biden is hitting him where he lives. That is the truth. Joe Biden is evoking the worst moment of the Trump presidency. He did it again today in his first official campaign event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We saw hate in Charlottesville. We saw it again in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue, the attack of the deadliest in American history on a Jewish community. And we're reminded again that we are in a battle, we are in a battle for America's soul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we are.

BIDEN: I really believe that. And we have to restore it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, as you know this president, he cannot help himself because the president's political advisers have been warning him not to take the bait, not to get sucked into a one on one brawl with any of the Democratic candidates, especially Joe Biden whose candidacy seems to unnerve this president.

[22:15:02] But you heard what Biden said there, we are in a battle for America's soul. Right on. We are. The question is, will that battle be won by those who are fighting for the best of America, like the congregation singing "God Bless America" or will it be won by the forces of hate and disinformation and lies? The answer will decide the future of this country.

So, with white nationalism out in the open is the president woefully turning a blind eye to it? That is a question for Peter Beinart, April Ryan, and Max Boot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump strongly condemning the deadly synagogue shooting on Saturday but refusing to condemn white nationalists.

Let's discuss now. Peter Beinart is here, April Ryan. April is the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House," also with us, Mr. Max Boot, the author of "The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam."

It's so good to have all of you on and I love -- I appreciate your candor.

So, let's -- this is a very important topic, especially for the nation when we see what is going on like that synagogue shooting. So Max, I'm going to start with you.

[22:19:55] The president called that shooting, the synagogue shooting a hate crime, condemned the attack forcefully but this shooting is part of a larger trend that we have seen that we're seeing now, and it's white nationalism out in the open. Is he ignoring the bigger picture, Max?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he's not just ignoring the bigger picture, Don, I think he's contributing to the problem. I mean, the very day before that heinous shooting in California Trump was repeating his praise for the Charlottesville protesters saying once again that there are very fine people on both sides when we know that the people who are marching were saying the Jews will not replace us.

There's nothing fine about that, even if Trump had been right that they were simply exercised about this Robert E. Lee statue. I mean, Robert E. Lee was a general who was a traitor to the United States, who fought against the United States, fought to preserve slavery.

There's only one reason why statues of Robert E. Lee were ever put up, it was to support segregation to support Jim Crow, to oppose Civil Rights. We know what message those statues are sending and that's the message that Donald Trump is supporting. And he also, I would add, echoes a lot of the talking about points that you hear from white nationalists about how immigrants are invading us and how they're a major threat.

And, by the way, Trump himself calls himself a nationalist. And so, we know what he's doing here. He's basically playing this elaborate game where he condemns actual terrorist attacks, where he condemns anti- Semitism but he also, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, he also sends signals to the white nationalists that he's really on their side.

And that's why I think you've seen such a surge of white nationalist extremism and anti-Semitic incidents and anti-African-American incidents during his presidency because he is basically sending a signal of tacit encouragement from Washington. And that's the --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Peter Beinart, I want to bring you in because I want to hear your view on this. Because on the one hand the president offers, you know, a wink and a nod to white nationalists when he thinks it will help him, and yet is rightfully horrified when something like this happens, at least in what he says afterwards. Is that problematic?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's problematic. Donald Trump is willing to call out anti-Semitism because he has Jews in his coalition. He has Jews as his supporters. But what he's not willing to do is recognize that the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States is simply one symptom of the larger rise in white nationalism and it's inextricably connected to the rise in Islamophobia and to the anti-Latino bigotry.

And the latter too, Islamophobia and Latino bigotry, Donald Trump actively, he actively foments those things. And that's why Donald Trump won't attack white nationalism. Because white nationalism also goes after people that he goes after himself.

If you look at what the shooter in California said it was similar to what the guy in Pittsburgh said. He said one of the reasons he was against Jews was he believed Jews were bringing in immigrants. Right? And so, this plays exactly into Donald Trump's line where Donald Trump talks about Latinos as rapists, as invaders, as animals, that fuels anti-Semitism because these people in Pittsburgh and California, they see Jews as behind it. It's really all interconnected.

LEMON: Hey, quickly. Another question for you, because you in a new op-ed, in the Forward, very personal and you write this, you say "The Trump era has shown that nativism and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are more deeply rooted in American politics and culture than I realized." Why, tell me why, Peter.

BEINART: Look, I think I, like a lot of American Jews felt that America was fundamentally different than Europe, which has a much longer and deeper history of anti-Semitism. It is different in many ways, and yet, it is really striking.

Again, as someone who's my kids go to Jewish day school, I go to synagogue every week, if you go to synagogue in Europe, as I did last Saturday in Amsterdam, you go to buildings that are unmarked that are locked, they have guards.

And when I went on Saturday in Amsterdam, I literally had to recite prayers to the security guard to convince him that I could be let in. That's the level of fear and insecurity. And it's really deeply sad to see that in synagogue after synagogue in the United States and Jewish institutions there are more and more guards, there's more and more security, the sense of openness I remember when I was a kid doesn't exist in the same way today.

LEMON: April Ryan, this is your beat, you cover the White House. The president had an event in the Oval Office today. He didn't take questions. One reporter asked if he believed that white nationalism was on the rise. Didn't answer.

When he was asked that question in march, he said no despite the fact showing otherwise even from his own administration, why can't he lead on this? What's going on, April?

APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He can't lead because he doesn't want to lead. That's -- that's number one. And this isn't new for the president.

[22:24:59] Let's go back to November, Don, right after the midterms. Remember our friend Yamiche Alcindor who said, Mr. President, are you a white nationalist and he turned it back on her and said that was a racist question.

And last year, the beginning of last year, because we are having the same conversation that's been going on since even before this president became president, you know, I asked the president, Mr. President, were you a racist? He would not respond. It took three days for him to respond.

Remember, that lingered in the air and that response that he gave was the same kind of canned response he gave you in an interview prior to him coming into the administration, I believe.

So this president doesn't want to deal with that issue. He wants to deal with immigration, he wants to deal with closing the borders to Muslims and closing the borders to brown people. This is about --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But, April, if it isn't at all connected because there's a fear there --

RYAN: It is.

LEMON: He demonizes immigrants and brown people, isn't there -- isn't it all connected?

RYAN: It's all connected. And I'm going to give you something that someone told me, a friend of mine, DeWayne Wickham, former USA Today columnist. He said, we are a nation that's turning to apartheid. This is going to be modern day American apartheid if we continue to go down this route. The other is not accepted.

LEMON: Yes.

RYAN: And it's OK to perform these acts. And, you know, when he said it really struck me, you know, we are a nation that's browning, and there is a fear of the browning of America.

LEMON: Right.

RYAN: We are a nation that is now seeing the numbers of children born who are the majority are now minority children who are the majority being born. And there is a concern about the other in this nation. Why? This nation was built on the tenets of people coming from other places.

And let's be truthful, the Native Americans were here first and we came. So -- and then other people. You know, when I say we, the collective we, you know, the Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria --

LEMON: Right.

RYAN: -- and everyone else, you know. Now they're concerned about other groups other than white people who they believe are pure white people. LEMON: Got to run, April. Yes. Thank you all. I appreciate your time.

My next guest says the president's policies are costing American lives as they chip away at the resources used to fight domestic terror threats and he would know as a former Department of Homeland Security official.

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: With white nationalism on the rise and with the president refusing again today to say so, is this administration doing what it takes to fight domestic terrorism and white nationalism? I want to talk about this with George Selim. He is the Senior Vice President of Programs at the Anti-Defamation League, and a former official at the Department of Homeland Security.

So good to have you on, a very important subject, and I am interested to hear what you have to say, George. Because you say the president's policies are kneecapping our ability to fight back against the rise of white supremacist terror, and you say that it's painful to watch. Explain some of the ways this is happening.

GEORGE SELIM, SVP OF PROGRAMS, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: So two points, Don. The first is that over the course of the past two years in calendar year 2017, we saw a record increase in anti-Semitic incidents, a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country. That means there were anti-Semitic incidents in nearly all 50 states.

Last year in calendar year 18, we saw a spike in extremist related murders and homicides done at the hands of right wing extremists across this country, approximately 50 killings. What I am here to describe today and what my op-ed lays out is that there are two things that are needed here. We need resources and we need leadership.

The Department of Homeland Security, the federal government, law enforcement agencies need more resources to devote to assessing and addressing and ultimately mitigating the threat of domestic terrorism and domestic extremism. And we need leadership at all levels at the federal, state, and local level to stand up and speak out much more forcefully on the threat that we see perpetrating our country from Pittsburgh to Poway and many places in between.

LEMON: OK. So since you brought up the statistic, let's take a look inside some of those numbers and you can give us some perspective on it. Because the most recent annual report from your organization, the ADL, 39 of the 50 extremist related murders in 2018 were committed by white supremacists. That is an increase from 2017, as you've spoken here. Why are we seeing more of this? What's happening, George?

SELIM: This is really a troubling trend. First of all, right wing extremists have become increasingly emboldened to act out, like we saw in Charlottesville, like we saw in Pittsburgh, and unfortunately, like we saw in play out in Poway just this past weekend. We've seen it happen across the United States, and we've seen it happen across the globe as well. Second, the message and the ability for these extremists to recruit,

to radicalize, and really to embolden one another is taking place online. There's both an offline and an online component here. And what we see playing out is that platforms like HN (ph) and other social media platforms are being used to both organize and rally these extremists to unfortunately commit acts of horrendous violence and terrorism like we saw play out this past weekend.

LEMON: OK. So let me ask you this, because you worked for the DHS. And when you hear the White House say that they condemn white supremacy, yet they are gutting programs to fight it. Are they saying one thing, but yet doing another?

SELIM: This is a classic case of words versus actions. And in fact, I watched the president speak on Saturday night at the rally in Green Bay. I watched his very firm and strong condemnation on anti-Semitism at the State of the Union Address several months ago. The president's words are firm and strong on these issues, but the actions do not back them up.

The federal budget over the past two years do not reflect a commitment to combating radicalization and recruitment and domestic terrorism, and those are the facts.

LEMON: Yeah. So the synagogue shooter over the weekend in San Diego, the suspect is a 19-year-old student, George, 19 years old. Can you put this into context with us? Because it seems to be a trend of younger men of a certain demographic committing these domestic extremist acts.

[22:34:50] SELIM: It's difficult to put in context and say that there is a specific profile. The dynamic here that we see playing out amongst white supremacists and those who support white nationalism is this dynamic of accelerationism. Meaning, these individuals believe that the white man or the white race is in the process of being eliminated, that Jews "pose an existential threat to the white race," and they need to take some form of immediate action.

We see that type of ideology related to the heinous terrorism that we've seen committed in Pittsburgh, now in Poway, and in a number of other instances where horrible anti-Semitic incidents have taken place. These individuals have a warped sense that they need to act immediately. And so that's part of the reason why we see some of these incidents play out.

LEMON: This is according to an ADL stat. From 2009 to 2018, right wing extremists were responsible for 73 percent of the extremist murders in the U.S., Islamic extremism 23 percent, left wing extremism 3 percent. And yet, if you were to listen to the president, you might think opposite.

SELIM: Yeah. What we have in this country, Don, is over the course of the past nearly two decades, post 9/11, we've developed an incredible counterterrorism law enforcement intelligence infrastructure. The reality is the threat environment today has changed. The threat environment over the course of the past 24 to 36 months has changed.

And that counterterrorism infrastructure needs to pivot to focus a lot more directly inward at the threat within our borders, not just from foreign terrorist organization outside of our borders.

LEMON: George Selim, thank you for your time.

SELIM: Thank you, Don. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: The president is trying to tell us again that we shouldn't believe what we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears, how he's trying to recast what he said about Charlottesville, next.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. So sit down and listen to this, please if you will, because we're going to talk about what the president's doing and then we're going to get into his administration and his spokespeople, and then we're going to get somebody to give us a professorial approach and take on this, the facts. The president and his allies trying to rebrand his response to what happened in Charlottesville, except what they're saying is just not true.

A Trump campaign staffer told CNN today that Trump aides are going to continue to argue that the president's comments about violence in Charlottesville had been misrepresented. The Daily Beast pointed out earlier this month where that idea came from, reporting that Trump supporters had recently started to claim that the president didn't actually say Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville "very fine people," even though he did say it.

The president latched onto that idea, very idea just last week, rebranding his response as perfection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said there were very fine people on both sides.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I have answered that question. And if you look at what I said, you will see that that question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general. Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, great general. Kellyanne Conway used that same defense with our very own Jake Tapper. The president is wrong. Kelly Kellyanne Conway is wrong. This is what actually happened. Our Jim Acosta asked President Trump about Neo-Nazis starting violence in Charlottesville, and then the president said there were very fine people on both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neo-Nazis started this. They showed up at Charlottesville to protest the --

TRUMP: Excuse me. You have some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of -- to them, a very, very important statue, and then renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. Context is everything. Jim Acosta asked President Trump about Neo-Nazis starting violence in Charlottesville. He asked him about Neo-Nazis. That was his response. And remember, just days before that the president blamed the hatred and violence in Charlottesville on "many sides."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many ides, on many sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Many sides, or both sides. Let's be real. The president and his supporters want you to believe that he had the perfect response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville when it was actually far from it, far from perfect. There's nothing perfect about saying Neo-Nazis are very fine people. This was specifically organized, OK, as a Unite the Right rally and promoted on Neo-Nazi websites.

The rebranding is also an attempt to excuse what happened there. Because in the president's eyes, he wants you to believe that the protesters were fighting for a fair cause. That cause, keeping up the statue of a traitor to the United States, Confederate General and slave owner Robert E. Lee. This rebranding, this revisionism from the president, it won't fool us because we saw what happened in Charlottesville with our own eyes.

[22:44:49] We saw the marchers with tiki torches. We saw the car run over and kill a young woman. So I have been asking this. Think about -- really think about this. What very fine people would march alongside people who would do that? Do you know anyone who would see those flames, hear those chants, and say oh, this is who I want to march alongside? Who exactly are we talking about here?

We have some breaking news out of Charlottesville tonight to tell you about, a judge ruling that statues of Robert E. Lee and Stone Wall Jackson are war monuments, and therefore are protected by a state code. But the judge says his ruling doesn't guarantee the city will be prevented from removing the statues. So let's discuss, joining me now, Michael Higginbotham.

He's the author of "Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America." Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it. What's your reaction to

our breaking news?

F. MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Well, the reaction is definitely want to appeal that ruling. I think the city is on strong ground. You appeal the ruling and you see what a higher court says.

LEMON: Yeah. What is interesting is when people say these are war monuments or this has to do with our history from the Civil War, the timing of when those statues were erected, that's very important, don't you think, because it was erected during gym Jim Crow. Go on.

HIGGINBOTHAM: I think it's very important. And many statues in the South were erected basically to oppose the civil rights movement, to oppose desegregation of schools. And that says it all right there. Timing is very significant. This stands for opposition to desegregation and to the United States Supreme Court ruling in Brown versus Board of Education.

LEMON: The president says his response to Charlottesville was perfection. You say that's why white nationalists see Trump as one of their own. Explain that.

HIGGINBOTHAM: Absolutely. The president said he had a perfect response. But as a professor, it's far from perfection as far as I am concerned. I have seen perfect responses. He's wrong when he says the purpose of the protests was to oppose the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. All you have to do is look at the protesters. They were chanting Jews will not replace us, blood and soil.

There were Nazi flags and Ku Klux Klan banners. And as you said, Heather Heyer, an opposition protester, was murdered. So who are you going to believe, the president or your own eyes?

LEMON: Yeah. So Retired General Stanley McChrystal wrote about throwing it away, a portrait he owned of General Lee last year, saying that Lee's legacy was being rewritten as a symbol of a southern patriot, and this is a quote. He says "it was Lee, the patrician hero -- excuse me. Lee, the principle southern patriot and Lee the historic warrior, rather than Lee the slave holder, Lee the rebel, or Lee who lost the Civil War who fit the model in character and persona."

So Lee is often revered for his military skills, but there is no whitewashing the fact that he fought for slavery and on the wrong side during the Civil War.

HIGGINBOTHAM: Absolutely. And Lee was given a choice. Lee could have been a general in the Union Army. He chose to support a state rather than his country. And I think most people would say, yes, that is treasonous. When you look at the president's response to slavery and opposition to slavery, one of the problems is that he lumps everybody in one pool, you know, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Madison, Lee, Andrew Jackson. They're all lumped in one pool. And the short of it is that there

were very differing views. I mean, George Washington freed his slaves at death, but some founders opposed slavery and freed slaves immediately. So when the president -- he needs to be more specific in, you know, in his analysis. But he also needs to embrace some of the heroes as well that oppose slavery.

People like George White (ph). He was a founding father, signed the Declaration of Independence. He was from Virginia. He joined the General Assembly and put forward a bill to abolish slavery or gradually abolish slavery. Then as a judge in Virginia, he had one of the first racial profiling cases in 1806.

And he ruled that everyone, irrespective of how they -- what race classification they were, black, American-Indian, or white, was entitled to the presumption of freedom under the Virginia Constitution. So he's a hero, and we need to have a statue of him as well.

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Higginbotham. I appreciate your time.

HIGGINBOTHAM: My pleasure.

LEMON: The outspoken Jemele Hill, next.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So the former Vice President, Joe Biden, evoking Charlottesville again today in his first official campaign event, forcing President Trump to continually go on the defensive over his comments about very fine people on both sides. And yet, in the wake of this weekend's deadly synagogue shooting, which authorities say was motivated by hate.

The president still won't address the problem of rising white nationalism. A lot to talk about with Jemele Hill, staff writer for The Atlantic, the outspoken Jemele Hill, and I'm so glad to have you. So let's about -- these are very serious issues. So Jemele, good evening, what does that say that we're re-litigating Charlottesville again, almost two years after the fact?

JEMELE HILL, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think it says that for a lot of people, when these attacks happen, you look to leadership to try to unify everybody. To try, in some ways, soothe a wound that frankly has been open for a long time. And this president, when it comes to this issue and really a lot of issues, but just sticking with this one in particular, has failed to do that.

And we've often left feeling, in some ways, worse than we already felt, seeing sort of the rise of white nationalism, the rise of these domestic terrorism attacks. And it seems like that for him it's more important to kind of still play footsie with this very dangerous element in our society, rather than to come out and outwardly condemn it.

I mean I have never seen someone in this kind of leadership capacity that seems to struggle so much with doing something that is so basic, which is saying that white nationalism, the rise of white supremacy, hatred, intolerance, bigotry is wrong. And yet -- and there's so many examples off him failing in this very moment, or on one hand saying he condemns it.

But on the other, also hand inviting sort of those elements to feel proud and vindicated by his words.

LEMON: Well, let's about this, because I think this is sort of on point of what you're saying. Over the weekend, the president's congratulated NFL draft pick, Nick Bosa. This is what he tweeted. He said, "Congratulations to Nick Bosa on being picked number two in the NFL draft." Notice he said number two in the NFL draft. "You will be a great player for years to come, maybe one of the best. Big talent, San Francisco." And then he goes to say, "Make America great again."

Why does the president who loves winners overlook the top draft pick, which is Kyler Murray, congratulate the number two pick, Jemele?

[22:55:00] HILL: Because the number one draft pick in Kyler Murray, is -- I mean -- well, at least he has not been outward Trump supporter. We don't know who he supports. Nick Bosa, of course, has been under a lot of fire for not just his support of Donald Trump, which I consider to be a side issue. Support who you're going to support, but also, because of him liking white nationalist pages, for him seeming to be attracted to the same element.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let's put it up as you're talking about it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm going to put it up and then you can talk about it. So here - listen. He deleted his tweets, calling Kaepernick a clown, saying that Trump is a GOAT, the greatest of all time. Black Panther was the worst marvel movie, calling Beyonce music trash. He also liked a number of Instagram posts with racist and homophobic slurs. Go on.

HILL: Yeah. I mean, again, this is an element that the president himself has courted. So then you have sort of two of his favorite things, someone who is very supportive of him, and somebody who's also supportive of the people that Donald Trump continues to keep in his camp and continues to court their support as well.

LEMON: So here's what Bosa -- he addressed the past comments, OK, Jemele? And he says I definitely made some insensitive decisions throughout my life, and I am just excited to be here with a clean slate. I'm sorry if I hurt anybody. I definitely didn't intend for that to be the case.

I think me being here in San Francisco, meaning is even better for me as a person because I don't think there's anywhere, any city that could really be in that would help -- I could really be and that would you grow as much as this one will. OK, so what will it be like for him in San Francisco?

HILL: Well, I mean -- look. I think that -- I wouldn't be surprised if his teammates are a little bit leery. But do understand, in professional football, what matters most is who can help you win. I mean there are a lot of guys in that locker room whose jobs are on the line. However, when it comes to the fans and to the community, I mean I think they're probably going to be skeptical about what his intentions, and his agenda, and his motives are.

I mean the bottom line is that he's the number two pick. He's going to an organization that will be paying him to play professional football. He sat out most of his last season in Ohio State to get to this moment. He's going to say all the right things and paint a pretty picture and he's going to try to gloss over and ignore these remarks, as if all of us don't feel as if he has somehow exposed himself.

It is one thing to say an insensitive remark is maybe a joke or something like that that you can sort of say, OK, that was a little insensitive, but it wasn't racist. I would still like to know from Nick Bosa, why are you liking white nationalist pages? Why are you liking pages that have homophobic and racial slurs? What is it about that that is attracting to you to element?

And to me, the fact that he took down those tweets about Colin Kaepernick, about Beyonce, about Black Panther, is that on some level he knew he was wrong. Because if he really felt he was ready, he was ready to defend his position, why not leave them up? You can support who you want to support in this country. Everybody -- no, you don't have to -- we don't all have to like Beyonce. We don't all have to like Black Panther.

So what was it about that that made you take that down? It's because on some level, it came from a place that you probably don't want to talk about.

LEMON: Interesting that he's getting a job and Colin Kaepernick doesn't have one with the same team.

HILL: Well, I find it interesting too as well, Don. Certainly, you know, it's OK for athletes to talk about their political opinions. Suddenly, everybody wants to embrace being tolerant of other views and being tolerant of what people support because of Nick Bosa. But yet, Colin Kaepernick didn't quite get that same amount of benefit of the doubt nor did he get that same amount of support from a lot of people that are suddenly interested in what athletes have to say about politics and politicians.

LEMON: Jemele Hill, always a pleasure. Thank you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)