Return to Transcripts main page
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Calling For Republicans To Join Her Party's Proposed Resolution Condemning The President's Xenophobic Tweets; Republican Lawmakers Responds To Donald Trump's Tweets. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 15, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Pamela Brown in for Brooke Baldwin on this Monday. Well, the President's racist attacks, maybe getting a congressional response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for Republicans to join her party's proposed resolution condemning, quote, "The President's xenophobic tweets." And it's happening just as the President denied that the tropes he tweeted against four Congresswomen are racist.
What's more, he is actually asking for an apology from the four Democrats, he told, quote, "Go back and fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Now, here's the President just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country. And all I'm saying that if they're not happy here, they can leave. They can leave and, you know what, I'm sure that there will be many people that won't miss them.
But they have to love -- they have to love our country. They're Congress people, and I never used any names. But these are people -- quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet.
When I hear the statements that they've made. And in one case, you have somebody that comes from Somalia, which is a failed government, a failed state, who left Somalia who ultimately came here, and now is a Congresswoman who's never happy, says horrible things about Israel, hates Israel, hates Jews -- hates Jews, it's very simple. One of them kept Amazon out of New York.
Tens of thousands of jobs, it would have been a great thing. That was a terrible thing she did -- a terrible thing she did. They're socialists definitely. As to whether or not they're communists, I would think they might be. But this isn't what our country is about.
Nevertheless, they're free to leave if they want, and if they want to leave, that's fine. And if they want to stay, that's fine. They hate our country. They hate it, I think with a passion.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: So not only is the President rejecting that he was being
racist. He is also further slamming the lawmakers: Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, all of whom are women of color, but only one of whom was not born in the U.S.
The President tweeted they are, quote, "communists, anti-Semitic and anti-America." And while Democrats are up in arms about the racist attacks, the majority of Republicans have failed to condemn the President's words. I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, you were with the President when he was asked about his tweets. It is clear he is not backing down.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not only is he not backing down, he made clear he has no regrets about his attacks on these Democratic Congresswomen, instead insisting that they hate the United States, and saying there that they complain all the time and that was the reason for the President's remarks.
We asked the President, does he find these remarks racist? As they have been labeled by pretty much everyone, even as Republicans have stayed silent, the President said no, he does not find these attacks racist, though he continued to go after these women in numerous ways, saying he wasn't going to name them but then referencing Ilhan Omar and of course, also referencing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during his remarks at this Made in America event on the South Lawn of the White House just a few moments ago.
Now, we're told by an administration official, it was the President's idea to address these attacks that have become the subject of such scrutiny over the last 24 hours when he came out there because he not only spoke to reporters initially, but then again, after he made those remarks, insisting he claims that they're not racist.
When he was asked about even just the appearance that these remarks are racist, Pamela, there are some white nationalist groups who were identifying with the President's remarks. He said it's not something that concerns him at all because he claims there are many people who agree with him.
Now, who those people are may be hard to find because Republicans so far have stayed silent as Democrats are attacking the President and even White House aides are struggling to defend the President's remarks with the Vice President's Chief of Staff, Marc Short, referring to a naturalization ceremony that the Vice President attended recently, that we should note the President did not attend because he was out at his golf club.
And then Larry Kudlow, the President's chief economic adviser saying, he was not going to weigh in on the President's tweets.
BROWN: All right, Kaitlan, thanks for breaking it down for us from the White House. And while the majority of Republican lawmakers are staying quiet, one Texas Congressman is not -- Will Hurd says the President's comments make it harder for Republicans to reach out to communities beyond his party. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): I think those tweets are racist and xenophobic. They're also inaccurate, right? The four women he's referring to are actually citizens of the United States, three of the four were born here.
[14:05:07] HURD: It's also a behavior that's unbecoming of the leader of the free world. You should be talking about things that unite us, not divides us. And also, I think politically, it doesn't help.
While you had a Civil War going on within the Democratic Party, between the far left and the rest of the party. And now they have circled the wagons and are starting to protect one another. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
I don't agree with many of the things that they're that they're talking about, and that -- or proposals that they're putting forward. But that's where the debate should be on. Not this, not these other issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So this is not the first time President Trump has said racist things and have been accused of racism. For more on that, I turn to CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza. Chris, you have quite a list you've compiled of the President making racist or racially divisive comments. Tell us what you've learned.
CHRIS CILLIZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, Pam, this is not in a vacuum. This is a feature not a glitch of the Trump presidency and Trump in general, long before he was elected President. We don't have a full hour so I'm going through these fast, but there's lots. Housing discrimination. He was sued -- he and his father, Fred were sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination, not renting/selling to African-Americans -- settled. They countersued they lost that.
Central Park Five. Donald Trump said, there's a documentary out recently about this. These are five youths who are -- nonwhite youths who were accused of a crime in Central Park. Trump said they deserved the death penalty. They were exonerated in the early 2000, thanks to DNA evidence.
Birtherism. He said that Barack Obama -- despite loads of evidence -- that Barack Obama was not born in this country. Barack Obama happens to be African-American. That was not a happens-to-be that was part of the whole deal. Racially divisive campaign rhetoric, look, if you need this one explained, you've been living in on another planet for the last year and a half, sorry, three years.
Hispanic Judge, remember, this was in charge of the Trump organization suit, Curiel was his last name. He essentially said, he can't possibly be fair, because he is Hispanic. Okay, he was born in Indiana, regardless. Pocahontas talking about Elizabeth Warren repeatedly still does it
because she had some issues with her Native American heritage. Okay, I'll move on to this side. The Muslim travel ban. Now, remember his administration said "Oh, it's not a Muslim travel ban." Donald Trump said, "Yes, it is." Then they said, "Oh, maybe it's not," okay there.
Charlottesville. Donald Trump saying both sides -- both sides -- were involved in this -- bad people on both sides. Well, it was a white supremacist rally, protesting the National Anthem -- Donald Trump saying it's not an American thing to do. His tweets about Puerto Rico, they should they should be glad for what we give them they're barely in the United States.
Donald Trump talking about people coming from "S" hole countries and why couldn't more people come from countries like Norway. And then his immigration policies targets the -- he is -- this is again, feature not glitch. This comment, Pam, does not exist in a vacuum. They exist in a laundry list of times in which at best taken one by one. Donald Trump is weaponizing racial animus and at worst, he is expressing flat out racist sentiment. Pam, back to you.
BROWN: All right, Chris Cillizza, thank you so much. Lots to discuss here. I want to bring in CNN contributor, Wajahat Ali, a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times," and CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer. She is a former Republican Communications Director on Capitol Hill. Thank you both for coming on.
So, you just heard the President digging in his heels, not backing down from his tweets, and disputing that they're racist. But Wajahat if you would, tell us why go back to your country is racist, and how it is used against people of color, why it's so offensive to them?
WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's the ABCs of racism. It's literally what professional racists teach their babies in elementary school before the alphabet. And I'll give you an example, I've been born and raised in this country, every single day, especially in the last three years on social media, I get told to go back to your country, go back to where you came from.
Anyone who is a person of color, I'm going to make an assumption here, at least once in their life has been told, go back to your country. It is as pure and exquisite as racism as simple and transparent and bold as we've ever seen.
So when Donald Trump and his defenders say, "This is not racism." I ask, "Then what is racism?" Because Susan Collins was another Republican today who said, "Oh, he has gone way above the line." That's all she said, right? He's gone way above the line. Where's the line of racism, right?
BROWN: Yes, I'd like to ask you, what's your definition of racism?
ALI: Yes, what's the line?
BROWN: If this isn't it, then what is? And what really struck me when he spoke moments ago, was he was asked about -- does it bother you, does it concern you that what you're saying is what you hear from white nationalist? It's the same kind of message and he said he wasn't concerned instead of condemning white nationalism again, Tara, which he really doesn't do given so many opportunities. What stuck out to you about that?
[14:10:04] TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the whole thing. I mean, this has been infuriating to me ever since -- well, Donald Trump and his entire Presidency has been infuriating to me.
But watching him sit there and triple down on this is just -- it further enrages me, not at him. He is who he is. He has shown us that he is a despicable person from day one. And people still made excuses for him and voted for him anyway. Because, well, tax cuts, Supreme Court Justices, pro-life issues, and I'm a conservative, and I'm a Republican, and in political philosophy, but none of what Donald Trump has done is worth this.
He is dividing this country, and for people to sit there and try to still excuse whether this is racist or not, they are enablers. They are allowing him to do this and he is doing it because he knows that there is a racist underbelly in this country of people who are threatened by other-ism.
They are threatened by ethnic minorities. They're threatened by the changing of this country demographically and he is using that racial resentment to weaponize it politically.
And the Republican Party, which I'm embarrassed to say, has sat there in basic complicity and allowed them to do it. Paul Ryan, when he was Speaker said that it was textbook racism when he made those comments about Judge Curiel saying that he couldn't be fair because he is a Mexican, even though he was born in Indiana. This goes on and on.
And I, just watch this in horror as a biracial American, you know, where -- does he want to tell me to go back to my country? Well, which country is that? Would it be Germany or Italy, where my great grandparents are from on my mother's side, or maybe Guatemala, where my father side escaped the revolution in the 50s, and came here as political refugees? Where does he want me to go back?
I mean, this is absurd. And for the Republicans, maybe they need to borrow a pair of mine, you know, testicular fortitude to get up there and finally call this out for what it is. This guy is dividing this country in dangerous, irresponsible ways. And he's fomenting this racial resentment in places where he needs people to vote for him. And that's why he's doing it and the Republicans know, and they're too afraid to call them out for it. This is not America.
BROWN: But here is my question, this clearly is a play to his base. He's running for re-election.
BROWN: But is that really -- I mean, what do you make of that -- that motivation of playing to his base, these racist tweets? And is that enough? I mean, playing to his base. ALI: Yes, so 2016, every single sober study that came out has finally
said there was an economic anxiety as the primary motivator of his base. It was -- wait for it, racial anxiety. The rest of us said it, people of color said and they're like, no, you're being hysterical.
Racial anxiety specifically is being motivated by Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. Steve Bannon said that if we can capture --
BROWN: Stephen Miller.
ALI: Yes, and Stephen Miller. Steve Bannon said that if we can capture the angry white vote, plus you throw in gerrymandering, plus you throw in voter suppression, he goes, we can run for 40 years, we can rule this country for 40 years.
Wisconsin is a fascinating laboratory like experiment for the Republicans, gerrymandering, voter suppression, using this like white anger and resentment. So if you look at midterm elections and Chris, missed this one. He did a great job, but he missed this one.
People forget the Donald Trump who all of a sudden today now cares about Israel and anti-Semitism, tripled down on a white supremacist conspiracy theory, saying that George Soros, a Jewish-American- Hungarian billionaire funded the caravan of invaders, rapists, and criminals. That comes from the white supremacist conspiracy theory, swamp and that has now been mainstreamed.
And let's not forget, the Christchurch killer who killed 50 people in New Zealand, left behind a manifesto repeating this talking point and he said Donald Trump is a renewed symbol of white identity and he shares a common purpose with him. So this is going to be tripling down and he knows it. He doesn't care like you said.
SETMAYER: He knows it, he's done this from the election, when he all of a sudden had amnesia about who David Duke was even though he referred to him in the past when he was flirting with running for Presidency back in 2000. He talked about that, he knew damn well who David Duke was. He knows that these are racist tropes, but he doesn't care because he identifies with some of those things.
He says -- he was like, well then you don't belong here and his -- Make America great again. Donald Trump claims that he's a patriot, he is not. Donald Trump hates this country. He hates what America stands for. He hates the diversity. He hates freedom. He hates everything. He hates dissent. He hates the people who shed blood for the freedom of us to be able to dissent.
I don't agree with anything that the squad -- the progressive squad says. As a conservative, I find their worldview to be objectionable, but they absolutely have a right to be here. They were duly elected and Donald Trump can't stand that.
Maybe someone needs to read the Constitution to him and remind him what's in there, what that means. Is he talking about people who -- what about people who serve in the military that are from you know, other countries who've decided to put their lives on the line who are more patriotic than he is as a draft dodging, silver spoon draft dodger who couldn't even do that much, but he claims he's the one that's to define what makes America great? How dare he? And how dare the people at the top who make excuses for him.
BROWN: What's interesting is that -- he has basically tried to make this argument that they don't like America, they trash America. Remember, he ran on the platform -- Make America Great Again, implying that it's not great and he ran on fear, talking about all the things he didn't like about America.
[14:15:09] BROWN: But I want you to listen to what Marc Short said. He is the Vice President's Chief of Staff. He said the President is not a racist by pointing out his Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you think the President's tweets were racist?
MARC SHORT, VICE PRESIDENT PENCE'S CHIEF OF STAFF: I think that since returning to White House, one of the greatest pleasures and honors I had was actually join the Vice President on Independence Day when he swore in 50 new naturalized citizens and I wish there had been more of you guys present for that ceremony at the National Archives.
And he was joined that day by a Cabinet Member in this administration, who came to the United States, as a young child unable to speak English, learned English and became a naturalized citizen, she still serves in our Cabinet, Elaine Chao.
I don't think that the President is in any way as racist. I think he's trying to point out the fact that, that since elected, it's hard to find anything Ilhan Omar said that actually is supportive of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And Tara, you even said yourself -- you said, "Look, I don't agree with these four Democratic Congresswomen, but what is your take on what he just said?
SETMAYER: Well, you know, I look at this and I -- and when you have to trot out different members of the administration to explain to people of color what racism is, then you know, you have a problem, okay.
Holding up the fact that there's a Chinese-American as a Cabinet Secretary to say, "Look, we're not racist," in and of itself shows a certain racial insensitivity. You should not have to keep defending yourself that you're not a racist. The President of United States wasn't even at that immigration ceremony. He was golfing for goodness' sakes.
So, this is something that I think that people need -- or they know, deep down inside, that there is a problem here with this President. He is a bigot, he's a racist, and I was reluctant in the beginning to even put that on some of his supporters.
You know, I was one of the people who said, well, it's economic anxiety. And I understand that part of it, and they want to give him a chance. But that went away after Charlottesville for me. And for anyone else that sits here and thinks that you're going to try to explain away, "Well, it's xenophobic and inappropriate, but it's not racist."
Stop this. The President of the United States is a racist, full stop. Now, everyone who supports him has to make a decision. Is this the type of leadership we want in this country? I don't care what the policies are. These things will tear the fabric of the soul of this country away and that is what 2020 should be about.
This should not be the future of our country, and for the people who want it to be, that's on you. There are a lot of people that don't, and we've got to -- that's the only way we're going to get this out.
BROWN: I need to ask you a quick question.
ALI: Yes, sure, sure.
BROWN: About another word not being used and that is the President's a demagogue, look at the definition -- a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power, a person especially an orator or a political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and the prejudices of the people.
ALI: Yes, he wants to be an authoritarian leader. And if you look at all the people that he praises -- Kim Jong-un, MBS of Saudi Arabia, Vladimir Putin -- these are all brutal authoritarian leaders who crush dissent. And if you look at Donald Trump, he doesn't seem to care about the rule of law, judges, the Free Press, or the enemy of the people.
ALI: He wants power. He defied subpoenas. And if you look at the most sober historians since 2016, they've come out of the woodwork and written a book saying we have studied the rise of fascism and authoritarianism. Donald Trump reminds us of this, and he's using racism and white nationalism to rally up this base.
And I'll say one thing also, we're witnessing in this country and Europe, the death rattle of white supremacy, Pam that has turned into a death march. There are links with what's happening in America and Europe, Poland, Hungary, Italy, France, Netherlands, and also to an extent Brazil. And so Donald Trump is very deliberately doing this. This is the vision of Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Donald Trump.
BROWN: And to that point really quickly, he got elected after making several comments that many viewed as racist. I mean, will there be any price to pay? You know, I mean, that's sort of the question -- he did lose the midterms, but he still got elected President after he made similar offensive remarks. SETMAYER: Right, and this is where I get frustrated with the
Democrats and hope that they don't shoot themselves in the foot with focusing on these policies that are really far left that most of the country especially in the places they need to win back. They don't resonate with that, which is why I support Joe Biden because I think he has the ability to connect there with that middle ground base.
But Donald Trump won in 2016 out because A. 5.4 million Obama voters didn't vote in 2016. They stayed home. So there was -- the Obama coalition stayed home.
"The New York Times" just did an interesting report about turnout models, and that there's a 70 percent interest in the upcoming election, and that this really is still about turnout, and they're not sure who that's going to be because maybe Donald Trump needs still to turn out more people he didn't before. And then the Democrats have to turn out the people at least that didn't come out last time. So who is going to win the turnout race?
This is why Donald Trump is doing this because he knows that this racial resentment fires people up. Democrats better get their act together and recognize that.
[14:20:08] BROWN: On the flipside, it can also galvanize Democrats and unite them and impact the --
SETMAYER: In the right places.
BROWN: Exactly, it could go both ways. Especially when there's divisiveness among the Democrats right now, the question is --
ALI: I disagree with Tara here a little bit really quickly, I say you galvanize the base. You be bold. You bring a unite -- a vision that unites people, you bring out Latinos, Asian Americans, whites, a lot of people who are really infuriated by this and instead of being timid and mild and talking about restoration, go forward and I think you get that voter turnout.
SETMAYER: I agree with that.
ALI: I think you're going to get a lot of people out. So don't be timid. Take this head on. There's enough people who will vote against this man. Hillary Clinton won by three million votes. He only won by 79,000 votes in the Electoral College based on three states. That's it.
BROWN: Okay. Tara Setmayer, Wahajat Ali, what a discussion. Thank you so much.
ALI: Thank you.
SETMAYER: I appreciate it.
BROWN: Well, we have been watching. We've been waiting all day for more Republicans to respond to Trump's racist rant and we're tracking them down on Capitol Hill. Plus, Joe Biden just released healthcare plan proposes a public option and why there's already push back to that to this more moderate approach.
Plus, the mysterious death of a beloved civil rights activist. The 75-year-old woman was found in the trunk of her own car. Very disturbing. We'll be back after this break.
[14:26:16] BROWN: Well, CNN is following the Republican response to the President's racist tweets telling four Democratic Congresswomen who are also women of color to quote, "go back to where they came from."
And we just heard from the number five lawmaker in the party, Senator Roy Blunt. He said quote, "Just because the so called squad constantly insults and attacks, the President isn't a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics. There was plenty to say about how destructive House Democrats policies would be for our economy, our healthcare system and our security. I think that's where the focus should be."
CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill and Manu, we just heard from a high level Republican and he didn't even call out the President by name. You talked to several Republicans today. Are you hearing anything more substantial from them?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's starting to trickle in some pushback from some rank and file members. Now, the leadership of both parties, the most powerful Republicans in Congress silent so far, that includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. We have not heard from him, despite being asked his office; also, the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, also has not responded yet.
We're seeing some folks in the rank and file push back like Lisa Murkowski who just said in a statement that the President quote, "needs to stop calling it absolutely unacceptable," and the lone black Republican Senator Tim Scott has called this racially offensive language. But by and large, a number of Republican senators have not weighed in, have sidestepped questions as two top Republican senators did when I asked them about it earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: You saw the President's tweets this weekend...
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): Actually I was out of town.
RAJU: Well, he said that these progressive Congresswomen should go back to their countries. I'm wondering what your reaction is to that?
LAMAR: I am working hard as I can on reducing healthcare costs. I'm not be having a daily commentary on the President's tweet. RAJU: These are racist tweets, do you have any concerns about it?
The President said that these minority Congresswoman should go back to the countries, how do you respond to that?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): I hadn't read that, but I will go check it out. Okay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, as I mentioned, some other Republicans are starting to speak out this despite what those senators said, they did not want to talk about it. Two senators in recent hours, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania saying President Trump is wrong to suggest that the four left wing Congresswomen should go back to where they came from. Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.
And Rob Portman of Ohio goes on to say, "That's not something I would say. I think it's divisive, unnecessary and wrong." So we're starting to see some pushback from Republicans, but it's been slow and Republican leadership is still silent -- Pamela.
BROWN: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much. And right now, a broken-hearted family speaks out after a well-known Civil Rights activist is found dead in Baton Rouge in a car truck. We will be back with that story.