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Words Of Wisdom Just Right On Time; President Trump's Another 180 Not A Surprise; Democrats Preparing Their Shots For Mueller's Testimony; One-On-One With Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Presidential Candidate; Protests In Puerto Rico; President Trump Doubling Down On His Fight With Four Congresswomen Of Color; Helping Fellow Vets. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired July 19, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates, picking up for Don Lemon.
You know, President Trump did a 180 today. Remember when he said just yesterday that he didn't like that send her back chant from the crowd at his campaign rally, well that he disagreed with it, that he wasn't happy about it.
Well, I guess that was then and this is now. Because today, the president seems to have no problem with that chant or with his racist tweet that started the entire thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, you said you were unhappy with the chant. However, the chant was just repeated --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, you know what I'm unhappy with, you know --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- what you said in your tweet. Do you take that tweet back?
TRUMP: Do you know what I'm unhappy with? I'm unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country. That's what I'm unhappy with. Those people in North Carolina, that stadium was packed. It was a record crowd and I could have filled it 10 times, as you know. Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: He could have filled it. Keep that in mind. Remember, the crowd size is very, very important, and the president thinks his supporters that were chanting "send her back" are patriots.
But he thinks if those congresswomen of color disagree with him politically, well, they, they hate America.
Let's just remember the tweet that started all of this. The president tweeting over the weekend about those four duly elected congresswomen, every one of them, by the way, an American citizen, saying, quote, "Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime- infested places from which they came?"
Do you mean Michigan or Massachusetts or New York or Minnesota? Because that's where they represent, but the president's tweet is echoing a favorite hateful taunt of racists. The one that goes, "why don't you go back where you came from?"
Well, there's another tweet tonight that could offer the president some wisdom, a tweet from Michelle Obama. The former first lady tweeting, "What truly makes our country great is its diversity. I've seen that beauty in so many ways over the years, whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there's a place for us all. We must remember it's not my America or your America. It's our America."
Wise words. I want to bring in Daniel Dale, Susan Glasser, and David Swerdlick.
Welcome to the show, each and every one of you, particularly on a Friday night. David, I have to start with you.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
COATES: I mean, the president is, again, stepping up his attacks on these four, let me repeat, congresswomen of color, today. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look at the statements they've made, what they call the people of our country and our country garbage.
When people are speaking so badly, when they call our country garbage, think of that. That's worse than deplorable. When they call or country garbage, I don't care about politics. I don't care if it's good or bad about politics. Many people say it's good. I don't know if it's good or bad. I can tell you this, you can't talk that way about our country. Not when I'm the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Before we fact check that statement, David, I got to know, why is the president doing the 180? I mean, just yesterday he claimed to kind of put that 10-foot pole and disavow those ugly chants. So why the change now?
SWERDLICK: Yes. He was against the "send them back" chant before he was for it, Laura. And then you see him in that clip that you just clip that he's trying to explain away the fact that he flip-flopped really twice on this whole idea of go the f-back to Africa and so and on so on in those tweets and the messages throughout the week.
And I think the reason he's doing it is because he wants to portray the four congresswomen members of the squad as anti-American and, but he went out there and said essentially that they're calling the country garbage which I'm not sure that that's actually anything that they ever said.
But be that as it may, the entire thesis of the make America great again slogan is a complaint about America. So, it's, you know, you know, sort of --
COATES: Is the word you're looking for --
SWERDLICK: -- not shocking but --
COATES: -- hypocritical in that respect?
COATES: Is that the word you're looking for right now, David?
SWERDLICK: Thank you for helping me out, Laura. Right. It is hypocritical for someone whose entire campaign was based around a critique of the United States, a wrong critique, I might add.
[23:05:00] America was never not great. To now say that duly elected members of Congress who took the same oath that he did can't also criticize the United States.
COATES: So, Daniel, on the notion of that fact, I mean, you are our resident CNN fact checker. We need you here. I want your expertise, the president kept on saying today, something, by the way, that was false. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The first lady thinks that it's horrible what they've said about Israel and horrible what they've said about our country. These congresswomen. They can't call our country and our people garbage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Did they call our country and our people garbage, Daniel?
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: None of these four congresswomen have called the country or the American people garbage. What Trump was referring there was a remark made in March by Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez.
And here's the context. She was at an event and she was talking about the need for bold progressive policies, even policies she said some people might call radical. And her argument was that the country has strayed so far from what makes it great, productive, just, equitable, she said, that moderate policies, incremental policies, won't do the trick.
And in making that argument she said that Americans shouldn't settle for policies that are, quote, 10 percent from garbage. That was the garbage comment. So, if you look at that, you could possibly interpret it as her saying
that the contemporary state of the United States is garbage, but at its core, this was an appeal to American idealism, to Americans -- to America's better -- to the better place that America could be.
And regardless of what you think of the garbage comment, she certainly never directed it towards any individual, much less the American people.
COATES: So, in a way, selective hearing to fit maybe a narrative here.
COATES: Well, Susan, you got your latest piece from the New Yorker, it's fantastic. And here's the headline. "I'm winning. Donald Trump's calculated racism." And you end with this particular statement. You say, "Here we are in 2019, Trump's attack on the Americanness of his critics has distracted from his assault on the American system of government itself."
It gives a bit of credit calling it calculated if it's more of a strategy here. Does he deserve the credit here? Is it calculated?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure whether you want to call it a badge of honor or not, but let's -- let's look at the videotape, right? You know, this is, in fact, very similar to the campaign that Donald Trump ran four years ago and racism and division and arguments about who belongs in America and who doesn't have been at the core of his political persona ever since he entered public life.
So, in that sense, do I find it to be calculated? Of course, I do. That is at the root of the kind of politics that the president has been presenting to us for a long time.
This is the president of the Muslim ban, after all, which was essentially an ethnically and racially-driven attempt to divide the country to say who belongs in this country, who's allowed here and who isn't.
So, you know, am I shocked that Donald Trump would launch racist attacks on four duly elected congresswomen? I have to say that I'm not, and I don't think that, you know, perhaps his critics are sort of getting distracted by the question of whether it's credit or not to say that he didn't just make it to be a mistake.
His reversal today on the question of whether he should condemn his supporters for chanting, "send her back, send her back," I think is revealing in this regard. Of course, he wasn't going to disavow that. That's at the core of his strategy, and, in fact, it's actually the exact same strategy that the president used during Charlottesville.
Remember when he said there were good people on both sides, then he briefly disavowed that, then, of course, he went back, essentially, to defending his original position. So, yes, racism, I think, has been at the core of President Trump's politics for a long time. He thinks it works for him.
COATES: Everyone, thank you for joining the show. It's so important to hear your voices. We'll follow the story along.
Leader Robert Mueller is going to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for what may be the most anticipated congressional hearing in years. But what are we actually going to learn from this former special counsel?
[23:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: So now Robert Mueller is set to testify before both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees this coming Wednesday. Now, Democrats are betting on his testimony to help shift public perception of the president's alleged criminal activity that he outlined in that special counsel 448-page report.
Well, joining me now, CNN's Evan Perez, also John Dean, and Juliette Kayyem.
Welcome to each and every one of you. Evan, you know, Democrats are taking this testimony incredibly seriously. They're running mock hearing sessions, they have stand-ins for Robert Mueller. What are they going to focus on and what, what are they hoping to accomplish this time around?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think one of the things that they're looking to focus on is the idea that, you know, the part -- the second part of the Mueller report, the obstruction part, that there's still so much for them to get to the bottom of.
For Mueller to explain himself as to why they decided essentially that they weren't going to make a decision on the obstruction question. And so that's going to be a lot of the focus of their questions, and to see whether or not it can move the needle.
I think you call it exactly right. Which is the idea that the Democrats who support an impeachment inquiry ng want to see whether this hearing can help move the needle for public support for that issue.
Again, Nancy Pelosi is dead set against doing this unless she can bring the public or the public is going along with this. And so, I think that's what all the Democrats who are in favor of an impeachment inquiry are hoping to accomplish from this hearing.
COATES: And, John, I mean, Mueller's testimony is the most highly anticipated congressional hearing in decades. I mean, well, maybe since this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:15:02] JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE NIXON HOUSE COUNSEL: The Watergate matter was an inevitable outgrowth of a crime out of excessive concern over the political impact of demonstrators, excessive concern over leaks, and insatiable appetite for political intelligence, all coupled with a do-it-yourself White House staff regardless of the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I mean, John, if it weren't for the glasses position, I think we'd be talking about what's happening right now. You know a thing or two about the stakes of Mueller's testimony. Do you think this can even end up defining, actually defining Trump's presidency?
DEAN: It would, indeed. In fact, Laura, one of the most encouraging things as somebody who is also committee to the counsel he's appearing before is the fact that the members have actually gone through drills as to who's going to do what questions, they've have stand-ins as you said and they're really are focusing on what they're trying to get out of these hearings rather than have like a bunch of cats being herded.
They're actually going to be focused and try to elicit information from this man who, indeed, can define this presidency.
COATES: Wait, John, are you suggesting there won't be the same grandstanding we've come to see in these congressional hearings, they may actually be focused, there may actually not even, I don't know, maybe be a bucket of chicken that's brought somehow for showmen? What you think here?
Are they actually going to know that it's a good thing now to have a lot of the questions asked not by the actual lawyers but now by the actual members of Congress?
DEAN: I think there would be no Kentucky fried chicken bucket there.
COATES: It's KFC, now.
DEAN: For sure. KFC, right. But I think what they're going to do, you know, I appeared before that committee as a part of their early phase of this very same investigation, and the members are actually going over before the hearings what they're going to go into.
I saw some of it because of the questions I got where they had graphics they wanted to use, material they wanted to get in the record. So, this is a -- this is a very controlled group in a sense that they have an aim, they have a focus and I don't think we're going to have the speechifying, not from the Democrats. It probably will come from the Republicans.
COATES: Well, you know, Juliette, I want to get you in here because you know the power of television. I mean, intel chairman Adam Schiff told CNN he thinks a lot of the attitudes have already been hardened on the findings of the Mueller report, but it was 448 pages and people aren't actually watching it play out through the mouth of actual Robert Mueller. What's going to be the impact of actually seeing and hearing from him?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think the impact, most important impact, will likely come from Mueller's discussion to the intel committee side of this, which has to do with volume one. I think volume one, as I've been saying, is the neglected volume.
We're really focused on the sort of obstruction of justice aspects of volume two. But you know, the committee would be smart to allow Mueller to talk about what he wants to talk about and it's clear what he wants to talk about.
He wants to talk about the threat of Russia against the Democratic -- our own democracy, how the Trump campaign either elicited or welcomed that kind of impact and kind of infiltration, and then as importantly, have we done enough? Has this president done enough to prepares us for 2020?
So, it's an opportunity for Mueller to sort of malign, I don't know if that's the right word, the Trump campaign, but, of course, the Trump presidency.
If there's a dereliction of duty here, it is because Donald Trump has failed to protect the United States from enemies, both foreign and domestic. And those foreign enemies are prepared to impact our election in 2020.
I would like to hear Mueller talk about that. He knows more about that than anyone else in the United States and he wants to talk about it. Right? It is clear that's the piece he wants to talk about.
COATES: And, of course, you know, we all want to hear about that. That was the very last time we heard from Mueller in his own voice, he was talking about beware of what might happen.
Again, and of course, you know, thank you for joining the show today -- the president has said that he probably is not going to watch it. Is anyone -- anyone buying that? I'm not.
PEREZ: Nobody. No way. No how.
COATES: There's no way.
PEREZ: Does anybody buy that.
COATES: Well, the debate stage is set. Thank you, everyone. The debate stage is set for July 30th and 31st. What does former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper think of joining the lineup for the first night? Well, I'll ask him next.
[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: CNN's two-night Democratic presidential debate on July 30th and 31st is the best opportunity yet for the candidates to have a defining moment. And one of those candidates joins me now. He's former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. It's a pleasure to see you.
FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, Laura.
COATES: You know, Governor, you got a debate lineup, you now know what is going to be with you on stage that night. What's your immediate reaction to who you're going to be with that night?
HICKENLOOPER: You know, and this is the honest to goodness truth, I didn't count who it was because I want to make sure I get my message out, right, that I'm the one who was an entrepreneur, small business person.
I was a mayor and a governor and I've actually done the big progressive things that other people are really just talking about. So, I like who I'm with. You know, I think I'm kind of in the middle. I didn't want to be off at one end or the other so I'm third in from the edge. I mean, I think it's all good, but I really didn't care.
[23:25:05] COATES: You're talking about your actual stage position, but you're also pretty moderate. And you're on the stage with two of the most progressive candidates out there right now, Warren and, of course, Sanders. Is that going to influence the way in which you have a strategy of how you're going to play this, how you're going to hold court this time?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, I've been saying for a while now and not everybody agrees, but I think as Democrats, we got to be clear that we're not socialists and I know we're not.
I mean, but these large, expansive, solutions to some of the vexing problems of America push people away in many cases, and I think to say that we're going to in four years take away all private insurance, ask 180 million Americans to give up their private insurance, I don't think that's realistic and I think that's not how you win election elections, so we pushed a public option.
Where as it grows, costs will come down, quality will improve then ultimately, you know, maybe we get to a single-payer option but it's after 15 years and it's an evolution. It's not a revolution.
COATES: So, for you those are kind of pipe dreams to have the sort of lofty ambitions of what the Democratic socialist has been talking about and progressives. But you know it might be resonating with a lot of people. The poll numbers really are out there.
And also, for the upcoming debate, the next debate in September, you're going to have an increase in what it's going to take to qualify to be a part of that debate. You're talking about you need 130,000 donors. You're shy of that, to say the least. What are you going to do to get more owners?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, we're reaching out, we're trying to reach out in different ways and talk more about who I am and where I came from and not just my achievements as a mayor and a governor.
I want to let people get a sense of, you know, that my mother was widowed twice before she turned 40 and that, you know, she told us that we couldn't control what life threw at us but we could control how we responded, who we were.
And I think some of those things, like how my mother, you know, she really prepared me not just for losing my job as a geologist and having to open a brew pub, but she prepared me for how hard it is to make change. Right? In government. And how you have to get everyone at the table and you have to -- you have to be persistent. You have to have grit, have to stick with it.
I got to let people know some of those life stories about myself. It's not all just about, you know, we reduced unintended pregnancy among young women by 54 percent, and here's how we did it. It's about the human stories.
COATES: So, part of the resilience you've been taught, of course, the reaction that your mother has instilled in you, the notions of it, what's your reaction to the president's racist tweets this week?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, it's unconscionable. It's inconceivable. And any -- any American should be outraged. That said, we spent the whole week talking about Trump and he's been on TV every evening pretty much nonstop.
Do you think maybe that's part of his -- I don't want to go so far as to call it a strategy, but it's his instinct. It's almost -- I don't know, it's an animalistic --
COATES: Mission accomplished in many ways for him.
HICKENLOOPER: Yes. Exactly. I think he feeds on dividing us and getting us angry and shouting out and what I try to do is I denounce what he said, and then I say, yes, and by the way, if you're a soybean farmer in Iowa, it's going to take you 10 consecutive good years to get back to where you were two years ago, so let's keep our eye on the ball.
Let's look at all the places where President Donald Trump has failed to deliver all those promises he made.
COATES: But you want to deliver on voting rights in this country.
COATES: You got a new plan you're going to unveil with us tonight. Tell me about this. Colorado is known for its voting. It's known for the idea of being able to -- you have to opt out of democracy, not opt into it. Tell me why it would work nationally.
HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think this is something that I'm very proud, and Colorado is rightfully proud of, over the past decade we have been building -- probably the past 15 years -- building a, what I think of as a national model.
So, we have mail-in ballots, which increases voter participation. We had turnout, we were either first or second each of the last two elections 75 percent turnout. And it saved our counties 40 percent of what it costs them to put on the elections.
So, it's a mail-in ballot. You can make your decisions on voting at your kitchen table or if you want to, you can take that ballot down and vote in polling places just like you did in the old days. There's a backup paper ballot, so no one's going to double dip --
COATES: Alleged fraud.
HICKENLOOPER: No one's going to allege fraud. It makes it much harder for cyber hackers to come in and disrupt the counting mechanism or any of the other steps during an election.
We've also gone out and made sure we have same-day registration so people that just weren't thinking of it, they can show up and register to vote the same day that they do vote. And that, again, gets you another 6 or 7 percent, of people participating in elections.
[23:30:01] The key thing is in all these things, there is a whole long list of stuff we've been working on, making sure that convicts, once they finish their term, they should be allowed to vote. They paid their debt to society.
Each of these allows generally more people from all different backgrounds to vote but it does favor people from low income backgrounds. They are the one who more often than not were being discriminated against. Their voting rights were being diminished or limited. And I think we've done a great job of reaching out and saying, hey, if this is a democracy, we want everybody to vote.
COATES: Governor Hickenlooper, making democracy a contact sport. Thank you very much for your time. Thanks for joining the program today.
HICKENLOOPER: Thank you.
COATES: In Puerto Rico, thousands of people protesting today, calling for the governor to step down. We'll go there, next.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: Protesters taking to the streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico again tonight demanding the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello. They have been protesting all week ever since a messaging scandal came to light last weekend. Puerto Rico's center for investigative journalism published nearly 900 pages of leaked messages between the governor and top officials.
Now these texts show those same officials exchanging profanity-laced homophobic and misogynistic messages about fellow politicians and others. You know, one message actually appears to joke about those who died in Hurricane Maria and that's part of what sparked the outrage. Hurricane Maria slammed into the island two years ago in 2017. It was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century.
You know, it's estimated that more than 4,600 people, almost 5,000 people were killed. Power was out for months. Ninety percent of homes were damaged and much of the island's infrastructure was either damaged or totally destroyed. One protester is telling CNN that the messaging scandal poured gasoline on a flame that's been burning for years among Puerto Ricans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAYZNE ALVEZ, PROTESTER: His government has been left to run wild with our economy, with the money, with all the funds that the federal government is sending here, and then the federal government now is holding back on the funds that we need to still get back on our feet after Hurricane Maria, after everything has been made public about how he feels about us. He made fun of us. He made fun of the people who died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Made fun of the people who died. Made fun of the people who died in Hurricane Maria. You're the governor. But she and most of the other protesters say that the main reason they've taken to the streets is also the corruption of Rossello's government, and that he needs go. And tonight, a top official of Puerto Rico's legislature as a committee will examine the leaked chats to see if there's proof the governor committed crimes.
Now, adding insult to injury, President Trump tweeting yesterday. "A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico. The governor is under siege. The mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn't trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave $92 billion for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again. This is more than twice the amount given to Texas and Florida combined. I know the people of Puerto Rico well, and they are great. But much of their leadership is corrupt and robbing the U.S. government blind."
There is a little lot to pick apart here. First of all, the idea of robbing the U.S. government blind, foolishly giving fund and relief to a U.S. territory, a part of America, does the president actually know that Puerto Rico is part of the United States? Because it's unclear to me right now.
And his statement that Congress gave Puerto Rico $92 billion, well, that's just a flat-out lie. He can't even get his wrong numbers right, though, because back in May, do you remember, he said the island got $91 billion. But it doesn't matter because actually both of those numbers are wrong. Because CNN, we check the facts, and here are the real figures.
Congress allocated about $40 billion to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of not one, but two destructive hurricanes, Irma and Maria. And of that money, between $10 and $15 billion, has been sent so far. And as for calling the mayor of San Juan despicable and incompetent, it's despicable but it's also nothing new.
He's been at war with Carmen Yulin Cruz since right after the hurricanes. Remember when she chastised his administration for not sending enough aid and relief to the damaged island? Well, she responded on Facebook to the president's statements in calling her despicable and incompetent. She slapped right back at the president.
[23:39:55] Here's just a part of what she posted. "President Trump, you never got it, and you never will. This is not about you. This is about the dignity of the Puerto Rican people, people united by a profound sense of dignity are on the streets protesting corruption and a misogynist, homophobic, two-faced governor. A governor who in a chat admits to withholding aid for Maria victims in order to have perfect timing to create fake news and make himself look good.
Mr. Trump, I understand you are unwilling and unable to understand dignity when it hits you straight on. I also understand you cannot condemn corrupt, misogynistic, homophobic, and abusive behavior. After all, if you did, you would be passing judgment on yourself. I am a proud Latina and a proud Puerto Rican. Know this: We will not be silenced."
Fighting for their dignity. About 40 percent of Puerto Ricans lived in poverty in two years. Two years. Two years. After the devastating hurricanes, much of the island of Puerto Rico still needs to be rebuilt. The leaked chats, they show the arrogance of Governor Rossello's administration, but he's refusing to resign.
But as one protester in San Juan says, "We're tired of the abuse and corruption, and we're here to make a revolution."
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in San Juan for us tonight. You know, it was another day of protests in San Juan. There are no signs of it slowing down. Nick, what are you seeing? What did you see?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a long evening so far. Protesters of about 2,000 or 3,000 gathered down near the shorefront earlier, made its way towards the old city here.
I have to tell you, the numbers are much smaller here and the noise is less, but just recently in the last minutes, the guys here (ph), a slight rise in the tension, but there's a real feeling of momentum building here.
We saw clashes during Wednesday night, and there is, of course, much larger one being planned for Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets to voice their discontent at Governor Ricardo Rossello. Now, he's had a substantial blow as these crowds have been on the streets.
You mentioned Dennise Perez, the press secretary, the voice of his administration, resigning, saying that she could no longer take the shame of the association with his corruption. But the message from protesters here is extraordinarily consistent and simple and sometimes, itself, profanity-laced. They want Governor Rossello out immediately.
Now, there are court proceedings beginning now in the Congress here. The folks are trying to look if there is anything (ph) containing in those chats. You mentioned the leaks. It might be worthy of impeachment (INAUDIBLE) as well here. But there's a real sense on the street here, Laura, that, perhaps the tide is turning specifically with the resignation in the last few hours of the press secretary, Laura.
COATES: Stay tuned. This is amazing to see. Maybe the tides are shifting. Thank you, Nick Paton Walsh. Keep us posted on the scene there in San Juan.
The president is doubling down today on his fight with four congresswomen of color. Has he given up entirely now on being a leader for all Americans? Does he just want to appeal to his base? Well, we'll discuss that, next.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: President Trump is now renewing his attacks on four congresswomen of color.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're dealing with people that hate our country. The things they've said about our country are terrible. It's a disgrace, what they've said. They can't call our country and our people garbage. You just can't talk about our country that way. And when people are angry at them, I fully understand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: And now, he's actually defending the crowd who shouted, "send her back," as the president railed against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Those people in North Carolina, those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Kind of remind you of the Charlottesville statement, doesn't it? This comes just one day after he attempted to distance himself from those racist chants at his own rally. Joining me now to discuss are senior editor at The Atlantic, Adam Serwer, and Politico senior staff writer, Michael Kruse. I'm happy to have both of you with me, gentlemen.
Michael, I'll start with you. You were at the rally. The president seemed to really feed off the reaction from his base and he was throwing red meat and they ate it up. Has he completely now given up being the president for all Americans?
MICHAEL KRUSE, SENIOR STAFF WRITER, POLITICO: I mean, has he now? Was he ever? The moment the chant rained down the other night in Greenville was by far the most visceral, most, in some ways, authentic moment of the rally and that was clear to me the minute it was happening.
[23:50:01] It didn't surprise me in the least because I had seen what I saw outside in the lines and the merchandise that the vendors were selling and the best selling merchandise, because of the last two plus years, two and a half years of his administration, because of the year and a half of his campaign, and because really --
KRUSE: -- the previous 40 years of his track region. I think this is who he is and who he will continue to be.
COATES: You actually write about this in your piece, the notion that there were even t-shirts ready to go about America being full and other things. They were ready with merchandise to support whatever battle cry was going to be available.
Adam, in your latest piece for The Atlantic, you write, "To attack Omar is to attack a symbol of the demographic change that is eroding white cultural and political hegemony, the defense of which is Trumpism's only sincere political purpose."
So this is the fear of the browning of America. So are his attacks now on these four congresswomen of color the clearest example of this we have so far?
ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think it's -- I'm not sure if it's the clearest example. I think that his campaign started in 2015 with him denigrating Mexicans as rapists and murderers and drug dealers. I think this is all in the same vain.
I think it's also been clear that Republicans have rushed to the press to praise the president's strategy in elevating these women as objects of hatred for his base and praising his strategic acumen and picking these women in particular because they understand that as liberal women of color that the base will react to them in this way.
I think it's a little strange to act as though this comes out of the blue and it's a little weird to act as though this is, you know, something that's out of character or something that is startling new evidence of what the president is capable of. He's always been this person. He started his campaign this way.
And, you know, I agree with Michael, this is who he is at his core. He is a nativist. He is someone who believes fundamentally that American citizen ship is racial and that people who are not white have a conditional claim to being Americans that white people don't have to deal with.
COATES: Well, it plays out along with the theme, with the new battle cry. Michael, you write in Politico, "While he filed for the reelection the day of his inauguration, and his first official 2020 rally a month ago in Orlando, Florida, this past half week capped by Wednesday night felt like the truer, more telling start."
I mean, this campaign, we heard "lock her up." And now, "send her back." Has the stage now been set for what to expect in his reelection campaign? Is this the new platform?
KRUSE: I don't think it's a new platform. It's the platform. But it struck me the other night that this was a preview of what we are looking at for the next 15 plus months, between now and November 2020. It is something that comes naturally to him.
I mean, this is literally the first time Donald Trump appeared in the pages of The New York Times. It was because he and his father were being sued by the federal government for being racist in their rental practices.
The Central Park Five situation in 1989, when Donald Trump inserted himself into that situation in an exceptionally racially charged way, on and on until his announcement in 2015 with Mexican rapists and so on and so forth, this is the core of his political assent --
COATES: This is the MO, it sounds like.
KRUSE: -- and of his political appeal.
COATES: This is the MO. You both have made a great case as to what we should expect and why we probably shouldn't be surprised. Thank you, gentlemen. We'll be right back.
[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: CNN Heroes do extraordinary work to help others, but those people are rarely in the public eye. Well, last fall, U.S. Army combat veteran, Jason Kander, was a rising star in the Democratic Party. He was running for mayor of Kansas City when he dropped out of the race to seek help for PTSD. Earlier this week, he spoke to CNN's Kate Bolduan about his journey and the help he got from a non-profit run by CNN hero, Chris Stout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON KANDER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE OF MISSOURI: My first message to people is, if you think something might be wrong, something is wrong, you should get help. I went to the V.A. and they gave me a lot of paper work. I looked at it and said, I'm not really sure I know how to navigate this process.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Even you.
KANDER: Yeah. I'm, you know, in a decent spot to be able to figure this sort of thing out. So I went to an organization in my town in Kansas City called Veterans Community Project. They helped me navigate the process.
[24:00:00] They serve all vets, anybody who falls through the cracks. They have a village, tiny houses. They effectively eradicated veterans' homelessness in Kansas City. And I'm excited to lead the national expansion of the organization. It's a new mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: To find out more about the Veterans Community Project, go to cnnheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone you know to be a CNN Hero. Our coverage continues.