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Police Thwart Three Separate Potential Mass Shootings; Trump's Economic Team Out In Force To Squash Recession Anxiety; Thousands Pack Hong King In 11th Week Of Protests; 63 People Killed, 182 Wounded In Kabul Wedding Attack; Top Democratic Candidates Court Black Voters In South Carolina; New York Lawmaker Wants Students To Learn About Hate Symbols; Stephen Colbert Opens Up About Loss And Grieving. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 18, 2019 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:18] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, developing right now, CNN has learned about three major arrests across the country, all of which may have prevented possible mass shootings all coming in the past five days.

In Florida, an arrest caught on camera of a man who sheriffs deputy say was fascinated with mass shootings. According to investigators, the man detailed plans to "shoot as many people as he could in a large crowd." Police reportedly hailing that man's ex-girlfriend as a hero, saying she tipped them off.

In Connecticut, the FBI arrested another man in his 20s after receiving a tip that he was attempting to purchase large capacity rifle magazines from out of state. Upon raiding his home, authorities say they found a stockpile of illegal weapons, including rifles, a handgun and titanium body armor.

In Ohio, the FBI seized an arsenal of weapons from a 20-year-old man they say threatened to attack a Jewish community center. Police say that man is a white nationalist, self-proclaimed, who had racist and anti-Semitic posts on his social media.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following all of these developments. So, Polo, what more can you tell us?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, let's breakdown some of these three cases here. Let's start in Ohio where James Reardon is the man who is in police custody there. Investigators saying that he made Instagram post of a video, which shows a man shooting a rifle, which would be illegal on its surface.

However, one of the things that really caught the attention of police in New Middletown is that the Jewish community center of Youngstown was actually tagged in the caption. That caption also implying that the gunman in that video would be the shooter behind a potential attack on the center before charging Reardon with telecommunications arrestment.

Police did serve a search warrant at his mother's home, removing rifles, ammunition, a gas mask, also a bayonet, all of these items right now being analyzed by investigators to see if they were even more purchased illegally. The FBI has interviewed Reardon, but so far they have not pressed any federal charges of their own.

Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, which actually runs that Jewish community center saying in a statement that they have already arranged for additional security as a precaution at the JCC and also all of synagogues in that area.

Also, I want to take you at a Florida now where police body camera video showing the arrest of 25-year-old who's believed to have threatened to commit a mass shooting. His name is Tristan Wix of Daytona Beach. He was detained by police. He is suspected of sending text messages threatening to open fire on large crowds.

One those text messages that I have to read a little while ago reads, "A school is a weak target. I'd be more likely to open fire on a large crowd of people from over three miles away. I'd want to break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever."

Again, that's the actual text messages that police were able to recover according to a release from the county sheriff's office there. Wix told detectives that he does not actually own any firearms, however, that he was supposedly fascinated with mass shootings, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then tell us more about this Connecticut case.

SANDOVAL: Yes. A little closer here to New York, in Connecticut, a man was arrested on Thursday, Fred. He also showed some interest, according to investigators, for carrying out a mass shooting. Police saying that 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol, the man on your screen here, was arrested on various weapons charges in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Police saying that they received a tip that was -- that he was apparently buying different rifle parts and then trying to assemble his own weapon. Police also discovered that he had posted to Facebook indicating that he wanted to carry out a mass shooting. He does remain in custody.

So it's important to keep in mind here, Fred, that many of these individuals, maybe the actual -- the initial actions may not necessarily be against the law here where there's potential possession of these firearms or posting using those firearms online, but it's the context and some of those captions, and some of what police are describing as threats that initially popped upon their radar.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for that.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. Meantime, President Trump is wrapping up his vacation at his New Jersey golf resort and returning to the White House today. Waiting for him back in Washington, fears of a looming recession along with the US-China trade war.

Both of Trump's top economic advisers on full-court press this morning in an effort to squash investors and voter's concerns. Their unified message to Americans, it's China, not the US that will feel the pain.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I'm sure you don't see a recession. We had some blockbuster retail sales consumer numbers towards the back end of last week, really blockbuster numbers. And in fact, despite a lot of worries with the volatile stock market, most economists on Wall Street towards the end of the week had been marking up their forecast for the third and fourth quarter. That echoes our view.

[15:05:13] PETER NAVARRO, TRADE ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE: The tariffs are hurting China. China is bearing the entire burden of the tariffs --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's not --

NAVARRO: -- in terms of consumer -- hang on.

TAPPER: -- what a lot of experts saying.

NAVARRO: This is what this expert says. What we see here unequivocally is that China is bearing the burden by lowering their prices.

TAPPER: Right.

NAVARRO: They lower the value of the yuan by 12 percent to offset the tariffs.

TAPPER: Right.


WHITFIELD: All right. CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes is on the story for us. So, Kristen, the President just tweeted on this very matter. What did he say?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, making pull it up for you there. He says, "We are doing very well with China, and talking!" Now, I just want to add here, this has been the strategy for the White House, really for some time now, particularly we saw that in effect this morning. It was really deny, deny, deny. Deny that anything is wrong. Deny that the US is bearing any sort of burden because of this trade war.

And one thing he was really pressed on today, these economic advisers, were pressed on farmers. How is this impacting farmers, and they really towed the line here. I mean, they use those Trump talking points saying, oh, farmers support Trump. It's not as bad as you think. These farmers are behind Trump. Trump is behind these farmers as well.

And I have to say, Fred, we have talked to hundreds of farmers across the country and they're not doing fine. They are struggling and this government aid isn't enough. And I want to play for you an exchange here between Jake and Peter Navarro where Navarro was asked to directly respond to a farmer. Take a listen.


TAPPER: Listen to the president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, Gary Wertish, who told CNN this week that even the President's supporters are being hurt and struggling in this trade war, even with the money that the administration is giving them to help them through this tough passage. Take a listen.

GARY WERTISH, FARMER: Words and Twitters and tweets, that doesn't pay the farmer's bills. That doesn't solve the problem we're dealing with. And, you know, this one, like I said earlier, this one is self- inflicted by our President and we definitely agreed with him at the beginning, but we -- it doesn't appear that there's a plan B.

TAPPER: These are people on the frontlines and they're saying the trade war is directly hurting them and China is not bearing all the burden of this, they are bearing the burden of that.

NAVARRO: So there's a couple of thing to say here. First of all, this President has the backs of farmers. And all the money we're taking, and all the tariffs, a lot of that is going right to the farmers to give us all. Let's make no mistake about it. China is targeting those farmers to buckle our knees.


HOLMES: Well, whether or not China is in fact targeting these farmers, this fact remains that these farmers are feeling this burden. Now, when they talked about that money coming from the tariffs, the Trump administration is expected to pass out about $14.5 billion in aid to those farmers. That's on top of the 10 billion that they've already given out. But, again, these farmers tell us that this money is just simply not enough to get by.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much. Let's talk further on all of this, Democratic Strategist and co-founder of the Progressive Change Committee, Adam Green, and CNN Political Commentator and former Republican representative of Utah, Mia Love. Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: All right, so Mia, you first. You heard the President's team arguing that there's nothing to see here. You know, it's China who will be suffering the most in this trade war. Do you see it that way? LOVE: Right. Well, I think that he's got -- he has a growing problem. You've got the farmers that have been supportive of the President. You've got so many other people that have been waiting and waiting, but after a while when you can't put food on the table when you're having a really hard time, eventually, they're going to have to turn that on to the President.

And so, you know, whatever the words he has with China, he still has to reconcile that with the American people, especially with the American farmers.

WHITFIELD: And, Adam, you heard Larry Kudlow, you know, say, you know, the economy is strong. We are not heading towards a recession. So how will that strategy, you know, play out if indeed the economy takes a turn? And, you know, last week was little topsy-turvy, you know, with markets.

ADAM GREEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. Well, you know, there are some indicators that the economic elites in both political parties look at and then there are the economic realities that regular people face and feel. And, you know, the elites will say, "Oh, unemployment is down. The economy is great."

But tell that to a mom who's working three jobs or a dad who had his job shift overseas and now had to take a 50 percent pay cut. Tell that to a farmer who's working longer hours and having his or her market gobbled up by big ag monopolies.

This is really a message that many of Democratic candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, are mentioning on the campaign trail. That the economy while, you know, they're being -- it being debated in economic elite circles really -- consistently has not been working for working people and that's where Democrats need to focus energy and frankly it's where Trump focused his energy in 2016 as he riled up so much anxiety.

[15:10:00] WHITFIELD: And, Mia, the President, you know, has had a lot of support, you know, along the farm belt. But then, you know, you heard the one farmer, you know, and here he is again who is on the frontlines of this trade war describing the kind of impact that it's having. Take a listen.


CINDY VANDERPOL, FARMER: I sometimes stay up at night worrying about what the future does hold. You know, what do you tell your children that want a farm?


WHITFIELD: All right, different farmer but very similar sentiment. You know, the worry about, you know, really putting food on the table and the worry about the next generation of farmers.

LOVE: Right. So you've got, again, you've got these -- you've got the farmers that are really starting to feel the hurt of it, although the majority of them did support the President. You also have -- you have to be very clear, there are some people that are feeling that unemployment is actually down.

There are people that have actually have jobs. There are people that the President promised that he would make sure he brought jobs back to the United States. Utah has the lowest unemployment rate it's had in, I think, a 10-year history. If you look at Utah, we've got less than 2 percent unemployment.

So, there are areas where the economy is doing well and the President should talk about that, but he also needs to make sure that he keeps the promises he made to the farmers and end this trade war with China as soon as possible because if you can't feed your family, you will not reelect that -- you will not reelect President Donald Trump. So that's going to be an issue for him.

WHITFIELD: And so, Adam, you know, Democratic rivals perhaps are seizing on this. Just take a listen.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm concerned because I think NAFTA 2.0 is a disaster. I think it was a giveaway to drug companies in Mexico. It's going the harm our jobs. President Trump said no bad trade deals. Not only has he entered into them, but he started a trade war with China.

MAYOR PETER BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's also a fool's errand to think you're going to be able to get China to change the fundamentals of their economic model by poking them in the eye with some tariffs. And by the way, despite all of the noise from that previous interview, there are some basic facts here that you can't escape and one of them is that American farmers are getting killed.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This current trade war that the President has entered our country into is not working. It is hammering the hell out of farmers across this country, who do not want bailouts or payoffs, they just want to be able to make a profit in what they're growing and be able to have those markets again that they worked a lifetime to create.


WHITFIELD: So, Adam, is this, you know, seemingly unified, you know, strategy, one that could work?

GREEN: Well, yes. Obviously, I agree with all those points that were made. But I might actually go a step further. Beyond calling it a fool's errand, I'll say something maybe a little provocative.

But, you know, as with all things Trump, you need to follow the corruption. You need to see where is he putting his own political interests and his own family financial interests above of the -- above the American people or in this case, the American farmer.

And what we've seen over the years is -- just recently actually on Election Day in 2018, Ivanka Trump got 16 new patents approved in China. There are many Trump business deals in China, just like he has business deals in Russia.

And what you see is he's very submissive to these dictatorial leaders and then every once in a while he lashes out with something brash. Kind of the different -- himself cover in the election to pretend that he's being strong when he's actually being very weak and submissive.

So, I would actually connect the dots and say this is one more extension of the Trump corruption that will be prosecuted by Democratic candidates on many issues in the 2020 debate. And what we're seeing right now is an unfortunate byproduct, which is -- it's a lose-lose both for the tiniest people and the American people. Who win? Potentially Donald Trump. We'll see.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there. Adam Green, Mia Love, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

GREEN: Thank you.

LOVE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, ISIS claims responsibility for bombing a wedding in Afghanistan, killing dozens. This as President Trump weighs whether to pull US troops out of that country. Plus, tens of thousands march in Hong Kong, is China finally starting to listen to the demands?


[15:15:41] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of antigovernment protestors braved torrential rain and a police ban for another weekend of mass demonstrations. This huge and largely peaceful protest follows the ugly scenes of violence Tuesday at the airport there.

CNN's Ben Wedeman was in the midst of the massive crowd and he has more on what's driving these demonstrations.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sunday saw Hong Kong's second largest protest since these demonstrations began in early June. According to the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized this protest today, 1.7 million people participated. That's 24 percent of Hong Kong's population.

Now, these numbers should always be taken with a grain of salt. We haven't heard from the police, their estimates, but what is significant according to the organizers is that this protest and the one on Saturday proved that Hong Kong people can protest peacefully and calmly.

So far this weekend, no tear gas has been fired. This is in reaction, of course, to the events at the airport, which was closed earlier this week for two days. So this was an opportunity for the protest movement to prove that they can do this peacefully. And so far, that has been the case.

Now, what's going on over here is that the protestors un front of the de facto organizers are telling people, go home, go to dinner, we've made our point. But it's not clear what comes next. The government isn't budging on the demands of the protestors.

The protestors are now saying that when school begins on the 2nd of September, they are going to go on strike every Monday until their demands are met. So, plans are being made for this movement to carry on, not just in the coming weeks, but for months ahead.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Hong Kong.


WHITFIELD: And still ahead, ISIS claimed the responsibility for a horrific bombing at a wedding that killed more than 60 people.

[15:19:58] This as the US contemplates pulling American troops from Afghanistan.


WHITFIELD: There has been a devastating attack in Afghanistan. 63 people are dead and 182 wounded after a suicide bomb was detonated at a wedding celebration in the capital of Kabul. ISIS is taking responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting Shia Muslims.

CNN's Becky Anderson has more. And we do want to warn you, this report is disturbing.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A pile of victims' shoes, blood coating chairs, all in a shattered banquet hall. In Afghanistan's unending maelstrom of violence, this is how weddings can end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I've lost hope. I lost my brother, my friends who came to join my wedding party.

ANDERSON: The day after his wedding party, the groom recounts what happened when a suicide bomber snuck in and detonated a massive bomb that had been strapped to his body, shaking the neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I was in the wedding party when a blast occurred. It was very powerful and the situation was terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We were sitting in our home when the strong sound of the blast came up. We came to the site of the blast and I saw that many women and children were screaming and crying. Many murders and injured people were transferred by the ambulances and it was a really terrible situation.

[15:25:05] ANDERSON: It's not unfamiliar. In Afghanistan, death is a familiar business, murdered by terrorism at night, the next morning, families already burying their dead. As the wounded badly hurt, struggle to cling to life in dilapidated hospitals while Afghan suffered through the bloodshed, the politics of finger pointing goes on.

The Taliban condemning the attack, deny any involvement. But, Afghanistan's president insists the group must share in the blame saying, "They provide a platform for terrorists." And later, as it often does, ISIS claiming responsibility but offering no evidence.

This latest episode of violence, horrific, but unsurprising as it is, comes as peace talks seem on the cusp of coming together. America could be about to agree to pulling out its forces. The deal is supposedly meant to be finalized in the coming days. Yet it is unclear what that will mean for ordinary people.

The country is driven by religious and political factions, flooded with weapons, not to mention, battle hardened fighters, all after nearly 20 years of American involvement. So the only thing that seems certain looking ahead is that these will be far from the last innocent deaths in Afghanistan.

Becky Anderson, CNN, London.


WHITFIELD: And this weekend's attack comes as the Trump administration dials up peace talks with the Taliban as Becky outlined. And the President himself says he wants US troops to be out of the country. But Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is pushing back on that idea.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Every national security adviser for President Trump is recommending unanimously that if we do a peace agreement with a Taliban, we must maintain the ability to have a counterterrorism force with intel capability as long as conditions on the ground warrant. The idea of leaving it a date certain is a disaster for the United States because ISIS and al-Qaeda will regenerate.


WHITFIELD: I want to bring in Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is a former Army Commanding General and Daily Beast Contributor and CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kim Dozier. Good to see you both.

So, General, is a quick pull out from Afghanistan a -- with a clear time table, a good idea?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: With a clear timetable with some conditions, yes. Conditions based, that would be a very good idea. We've been fighting this war for 19 years. But you're going to see over the next couple of weeks, Fred, there's going to be debate on both sides. Many people are going to be saying it's the longest war ever we've got to get out. Where the other wills say, we have to leave some kind of residual force, as Senator Graham said, some type of counterterrorism force and that's critically important.

We don't know the details of what's been negotiated with Ambassador Khalilzad and the Taliban. Whatever it was, it was certainly a complex negotiation because he had to deal with a force, the Taliban, a government entity, if you will, that's growing in strength as well as an Afghan government that hasn't been part of those deliberations that's declining in strength and with a lack of a security force.

So there has to be some type of counterterrorism potential within Afghanistan and the only one that can provide that is the United States, not only with shooters, but also with intelligence.

WHITFIELD: And so, Kim, you know, a peace deal with the Taliban would include, you know, a cease fire. But the Taliban is fractured. The Afghan government has really been part of the negotiations. So, could any peace deal really happen?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, from my own reporting, a peace deal is close but not in a form that most people would recognize it. The cease fire would be selective. Taliban contacts have told me they won't fire on US troops who are packing up and leaving. But if the US troops who are still staying and patrolling, they're fair game. Afghan national security forces are fair game.

And at the heart of it, what still needs to be decided in the coming days or weeks in Doha where the talks are going to take place again, is the size of that counterterrorism force if it stays at all.

People like Senator Graham have stressed to President Trump who has made it known to Ambassador Khalilzad that there is a concern that we -- that US should not agree to wrap up all of its counterterrorism forces along with its conventional forces some time next year.

But from the Taliban's point of view, they can't sit down for the next round of talks with the Afghan government and others until they tell their followers we have secured the departure of all foreign troops.

And then on top of all of that, Ambassador Khalilzad has been b trying to reassure people, Afghans, Europeans and officials here, don't worry. In a few months' time, if we're in the middle of packing up and the Taliban aren't honoring the agreement they made with us, we can freeze all of this and turn it around. There are a lot of skeptics who think this president isn't going to do that.

WHITFIELD: So then, General Hertling, if the majority of the troops are pulled out and there are some that remain, how does the size, you know, how do you determine the correct size of that force?

HERTLING: You don't, Fred, and that's a key point. I'd like to bring up another piece. You know, there are about 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan. And rumor has been well they draw down to between 8,000 and 9,000 were completely withdraw.

That's not considering, there's also about 17,000 partner forces from various -- from 39 different NATO nations that are conducting training. They're going to be watching what the US does.

If the US pulls out completely, they will pull out completely. And it will be Katy bar the door at that point.

Kim brings up an interesting point as part of the dynamics of the negotiation. The Taliban saying, "Hey, if the American troops are packing up, and we see them doing that, we won't shoot at them, but everyone else is fair game." How do you tell that on the ground?

Having commended forces on the ground, I'd tell you, you just don't throw up your hands and say, "Hey, I'm not doing anything. I'm just packing, leave me alone." It will be massively confusion -- confusing on the ground for the warring forces.

Then you also have the dynamic between are these Taliban forces in conjunction with Afghan security and government against the United States? Is there confusion? Does the Afghan government think that we have actually thrown them under a bus to a degree by dealing only with the Taliban? There are all sorts of complex dynamics to this that haven't been addressed really well.

WHITFIELD: All right. General, Mark Hertling, Kim D, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

DOZIER: Thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, Democrats running for president, a dash to South Carolina hoping to gain support from a key voting block in a key primary state. But what do voters want to see the candidates bring to the table?


[15:36:2] WHITFIELD: Right now, three of the top five Democratic presidential candidates are in South Carolina courting the African- American vote which makes up 60 percent of that key primary state's electorate. And they're making their pitches to South Carolina voters.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Might it not be a better idea to start taking some of that $80 billion spent to lock people up and maybe, just maybe, start investing in our young people, investing in good education for our kids, investing in job training for our kids, so they don't end up in jail in the first place.

BUTTIGIEG: National security in the 21st century means dealing with cybersecurity and election security. It means keeping us safe in the face of violent white nationalism that is an accelerating threat to our security here in the homeland. It means making sure that the second amendment is never twisted into an excuse not to act on common sense gun safety reform that we need in order to be secure in our communities.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I finished my four year diploma and I became a special needs teacher. I've lived my dream job, uh-huh. It's the best.

Never in a million years did I think I would end up running for office, first for United States Senate for Massachusetts and now for president of the United States. But the reason I do is I have been called to act. Not just to see good, but to act.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Leyla Santiago is covering these campaign pushes in South Carolina. So, Leyla, what are voters saying? How are they reacting to these candidates being right in front of them?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So I actually talked to a few voters. Those who saw her speak from the pulpit said that she was now on their short list. You know, this is something that she's really been trying to focus on, courting that black vote.

On Friday, she was at the black church pack, and then yesterday she was in Aiken today at a predominantly black church. And she talked about something you typically don't hear her mention in her stump speech. She talked about faith, and then took the opportunity to sort of introduce herself and tell people her personal story.


CLARENCE BOWMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: It's about our social security, it's one of the things, our retirement, and just basically keeping the economy going. If the economy is good, then everybody seem to get a little bit of pie.

REBA GOODWIN, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: She was trying to let us know how show grew up, and we kind of grew up the same way, you know, in the city. We live -- I live right down the street. I grew up right down the street, so I knew exactly what she was talking about and how, you know, to be in the community and be a part of the community.


SANTIAGO: And so what you just heard Reba say right there, that she connected with Warren, that is gold for these campaigns and these candidates that are trying to find any way to connect with voters here, specifically the black community because they make up more than 60 percent of the electorate here for the Democratic primary.

Whether or not that works, we'll have to wait and see what actually happens when I ask most people about it, they said it's too early to make a decision.

WHITFIELD: All right. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much in Colombia, South Carolina.

All right, still to come as we see a spike in hate crimes in the US, one state lawmaker wants students to learn about the history of hate symbols.

[15:39:50] We'll ask him why he thinks it's so important, next.


WHITFIELD: All right. In the past month, the country has come face- to-face with hatred and white nationalism, at times with deadly consequences. Two weeks ago in El Paso, Texas, a man killed 22 at a Walmart, and police say he admitted to targeting immigrants.

Just yesterday, far-right and far-left extremist groups faced off in Portland, Oregon. One of those groups "The Proud Boys" as they call themselves, has been designated a hate group by the southern poverty law center. Fear of violence at that dueling rally forced businesses to close and the mayor to urge residents to stay in their homes.

And then earlier this month in New York, anti-Semitic graffiti was found sprawled across a park pavilion on Long Island. And now, one Democratic state senator is taking action. Todd Kaminsky is introducing a bill that would require six through 12th graders to learn about the meaning of hate symbols and he's joining me right now.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So talk to me about, you know, if this is an issue in your view of a teaching history differently in schools.

[15:45:02] KAMINSKY: Sure. You know, I think government has to have a lot of weapons at its disposal to deal with this. And I think prevention has to be one of them and education can be a huge part of that.

When the district attorney in my area has arrested people for hate graffiti, a lot of time it's youngsters, and a lot of time they're not even really understanding of the gravity of their actions or sometimes what the symbols even mean.

WHITFIELD: So how do you know that? Why is it you feel that some of these, you know, people are using this without knowing what it evokes?

KAMINSKY: Sure. Because, I mean, look, they certainly know they're doing something wrong, but when you talk to the actual prosecutors and law enforcement officers who debrief some of the people after they're arrested, you know they don't even really know what they're doing. And after they're sent to this very interesting diversion program that we have here in Long Island, where kids have to go to the holocaust museum and learn, many are ashamed and astounded at their own actions.

So what that means is, we're graduating young people who do not know the history, do not know why a noose has -- you know, the dark history of the noose in our country and Jim Crow, or even the swastika and the holocaust.

So if we're able to incorporate teaching about the symbols and hate speech generally, I think we'll have a much more educated populous and a lot less of the extreme hate behavior that we see going on in our country.

WHITFIELD: So you're talking about legislating history being taught when there's a presumption that in schools, particularly public schools, history, American history is taught. And you were saying it's either not being done effectively and that is helping to promote people using symbols that they don't understand the meaning of.

KAMINSKY: Yes. I mean, the h social studies teachers that I've talked to are really excited about this. You know, the holocaust is something that they -- don't believe that they teach enough about. And obviously when we talk about reconstruction or Jim Crow, there are many who don't understand the significance of the noose.

So spending just a little bit of time, I mean, this isn't rocket science. This is basics, but spending some time learning about these symbol I think is very, very important, and, you know, good government means putting the traffic light on the corner before the accident, not after. And I think we're doing everything we can, we should be, trying to get at white supremacists and other people who are trying to use hate to motivate their actions.

You just announced a number of arrests over the weekend, but obviously we want to have young people that don't ever go there and education has to be a part of that.

WHITFIELD: Can it be legislated how young people are going to be taught these things responsibly?

KAMINSKY: Sure. We have all types of requirements, even that the holocaust should be taught in schools, which is obviously appropriate and necessary. There all types of things that we make young people learn about, adding the word certain symbols to that requirement is not onerous. It's definitely something that should be done.

And, you know, to know that in this day and age because we have young people not understanding this history is extremely troubling, and it's something we can't forget. You know, we're not learning from history.

We're certainly going to repeat it, and to have young people not even know what a swastika or where it comes from is obviously very troubling and something we could do something about.

WHITFIELD: All right. New York State Senator, Todd Kaminsky, thank you so much for your time, appreciate that.

KAMINSKY: Thanks for having me on.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, he is one of the funniest people on television but his life was not always full of laughs. Stephen Colbert opens up in a revealing interview next.


[15:51:02] WHITFIELD: As families across the country lay their loved ones to arrest after the recent mass shootings, grief is on the minds of so many Americans.

The Late Show's Stephen Colbert lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was just 10. He sat down with CNN's Anderson Cooper who recently lost his mother. Here's a portion of that interview.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You told an interviewer that you have learned to, in your words, love the thing that I most wish had not happened. You went on to say, what punishments of god are not gifts. You really believe that?

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE SHOW HOST: Yes. It's a gift to exist. It's a gift to exist. And with existence comes suffering. There's no escaping that. And I guess I'm either a Catholic or a Buddhist when I say those things because I've heard those from both traditions.

But I didn't learn it that I was grateful for the thing I most wish hadn't happened is that I realized it. Is that -- and it's an oddly guilty feeling.

COOPER: It doesn't mean you're happy --

COLBERT: I don't want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened.

COOPER: Right.

COLBERT: But if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do. Not everybody is and I'm not always. But it's the most positive thing to do. Then you have to be grateful for all of it. You can't pick and choose what you're grateful for. And then, so what do you get from loss? You get awareness of other people's loss --

COOPER: Well, that's true, empathy.

COLBERT: -- which allows you to connect with that other person, which allows you to love more deeply and to understand what it's like to be a human being if it's true that all humans suffer.

My parents' anniversary is around now. I'm not exactly sure. It's around now, 1943, I think. So -- and mom and dad would be 100 at this point, this year, or next year.

Anyway, we don't celebrate their anniversary. And I thought, why don't we celebrate their anniversary? We should celebrate their anniversary. I mean, over that matter why don't we celebrate pops and mimi's anniversary, mom's parents? Why don't we celebrate their anniversary? Because we owe our existence to all these people that came behind us and that anniversary was so important to those people. That was celebrated by everybody. It seems odd that that important celebratory happy thing than just gets lost by the next generation.

We're not just talking about their history. We're not necessarily celebrating their lives. And that's like a responsibility that we have. You just can't do it all.

COOPER: I have to look up the date of my dad's birthday, but I can tell you his death day. And those are the days that, you know, I think about. And I think I feel like that's totally inverted and wrong that I have a friend whose brother died by suicide. And he was saying to me, recently I had a cake for my brother's birthday.

[15:55:07] And it just blew me away that he would do that. I mean, I like that idea, but it's not something -- I don't know. I'm not sure that I can. I don't know.

COLBERT: I have a friend, Allison Silverman, who suggested I light a candle on the anniversary of my mother's death every year and just think about her. And I do that.

COOPER: I mean, I was going to talk about Democratic candidates, but honestly after this --

COLBERT: They're all great.


COLBERT: All of the Democratic candidates are fantastic. I would vote for any of them. Any of them.

COPPER: But, you know, it's interesting when you -- I talked to Biden recently and I watched the interview that you do with Biden. And again, communicating with him about loss and about grief, he is, you know, whatever you think of his politics, he is extraordinary in his ability and willingness to connect with you on loss, to connect with other people.

COLBERT: I cannot doubt that the guy has a good heart.


WHITFIELD: And you can watch the entire conversation between Anderson and Stephen Colbert, tonight 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.


[11:00:07] WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.