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The United States Tops More Than 1,000 Daily Deaths for Fourth Straight Day; CDC Pushes to Reopen Schools; Fact Check: Despite WH Claims, PAW Patrol and Police LEGO Have Not Been Cancelled; Attorney General Barr is Facing New Scrutiny; President Trump is Defending Confederate Symbols and Monuments; Asheville, NC Confronts Racism by Addressing Contentious Issue of Reparations for Black Residents. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Look at the time. Thank you for watching "CNN Tonight" with the upgrade, Laura Coates, in for D. Lemon right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Chris Evans and Chris Cuomo, a one- night men.

CUOMO: He looked my son.

COATES: I am lucky.


COATES: Well, I don't know how to put it. But no, he didn't, Chris Cuomo. No, he didn't. He seemed like a really nice guy. What he's done is so important. I'm going to go back and watch all the movies again now, now that I have a newfound appreciation for what he's doing.

CUOMO: You want to know his secret?


CUOMO: I'll tell you.

COATES: Lean in. Tell me. Lean in.

CUOMO: I'll tell you. It's just between us, though, right?

COATES: Yes, just you and me. No one is here. No one is listening, just you and me.

CUOMO: So, two things. That guy has zero fugazi factor. He is exactly who he seems on television. He reached out to me when I was low. He didn't have to. He let people know what he was doing about these months ago. And he made it exactly what he said it would be. It is a starting point, this Information Clearinghouse with politicians, what he did for that kid. And I'll tell you the second secret. The adventure people, they actually do good things for people all the time. Chris Hemsworth, the guy who is "The Hulk," "Iron Man," Robert Downey, Jr., they do nice things for people all the time because of how much they mean within the marvel lore. And I didn't know that. And it is an impressive thing.

So I was happy to showcase this platform because it is good for all of us. People like us, especially you, you know, someone who is forensic, analytical. You only benefit for more information to hit the masses.

COATES: Absolutely. You know, on that point, you know, I have a 7- year-old son, and he is interested in comic books. He is interested in the Marvel, interested in all of it. And I am just not somebody who grew up with it.

But watching him see the heroism, watching him see it, my daughter is into it too now, she is six, and so I love that I will be able to tell them about what they are doing and other facets. It makes mommy look cooler that I even know that it's happening, frankly. And I will try to interweave the phrase zero fugazi factor at some point during the evening.

CUOMO: Well, I don't know if your kids are watching, but I must say that Captain America told me before the interview that Laura Coates is on tonight instead of Don Lemon. There is no one better and smarter than she.


CUOMO: That's what he said. I don't take sides.

COATES: You know, I think I owe you some money, Chris. I don't know what, but I got to give you something. That's really nice of you to say. Even if it's a lie, I love it. I love it. I'm going to use it as a --

CUOMO: Zero fugazi. Zero fugazi factor.

COATES: You know, it puts a different spin on (INAUDIBLE), doesn't it? I love it.


COATES: I love it. Love it. Love it. Love it.

CUOMO: Have a good night.

COATES: Chris Cuomo, have a good weekend.

CUOMO: You, too.

COATES: This is "CNN Tonight." I am Laura Coates, in for Don Lemon. The coronavirus death toll in this county is spiking. The U.S. is topping more than 1,000 daily deaths for the fourth, fourth straight day. Most of those deaths are coming from California, Florida, and Texas.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, says those states are like three New Yorks, referring to when that state was the epicenter of the virus in the spring.

This virus is spreading at an alarming rate. And after months of downplaying it, President Trump is finally facing reality. He is now cancelling his big convention speech in Jacksonville and advocating for social distancing, advocating for masks, and admitting that this pandemic will get worse before it gets better.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about the president's change of tune.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What changed this week? Why did his tone change?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There has been no change. He isn't changed. In fact, just speaking on COVID generally, the way I have heard him talk privately in the Oval Office is the way he is talking out here.


COATES: What? She's not talking about the man who held multiple packed rallies with no social distancing or mandatory masks, does she? I mean, remember this rally in Tulsa just what, a month ago?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are warriors. I've been watching. I've been watching the fake news for weeks now and everything is negative. Don't go, don't come, don't do anything. Today, it was like -- I've never seen anything like it.


COATES: Nor have we, frankly. And for the record, Tulsa saw a jump in coronavirus cases after that rally and other events.

The press secretary now also claims that President Trump has been consistent about the importance of wearing masks.


COATES: Is she talking about the man who made this statement?


D. TRUMP: I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens -- I don't know. Somehow, I don't see it for myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: You know, I always found that odd because it is a global pandemic, so each of those people visiting you would also have a mask on. But, you know, I don't see it for myself, he says.

Well, the science is clear. Masks save lives. Don't get me wrong. I am glad. I am very glad the president is advocating for masks. I just wish he was guided by science and not the polls, and frankly, months ago.

Here is what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say today.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We need to stick with the science and let everything we do vis-a-vis analysis, vis-a-vis recommendations, vis-a- vis guidelines, to be guided by the evidence and by the facts.


COATES: Vis-a-vis truth and science, guided by evidence and the facts. The fact is there is still so much we don't know about this horrific virus, like its long-term effects and how children transmit the disease.

So, why is this White House arguing that children should go back to school without all of the facts? I mean, has the president's track record so far giving you confidence that he is making the right decisions at the right times and for the right reasons?

First, I want to go to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, I am glad you're here, because, you know, the White House can attempt to rewrite history all they want. But what we saw from the president this week was a huge about-face, was it not? You are there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean we have all seen what the president has said for the last three, four months. And the thing is, when you saw the president this week change what he was saying, say it is going to get worse before it gets better, say that maybe not all schools should open, and say that people should wear a mask, it also came on a week where the president said in an interview that he believes testing is overrated, and that he claimed without evidence that masks can cause problems, too.

So you are still seeing him revert back to what we have seen the president said before. It is not like he has done a complete 180 on all of this. You need to look at things like that one time he wore a mask to point to the fact that he has been advocating for it.

But, Laura, we know that our reporting showed they actually plan that trip to Walter Reed, so it did give the president an opportunity to wear a mask, where it wouldn't look like he was completely doing a 180, an about face, where he is now wearing a mask.

So they use that to plan that, so that the president can wear a mask in front of the cameras. And now, they use that to say, well, he has been advocating for this all along, when we know very well that the president has not.

He even re-tweeted a tweet once, marking Joe Biden for wearing a mask in public, saying that was clearly the reason the president wasn't wearing one.

So the point is aids are glad that president is starting to take a more serious tone on this. But I think the question for some of them is it whether it is too late to boast his political standing like they're hoping it will.

COATES: I mean, Kaitlan, take a listen to what the president said about this country in an interview with barstool sports. Listen to this.


D. TRUMP: Somebody said who is the toughest in the world to deal with? Is it Russia? Is it China? Could it be North Korea? I said no, the toughest is United States. It is the toughest to deal with.

When you look at what I have to do, I have to focus on the big picture, but I also have to focus -- I have so many people on the left, call them Democrats, call them whatever you want, and then you look at what they are doing with cities, every city is run by a liberal Democrat and they are going to hell. And we have to do something.


COATES: These are not, Kaitlan, the bed fellows that Americans want to be compared to. I mean, the idea of comparing the country unfavorably to those dictatorships when -- where the leaders have no accountability, by the way, odd to you?

COLLINS: I'm not really sure the connection the president is trying to make there. I think a theme that his campaign has been trying very hard to gain traction that I am not sure is working so far in actually gaining traction is this idea of violence in cities that the president is blaming on Democratic leaders, local leaders, which something that we pointed out recently as hypocritical because remember, back in 2016 when he was running, he blamed violence, gun violence in Chicago, on President Barack Obama.

So it was a federal issue then. It is not a federal issue now. Now, he wants to send in an outsized amount of agents into these cities. That is something that really remains to be seen, just how long the president tries to capitalize on that as an issue because it certainly is an issue.

But the question is the influence of president is giving to it compared to something like the pandemic, which he has largely ignored for the last several months.


COLLINS: I just want to remark on what he said about Russia, North Korea, and things of that nature. He talked to the Russian president yesterday. And this comes the day -- today, the top counterintelligence official in the United States said that Russia is one of three countries that is certainly actively working to undermine democracy.

But when I asked the press secretary today if the president had actually brought up election interference or that recent reporting about potential Russian bounties to the Taliban for U.S. Military, did he bring that up on his call with Putin yesterday, and the press secretary would not say, only saying she was not on the call with the Russian president.

COATES: Kaitlan, we still don't know what happened in Helsinki. We don't know what is going on in these calls. We are coming up on Sunday, 100 days from an election --


COATES: -- the presidential election and all of this is happening.

COLLINS: Very close.

COATES: Kaitlan, thank you. I want to get to Dr. William Haseltine. He is a former professor at Harvard Medical School and chair and president of Access Health International. Good evening, doctor. I am happy to see you here today.


COATES: Well, you know, the U.S. has seen more than a thousand deaths for four separate days in a row. We haven't seen those kinds of numbers since May, frankly. So what does this tell you about where we are right now in the fight against this virus?

HASELTINE: Well, a thousand people dead a day is close to one a minute and I think that is what Americans should start thinking about. Instead of sending paramilitary troops to our city, he should be sending medical aid, doctors.

We should be getting our public health system together. We should be doing whatever we can to help those cities that are in trouble. Yes, our cities are in trouble because they are dying of COVID.

COATES: Dr. Haseltine, in places like the E.U., the U.K., Canada, they have all seemingly been able to control this virus. Look at this graph here. So, what are they doing that the United States is not?

HASELTINE: There are three things that need to be done to control an epidemic. The first is leadership. You need clear, consistent, credible, and compassionate leadership. And we don't have that at the federal level.

You need a national health service that can deliver public health in a centralized way throughout the country. You cannot control a national and global pandemic through local actions only. And we are not doing that.

And third, we need people who are socially conscious, people who help one another and don't put their own personal interests in front of those -- of others. Those are these things. If you have two of those, you can survive.

Some of the European leaders aren't the greatest, but they have at least social structures and they have governmental structures that are in place.

We need leadership from our central government, we need action and support from our central government, and we need people who are going to be compliant with the suggestions, more than the suggestions, with the rules that are being laid down by the public health service.

COATES: Selflessness and leadership, two things that we seem to be lacking to really flatten this curve. Dr, Haseltine, thank you for your time.

HASELTINE: You're welcome. Thank you.

COATES: You know, the coronavirus has now claimed more than 145,000 American lives. That is today, for the fourth straight day. The national, nationwide death toll from COVID-19 was more than 1000. That's four days in a row. And a major concern tonight, schools. Here is CNN's Athena Jones.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The school calendar is not the pandemic calendar.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new front in the back-to-school debate. The CDC is out with long-awaited guidelines, making the case schools should reopen in some cases, arguing children suffer in a remote learning environment.

ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (voice-over): There really have been some substantial public health negative consequences from children not being in school.

JONES (voice-over): And stressing they appear to be at lower risk for serious complications from COVID-19 and are less likely to spread the virus than adults. But the science on that still isn't settled.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: What I can't tell you for sure, despite the South Korea study, is whether children under 10 in the United States don't spread the virus the same as children over 10.

JONES (voice-over): One reason there is so much concern, particularly in hot spots like Florida's Miami-Dade County.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: You're talking about 350,000 students, plus another 40,000 teachers. So you are putting a tremendous amount of people back into the economy in a way that could end up being a super spreader event. [22:15:03]

JONES (voice-over): Exactly what doctors at overwhelmed hospitals there are worried about.

AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: It is way too dangerous here right now to have face-to- face schools. And we are drowning. We are absolutely drowning here.

JONES (voice-over): The CDC is also advising local authorities to take into account the level of virus transmission in the community before resuming in-person classes.

REDFIELD (voice-over): When you look at the hot spots, i think most of us right now are looking where the percent positivity rate within the community is greater than five percent.

JONES (voice-over): Many of the nation school districts pressured to make a decision before the CDC guidance came down. Some decided to hold online only classes in the fall. Others are postponing the start of the school year.

And after new daily deaths nationwide past 1000 for the third straight day, signs new infections may be levelling off in some of the hardest hit places like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California. Still, seems like this one, a mask this crowd of hundreds at a Northern California worship service, are worrying.

Meanwhile, more than 150 medical experts and others, in an open letter, are urging political leaders to shut down the entire country again and start over. This time following the kinds of public health guidelines that help dozens of other countries get the virus under control.

Doctor Anthony Fauci only partly agrees.


FAUCI: I'm not so sure you need to all of a sudden, everybody, go back to a complete lockdown. You know, it could come to that. You've always got to leave it on the table.

JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


COATES: And just ahead, the debate about reopening schools is now a major flash point in this pandemic. A top educator and pediatrician weigh in on whether it can be done without threatening more lives. That is up next.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COATES: All across the country, state and local officials are trying to figure out how and frankly if they can safely open their schools for in-person learning.

According to a CNN count, of the largest 101 school districts around the entire country, at least 44 of them are starting the school year and all online. But for those districts that will have in-person instruction, what's it actually going to look like?

Kate O'Connor is a fifth-grade teacher in Colorado Springs and she recently returned to her classroom to try to set it up for socially distanced learning.


KATE O'CONNOR, FIFTH GRADE TEACHER (voice-over): They're not three feet apart yet. So we still have to figure out how to get these to be three feet apart. You can see that it's really close, like this is -- that's -- they're really close.

(On camera): We're all just struggling because in what world is this an elementary school classroom? We have to be walking around wearing our masks for eight hours. There are 10-year-olds. They have to work individually. There is no group work.

Honestly, we are probably not going to be doing anything on paper because we can't pass it around, you can't collect it. Kids can't be out of their seats. This is not how I want to go back, and I want to go back so bad. I love teaching. I miss my classroom. I miss my kids.


COATES: So many of us are dealing with this right now. Joining me now is Lily Eskelsen Garcia, she is the president of the National Education Association, and Dr. Sara Bode, who is a medical director of School Health at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Both of you, welcome. I'm glad to have you both here.

Lily, I'll start with you. It is nice to first see you. I often hear you on the radio with me, but nice to see you here today. You know, teachers all over the country have got to have the same concerns as this fifth grade teacher in Colorado.

I mean, if a school opens, I mean, and you open for in-person learning, it is going to be worlds different than what we know to be a traditional classroom experience. Is that a good thing?

LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: I got choked up listening to her because those are the grade levels I taught, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. I know what it's like to have 30 kids in a classroom. And I'm not sure if you haven't had that experience that you understand the anguish of a teacher saying, I'm getting my kids back and it's still not going be the same.

And so the guidance that has come out as new guidance, as we read it, because we have to give our members, our NEA members, three million educators across the country the shorthand on what is going on. And they added something that this teacher just said. They added something about how important it is for kids to return to school.

We're going, duh. We have been saying that. We have been working like crazy day and night since the day we left our classrooms, to say how do we -- how do we make it safe for those kids to come back.

They weakened some of the language. They changed some language that said children with health issues are more at risk. They changed are to maybe more at risk. There's still not a lot in the guidance about the risk to teachers and the school support staff in opening schools. That is still disturbing to us.

COATES: I hear you, the idea of the lack of guidance and how that is supposed to trickle down, and for you to be able to then convey the information. And at the end of it, the question, Dr. Bode, is not whether we want our kids back in school.

I mean, I got a rising first grader and a second grader that has been home with me since March. I would like them to go back to school. But I also gave birth to human children, not guinea pigs.


COATES: And so the idea of having my children in a place where I don't have the guidance, what do you say when the White House's top coronavirus official, Dr. Birx, has said -- she pointed out today that we still don't know just how contagious children under the age of 10 actually are, when they're infected? That is pretty much the most crucial link we still need to know, right?

SARA BODE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF SCHOOL HEALTH, NATIONWIDE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I think you're right, we don't have a final answer on this. You know, we're getting new information every day on coronavirus. The schools here in the United States haven't started back yet. We don't know the answers to that.

I think that's why it's really important as we talk about this that we do first talk about how critical it is, as you mentioned, kids physically eventually get back to school. We want to work towards that. We know how important this is for kids.

And then the second piece is how do we make sure that we can do that safely and if the schools have enough resources so that teachers feel protected and school has what it needs? Again, it's going back, but it's going back with all the safety measures in place.

COATES: So, I mean, when the teachers are thinking about this, Lily, and you're thinking about how to make sure -- I mean, part of this is advocacy because it is not just about the children and whether they will be having certain infection rates. I mean, the children are taught by adults who still remain in the demographics of people who are vulnerable, correct? What --


COATES: -- pointing out?

ESKELSEN GARCIA: Exactly. And this guidance and really the characteristic of the president of the United States saying the kids are fine, everything is fine, nothing to see here, it really was disturbing to see Donald Trump dismissing all of the risks and the dangers that we have here.

And by the way, how ironic that on the very same day that the Republican National Convention decides it's too dangerous to hold the Republican National Convention in person in Florida because of the surging infection rate.

We have the president and we have a governor in Florida insisting that all schools open up in violation of these guidelines as if they didn't even exist.

COATES: Not only ironic but absurd that children would be on the chopping block rather than a speech. Thank you both for your time. It was nice speaking with both of you tonight.

BODE: Thank you.

COATES: And, you know, this note of good news tonight, PAW Patrol has not been cancelled. There you go, chasing everyone in the gang. Why am I reporting this? Why am I reporting about PAW Patrol? Well, my kids still watch it.

But really, it is because White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, during her press briefing today, she railed against so called cancel culture, which, as we know, irritates the president, and she used PAW Patrol as one example, although she is wrong.


MCENANY: He is appalled by cancel culture and cancel culture specifically as it pertains to cops. We saw few weeks ago that PAW Patrol, a cartoon show about cops, was cancelled. The show "Cops" was cancelled. "Live PD" was cancelled. Lego halted the sales of their Lego City police station. It is really unfortunate.


COATES: First of all, chase can be on the case. And as always, facts first. Even when the White House is using incorrect, silly accusations.

Nick Jr. fact checked the press secretary. Yes, that not really happened, confirming PAW Patrol is not cancelled. Also, by the way, Lego hasn't stopped selling its police toy sets though it did temporarily stop marketing them. However, "Cop" and "Live PD" had in fact been cancelled.

You know, Bill Barr is facing serious scrutiny and it is not about PAW Patrol. It is for his own remarks and the actions this week, as well as those of his Justice Department. So the question is: Has the attorney general burned all credibility? I make my case, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



COATES: What is going on at the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr? I man, a number of issues coming to light this week that really deserve serious explanations. And quite frankly, it's Barr who has some explaining to do.

New York Governor Cuomo lashing out at the AG today, demanding an investigation after the Department of Homeland Security officials admitted in court that they lied about a decision to punish New York State.

How? It is by denying its residents participation in the Global Entry program, because the Trump administration was actually mad at the state over immigration policy.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Look, if you're Attorney General Barr, you have to look in the mirror sooner or later, right? And you're right, there's no way he's going to go down in the book of distinguished attorneys general, in my opinion.

But you had to have a modicum of self-respect somewhere. When you know that you have a cabinet department, Homeland Security, that was a political ploy, that lied about it, that got caught, at one point, don't you have to do something, John, that has something to do with justice? I mean, you're the head of the Department of Justice.


COATES: I mean, it maybe Barr looking in the mirror but it is going to be the reflection on every member of the Department of Justice, including the devoted career servants.

Then this week, Barr completely misled the public about results of Operation Legend, a federal anticrime program begun in Kansas City and set to be expanded to other cities. Take a listen.


WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have named the operation as we said, "Operation Legend," and we started rolling it out a couple weeks ago in Kansas City.


BARR: And just to give you an idea of what's possible, the FBI went in very strong into Kansas City, and within two weeks, we have had 200 arrests.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Two hundred arrests? Nobody in Kansas City knew what he was talking about. And so the Justice Department had to scramble and said that Barr was including arrests dating back to December, all of a sudden.

So, was Barr deliberately trying to mislead or lie to Americans so President Trump can brandish his campaign theme of a law and order president?

When Barr speaks, what are we supposed to believe? And frankly, this is not the question that you want. You don't want to question the credibility of the person who is overseeing the Department of Justice. But at least we may get some answers from the Justice Department director general on how DOJ employees are being used against protesters.

The Washington Post reports that the I.G. will look into the role of federal law enforcement officers in the violent removal of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park near the White House back in June. You see that there.

The operation was overseen by Attorney General Barr himself, who was on hand before officers moved in on protesters, although he denies protesters were pushed away, so President Trump could do this photo-op with the bible in his hand in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.

A denial, shall we say, that is complicated by the fact that that's exactly what happened. The truth is so tricky sometimes, isn't it?

And this week, the attorney general was highly critical of the nationwide outrage at the killing of George Floyd while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.


BARR: We had that terrible event in Minneapolis. But then we had this extreme reaction that has demonized police and called for the defunding of police departments. What we have seen then is a significant increase in violent crime in many cities. This rise is a direct result of the attack on the police forces and the weakening of police forces.


COATES: I mean, we had that death and then we had that extreme response. I mean, look, the spike in crime in our cities is absolutely alarming, full stop. It needs to be addressed immediately, second full stop.

You and I know that there is certain callousness to the attorney general calling the reaction to George Floyd's death "extreme." Barr made those remarks in front of President Trump, who has shown limited empathy, shall we say, about the killing of Mr. George Floyd.

Last month, Barr said it is undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in our justice system. Then of course, he said there really wasn't systemic bias or racism.

What's happened since then? The Barr Justice Department also got whacked on the knuckles this week by a federal judge, who released Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, from prison, again, today, to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement.

He was first released, if you recall, back in May, only to be sent back this month. The federal government was claiming that he violated the terms of his release. Cohen claimed that he went back to prison in retaliation, retaliation for writing an upcoming tell-all book about Trump. The judge sought Cohen's way.

Now, I worked in the Justice Department, and the attorney general may be chosen by the president, he serves at the pleasure of the president, but he works for the American people, who should not be pleased to think about the Department of Justice becoming a pseudo- department of retaliation.

The attorney general is not the president's personal lawyer. He is yours. And he is supposed to stand for justice. The attorney general has a lot of explaining to do about his actions. And now, he is running the Justice Department.

On behalf of my former colleagues, who were devoted career public servants in that very department, I certainly hope he won't run morale underground.


COATES: We will be right back.


COATES: As people around the country are confronting America's legacy of racial injustice, President Trump is digging in on defending confederate symbols and monuments. So, why is he fighting so hard for the legacy of traders to the United States?

Joining me now to discuss are Michael Higginbotham and Reverend Robert W. Lee, a descendant of General Robert E. Lee. Welcome to you both. I'm glad to speak to both of you this evening.

Let me start with you, Michael. You know, sources are telling CNN that the president erupted angrily last week after Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a military-wide order that effectively banned the display of the confederate flag. What doesn't he get about this flag and it waving above, particularly, a military base?


MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: He doesn't get the fact that the flag was created to protect slavery. It was re-embraced after Brown versus Board of Education to oppose integration. And it was celebrated by a racist serial killer named Dylann Roof, who went into a church in Charleston and shot nine individuals. That is what the president doesn't get. And it shocks me that he continues to protect inanimate objects like this flag rather than protecting living, breathing Americans who are dying from a global pandemic.

COATES: Shocking is an understatement. Reverend, the president has been very vocal in saying he doesn't want to rename bases named after confederates. In fact, here's what Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had to say when she was asked about it today.


MCENANY: The bases are not known for the generals they are named after. The bases are known for the heroes within it, the great Americans, black, white, Hispanic of every race who have died on behalf of this great country.


COATES: And yet, a Quinnipiac poll from earlier this month was finding that 51 percent of voters support renaming these bases, and even his own military supports the change. What do you think?

ROBERT W. LEE, REVEREND, DESCENDANT OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE: Well, as a pastor, I think someone needs to speak a hard truth to the president and to the press secretary, and say to them that the south lost the war against the United States, and we are now venerating traders to the United States, including my ancestor (INAUDIBLE) in celebration of that lost cause.

COATES: I mean, spoiler alert, right, the Civil War did not go well for the confederacy, and we are a nation that is justifiably better because of it, Thank you, gentlemen, for that and thank you for your time. It was nice talking to both of you in particular tonight.

Coming up, how one North Carolina city is confronting its racist past by considering reparations for its black residents.




COATES: In the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of police, Asheville, North Carolina is taking on the contentious issue of reparations. Here is CNN's Abby Phillip.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tucked away in the deeply conservative Blue Ridge region of North Carolina --


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- Asheville is a liberal oasis.

JULIE MAYFIELD, ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL: Asheville is by far the bluest dot west of Charlotte.



PHILLIP (voice-over): But even here, this summer has been different.


MAYFIELD: The demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's murder really were different. The momentum is like nothing we have ever felt before.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Black Lives Matter signs are unmistakable in store fronts across the city and in the heart of downtown.

(On camera): So, what is this?

SHENEIKA SMITH, ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL: This is a confederate monument and it looks this way because we decided to shroud it until a task force decide exactly what we are going to do with it, remove it or repurpose it.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Recently, the city council of this predominantly white city pledged to tackle its dark past, passing resolution promising to work towards reparations, but not without controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We are not responsible for what happened 200 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I find this wrong in so many ways, and I strongly oppose it. The black people are not the only race that had been enslaved in America and around the world.

PHILLIP (voice-over): But it is not just slavery, which the city apologized for when it passed the resolution. It is also something far more recent.

PRISCILLA NDIAYE ROBINSON, ASHEVILLE RESIDENT: Before urban renewal was implemented, all down the street were homeowners.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Urban renewal, which many Black Americans called "urban removal," played out in Asheville and cities all across the country in the 1950s and 60s.

ROBINSON: The red are the areas that were acquisitioned by Asheville Housing Authority. Those are properties, homes, and businesses that were taken, towed, however you want to put it.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Yes. So, all of these are (INAUDIBLE) that would have been owned by --


PHILLIP (voice-over): -- blacks.

ROBINSON: African Americans, yes.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Houses in poor or (INAUDIBLE) neighborhoods like the one Priscilla Robinson grew up in, were acquired by the city, marked to be demolished or renovated.

ROBINSON: I can remember as a young girl seeing everyone dragging furniture. As I describe it, it was like a wagon trail. People were carrying chairs. It was a community breakdown.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Black residents were moved out and into public housing, told that they would be able to return. But for many, that promise was never kept. Today, nearly 60 percent of people who live in low-income public housing in Asheville are black, though black people make up just 12 percent of the city's population, a legacy of urban renewal and discriminatory policies like redlining.

ROBINSON: What we see now is a result, this public housing, what could have been still homeowners up and down the street.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The reparation's resolution is vague. But the city council's hope is that they can create program that will help balance housing inequity and rebuild generational wealth that was stripped from black residents during urban renewal and in the decades before it.


PHILLIP (voice-over): As for cash payments --

SMITH: The language in the resolution did not directly speak to cash payments, but it did not exclude that as an option.

PHILLIP (voice-over): That's the part that has made reparations a flash point in Washington.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Yet cities like Asheville, Evanston, Illinois and Providence, Rhode Island are facing the controversy head on.

MAYFIELD: As white people, we wake up every day and benefit from the systems that exist, that keep people of color at an economic, educational, and health disadvantage, and give us a straighter track in the world. Our world in this country is built for white people.


PHILLIP: Now, the issue of reparations is by no means settled. But what the city of Asheville does could hold some lessons from lawmakers nationally, who are looking for ways to address systemic inequality and not just through cash payments but also through long-term programs that are aimed at the economic and social well-being of Black Americans. Laura?

COATES: Abby Phillip, thanks. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.