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Calling It Racism; Too Little Too Late?; Murder Charges; Missile Movement; Trump Finally Condemns "KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists"; No Bond For Suspect In Car Attack At Racist Rally; Spy Satellites See Missile Launcher Activity In North Korea; Trump On Charlottesville Violence: "Racism Is Evil"; After Sharp Criticism. Trump Condemns Racist Groups; Merck CEO Quits Trump Council Over Charlottesville Response; Charlottesville Attack Suspect Makes Court Appearance; Former Teacher: Suspect "Infatuated With Nazis"; Protesters Gather Outside Trump Tower; Trump Slams Merck CEO For Quitting Manufacturing Council; Trump Ignores Question About Wait To Condemn Racist Groups; Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 14, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN REPORTER: Happening now, breaking news. Calling it racism two days after the violent hate group rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia. President Trump finally denounces the KKK and neo-Nazis by name, saying racism is evil. Too little, too late? The president takes heat for his initial tepid response to the white supremacist violence. Why did it take him so long to condemn it and why is he so defensive about the delay.

Murder charges, the man accused of driving his car into a crowd killing one person and injuring 19 makes a court appearance, facing multiple felony charges. As some who know him describe very radical views on race. And missile movement. U.S. spy satellites now spotting movement of the North Korean missile -- mobile missile launcher, following the regime's threat to fire missiles towards Guam. As U.S. forces prepare for war games in South Korea, are things about to flare up again? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Breaking news, two days after he failed to condemn white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump is finally calling out the KKK and the neo-Nazis, declaring them repugnant and saying racism is evil, following blistering criticism, much of it from other republicans, the president today stressed that the Justice Department has opened a civil rights probe, but made no mention of domestic terrorism.

A 20-year-old Ohio man faces multiple charges, including second degree murder for the car attack that killed one person and injured 19 others. The suspect was denied bail during his first court appearance today. A former high school teacher says the suspect held radical views on race and was infatuated with the Nazis. And following his threat to launch missiles toward Guam. There are now new signs that North Korea has moved at least one mobile missile launcher.

The United States is sticking with plans for war games in South Korea. America's top military commander is now on the scene, and the secretaries of defense and state, they are stressing that North Korea will be held accountable for its actions. President Trump has warned of fire and fury in response to North Korean threats. I'll talk with Congressman Cedric Richmond, he's the key member of the House Homeland Security Committee, he's also the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

And our correspondents specialists and guests, they are standing by with full coverage of today's top stories. President Trump's initial response to the Charlottesville violence led to blistering rebukes. Today, the president tried again. Let's begin our coverage this hour with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, a more forceful statement from the president this time.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Forceful but scripted, Wolf. President Trump promised a news conference today but that didn't happen, instead he delivered some scripted remarks and seemed defensive when he was asked about those comments here at the White House where he finally condemned white supremacists, something he failed to do by name over the weekend.


ACTOSTA: after two days of stinging criticism for his failure to call out hate groups by name, President Trump finally did just that in a scripted statement at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

ACOSTA: On Saturday, the president ignited his own fire and fury when he appeared to blame both the white supremacists and counter protesters with the unrest that left one woman dead.

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

ACOSTA: When asked why it took him so long, the president got testy. Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?

TRUMP: They've been condemned. They have been condemned.

ACOSTA: Why are we not having a press conference? You said on Friday we got a press conference.

TRUMP: We had a press conference, we just had a press conference.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump did not hold a news conference despite promising one last Friday but that was when he was beating his chest over North Korea.

TRUMP: We have a very important meeting scheduled and we're going to have a pretty big press conference on Monday. ACOSTA: The president's initial reluctance to condemn the hate groups prompted to the backlash from inside his own party. And Colorado Senator Cory Gardner.

SEN. CORY GARDNER, (R) COLORADO: This isn't a time for a new window or to allow room to be read between the lines. This is time to lay blame, to lay blame on bigotry, it's a lay blame on white supremacists, on white nationalism, and on hatred.

ACOSTA: To Utah's Orrin Hatch who tweeted, "My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home." Top administration officials were scrambling to come up with answers. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pressed on why an anonymous White House official was slamming neo-Nazis in a statement of the media on Sunday when Mr. Trump wasn't.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERA: The president did that yesterday. His spokesman said that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't the president. It's the same as the President of the United States.

SESSIONS: You were asking me, I was giving you an answer.

ACOST: And a member of the president's manufacturing council, Merck Pharmaceutical CEO Ken Frazier resigned from that panel, saying, "I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism." The president fired back on Twitter saying, Frazier will have more time to lower rip-off drug prices." On a trip to Colombia this weekend it was Vice President Pence who condemned the white supremacist them by name.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have no tolerance for hate and violence to white supremacist, neo-Nazis, or the KKK.

ACOSTA: But Pence bristled that question about his president's handling of the matter. Many in the media spend an awful lot of time focusing on what the president said and criticisms of what the president said, instead of criticizing those who brought that hatred and violence to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.


ACOSTA: One other distinction to know during his remarks, the president didn't refer to the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville as an act of domestic terrorism as despite the fact that his Attorney General Jeff Sessions used that same term earlier in the day. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, he did. All right, Jim Acosta from the White House, thank you. The suspect in the Charlottesville car attack have made his first court appearance today. Our Brian Todd is in Charlottesville for us now. So, Brian, how did it go? What are you learning about this individual?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, picking up important new details tonight about that suspect in the deadly car strike as authorities here deal with another day full of tension in Charlottesville.



TODD: Boiling tensions outside the courthouse in Charlottesville at the man suspected of driving his car into a crowd of protesters after a white supremacist rally was charged with second-degree murder. Inside court, James Fields, the 20-year-old suspect appeared by video link now held without bond on multiple charges. New details tonight about Fields, the man allegedly behind the wheel in this horrific video.

Authorities say he rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people, killing a 32-year-old woman, injuring 19 others. CNN has learned Fields recently moved to this apartment complex in Maumee, Ohio. He told the judge he works at a security firm, makes $650 every two weeks and couldn't afford a lawyer. A picture now emerging of a troubled young man with strong white supremacist views according to those who knew him.

DEREK WEIMER, FORMER TEACHER OF JAMES ALEX FIELDS JR.: He had radical views on race. He was very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler. He also had a huge military history, especially with German military history and World War II. But he was pretty infatuated with that stuff.

SAMANTHA BLOOM, MOTHER OF JAMES FIELDS: He did mention what is alt- rights...

TODD: Fields' mother said she knew her son was traveling to Virginia but was unclear on the reason.

BLOOM: I don't know, it was white supremacists, I thought it had something to do with prom.

TODD: Fields, enlisted in the army in August 2015 according to documents obtained CNN. He reported for basic training but was soon released from active duty, "Due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015. As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic trading." A motive isn't yet clear, but according to a justice department official close to the investigation, federal investigators may have gathered enough evidence to suspect the accused driver wanted to send a message.

SESSIONS: Well, it doesn't meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute, we are pursuing it with Department of Justice in every way that we can make it, make a case. You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is an unequivocally, unacceptable, and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.

TODD: And according to a Justice Department source, investigators are looking into whether Fields may not have acted alone. JOHN FISHWICK, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The thing they will look at is not just who was driving the car but who was helping that person, who was an accomplice to this, who was behind this. It will be a wide scope investigation as it should be.


TODD: Now, even though he said he could not afford a lawyer, the judge today said he could not appoint a public defender for James Fields because someone in the public defender's office had a relative who was somehow effected by Saturday's violence. The judge did not go into detail on that. We reached out to the attorney who the judge did appoint for James Fields. That attorney has not gotten back to us. And Wolf, we have a statement in from a security firm in Ohio called Securitas which employed James Fields. We just got this statement moments ago. The Securitas Security Services USA says that Fields was employed with them from May 5th, 2016 until July 5th, 2016 and then from November 23rd, 2016 to the present, he was employed as a security officer according to this firm, that this was in accordance with licenses and practices and during the time of his employment he performed his duties satisfactorily. The firm says, at the time of this incident on Saturday, that Fields was on a previously

requested vacation leave and his employment has been terminated. That is according to Securitas, the firm which employed him in Ohio. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thanks very much. Joining us now, democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, he is a member of the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, he also is the chairman of Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's begin with your reaction to the president's statement today, issued strong condemnation of racism, white supremacy, Nazism, other hateful ideologies, but his critics are already saying was too little, too late. What do you think?

RICHMOND: I agree with that, I think it was a dollar late and a dollar short. Had this come on Friday, it would have been a pretty strong response, but he still throws words out there to that base, that the law and order rhetoric that he uses is that same rhetoric during the campaign that was aimed at minorities and urban communities. So he did a much better job in calling out the KKK and neo-Nazis and that white supremacists by name. However, I still think that he still uses that coded language to his base that he is so delicately trying not to lose.

BLITZER: The president faced severe criticism for his initially tepid response, not just from democrats like you but also from a whole lot of fellow republicans. Were you encouraged by the reaction you saw from the so many of your colleagues on both sides of the aisle?

RICHMOND: I think that the members of the congress, both republicans and democrats in time of crisis, in time of need, in time of healing, we come together and we will always do the mature thing and put America first and be as honest as we can be in trying to address a problem. The problem is we just not seeing that maturity yet from the President of the United States who is still in campaign mode, in a sense of the word, but for Cory Gardner and other republicans, I think that they were being patriots, over -- putting patriotism over party and that I think is the most important thing we can do and spark an honest conversation about the racial divide that's going on in this country right now.

BLITZER: According to foreign policy magazine, Congressman, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued an intelligence bulletin about the growing threat from white supremacist groups earlier this year. You remember the House Homeland Security Committee. What are you and your fellow lawmakers doing to ensure that the threat of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism is taken seriously?

RICHMOND: Wolf, I've offered amendments in Homeland Security to add in domestic terrorism and these white supremacist groups by name as we dealt with radical Islamic terrorism and the republicans defeated those amendments time after time again because they just did not want to put in domestic terrorism and deal with the issues that we were talking of. So I hope that they will reset and open their minds to how important it is to deal with domestic terrorism as we see it and as we see it on the increase in the United States.

So it's something that our chairman, Benny Thompson, has pushed forward, and we have been fighting this for at least a year trying to get them to focus on domestic terrorism as well as radical Islamic terrorism.

BLITZER: The president said the Justice Department is opening up a civil rights investigation into this car plowing into all those civilians killing that young woman. The president didn't say this was being investigated as an act of terrorism. Do you believe it should be investigated as an act of terrorism?

RICHMOND: Absolutely. It's clear that it's an act of domestic terrorism. The only concern I have is that it's our Justice Department leading the investigation. I think that this Justice Department and the leadership of this Justice Department does not have the track record or the history of prosecuting civil rights violations, standing up for minorities, and protecting equality. So I have a real concern with Jeff Sessions leading this investigation.

I testified against him at his confirmation because I thought that he would be weak on ensuring equality and protecting civil rights, so he will have a very clear test right now and we will continue to monitor it and we will continue to play a big part in holding his feet to the fire, but I do have real concerns on how vigorously this will be prosecuted and to what extent that we will look at how the initial rally got started, who are those people affiliated with, so it's more than just the driver of the car, it's a whole movement out there that I think that the Department of Justice should be looking into because I think that this is not going to be an isolated event. I think they will use the confederacy and Robert E. Lee and all of these other things to gather together and create terror within communities, and that's my biggest concern.

BLITZER: Congressman, there's more we need to discuss. I want to show our viewers some live pictures we're getting from New York City. This is just outside the Trump Tower in New York City. The president will be going back to his home there later tonight, but already crowds have started to gather to protest his policies, protest some of his statements. We're going to have full coverage of that and much more after a quick break.


BLITZER: Breaking News. Take a look at this -- some live pictures coming in from outside Trump Tower in New York City. The president will be there later tonight, but protesters of significant numbers have already -- already gathered outside. The president clearly facing whether criticism for his initially weak response to the hate group violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. He finally condemned the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis by name earlier this afternoon, saying racism is evil.

This by the way will be the first time since becoming president on January 20th that Mr. Trump will be back at Trump Tower, spending the night in New York City. First time in more than 200 days. We're back with democratic congressman, Cedric Richmond, a member of both the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman, the Merck Pharmaceutical CEO, Kenneth Frazier, one of the most prominent African American CEOs in the country, quit the president's manufacturing council today, released a statement saying -- and I'm quoting him now, "America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy."

And within only a few minutes, the president tweeted this, "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" So Congressman, what do you make of the president's attack on Mr. Frazier?

RICHMOND: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that it's petty, it's beneath the dignity of the Oval Office and the President of America. But second, it shows a pattern of him willing to engage in criticism, name call, and criticize people that he doesn't agree with which is why his silence in saying white supremacists, KKK, and neo-Nazis was so apparent because whether it's him talking about the cons, the ghost or a family, or Ken Frazier are even depicting a picture of him bodyslamming the CNN logo. He will go after with fury and vengeance like the world has never seen before people that he disagrees with, but he did not name those specific deplorable groups that cause hate and fear in this country.

BLITZER: He did today, but he additionally didn't. There was thunderous silence as his critics have pointed out. Congressman, do you worry that the racist violence we saw over the weekend in Charlottesville will spread to other parts of the country?

RICHMOND: Absolutely. That is something that keeps me up at night. And I would just say that I hope it's something that the president when he's back at Trump Tower this evening, looking in the mirror before he goes to bed, asks himself, did I do or say anything that contributed to this. And what can I say or do to keep this from spreading and how do I heal this country. He has that responsibility and I think that if he does an honest assessment of his words and actions over the course of the campaign, he has to say that he has -- he has contributed to this divide and has promoted some of the hate and intolerance we've seen.

BLITZER: Congressman Cedric Richmond, thanks so much for joining us.

RICHMOND: Thank you, Wolf for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, why did President Trump wait two days to condemn white supremacists groups for the Charlottesville violence? Critics say his response was too little, too late. Our specialists, they are standing by. And more on Breaking News following North Korea's threat to fire missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam, U.S. spy satellites are now detecting troubling activity. What is Kim Jong- un's next move? Stay with us. You're in "The Situation Room."


BLITZER: Following the Breaking News, take a look at this. Protesters are outside Trump Tower in New York City right now. They are awaiting the president's return later this evening. The president earlier today, he declined to explain why he waited two days to condemn the specific racist groups involved in this weekend's violence of Charlottesville, Virginia. Several hours earlier, the president read this statement at the White House.


TRUMP: The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed one innocent American and wounded 20 others. To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered.

Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold here dear as Americans.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, SITUATION ROOM: Now, let's bring in our specialists. Chris Cillizza, his critics are already saying too little, too late, what do you think?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's hard not to agree candidly, Wolf. This was, I was saying to Rebecca, off-camera, this is literally a lay-up. Underneath the who, there's no one around. All you need to do is say what my five-year-old knows, which is we abhor racists and their hate. This is not a country that we are going to tolerate bigotry in. And you say neo-Nazis, white supremacists, they may say they identify with me, I don't identify with them. This isn't any part of any political ideology or system that I subscribe to.

He didn't do that, number one. And what he did do is say, the thing about, on many sides, on many sides, essentially saying - on Saturday.

So, did he come back and do better today? Yes. Were there still parts of that that I found strange, most notably that he led a speech about Charlottesville with a paragraph about the economy and how well it's doing. Yes.

Sometimes in politics, you do get that one chance when sort of the focus is on you. It's going to be hard for anyone, I think, even people who support Donald Trump, who I've talk to, to say, oh, yes, this was - this was his initial reaction, 48 hours later.

When we saw his initial reaction, and it seems to me inadequate in terms of how we define, what we want out of presidential leadership.

BLITZER: Was it inappropriate that he began a statement today with some comments about unemployment, the jobs, the economy?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's Donald Trump, Wolf. We've seen this from him from before. We're seeing it from him today.

And certainly, that is the conversation that Donald Trump in this situation likely would prefer to be having. He doesn't want to be talking about racial issues.

And as we saw during the campaign, if he is talking about race, ethnicity, usually, it's to use those issues as some kind of wedge. Donald Trump, for him, I think we have seen on multiple occasions, during his presidency, he has had trouble transitioning from candidate mode to president mode.

And there are times in the presidency when you do have to be this figure of moral authority, when you need to inspire the nation, show some moral leadership, and we didn't really see that from him over these past few days.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, the president also said that the Department of Justice has now formally opened the civil rights investigation into that car assault, how strong would that federal case be?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it would be different from a straightforward murder case which sounds like it would be easy to make and the Commonwealth of Virginia is certainly opening that as well.

In these circumstances, the federal intervention is more symbolic than real. If, in fact, this terrible man intentionally drove the car into the crowd as certainly seems to be the case, he's going to go to prison for the rest of his life or suffer the death penalty, whether the federal government intervenes or not.

It is certainly an important symbol for the Justice Department to say, they are also investigating this, but in terms of a practical effect, this guy is not going anywhere regardless of which jurisdiction happens to be investigating.

BLITZER: Would it be appropriate for the Justice Department to also open up an investigation into domestic terrorism?

TOOBIN: Well, that is - it would be - the Justice Department would investigate the whole incident and they would then decide which charges are most relevant.

Terrorism is certainly a possibility. As I say first-degree murder or second-degree murder in terms of the local charges would be appropriate. I don't think there is any doubt that this man is going to be prosecuted.

The question, I think, much more interesting and much more difficult is whether the Justice Department is going to start surveillance on these groups which conservatives have objected to a great deal. They want all the energy on jihadist terrorism.

Will there be the kind of continuing scrutiny of right-wing groups as well as jihadist groups? That's a much more touchy and poignant political (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Chief Ramsey. That's a good question for you. You are a former police chief here in Washington DC and in Philadelphia. Would it be appropriate to start some domestic surveillance of these hate groups, these white supremacists, neo-Nazi, KKK type of groups?

[17:35:00] CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, if they're active in your area, and there are many areas where they are active, if you get information that they might be plotting or planning something and certainly that would be appropriate, in my opinion.

BLITZER: Do you know if there have been these kinds of surveillance programs over the years, chief? RAMSEY: Oh, I don't know, but I imagine so depending on the circumstances, the information that comes to the attention of law enforcement. Any group that may engage in criminal activity, you certainly would want to keep an eye on them and prevent it from happening.

BLITZER: You go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: But, Wolf, I mean, there was that sort of scrutiny early in the Obama administration. And Republicans and Congress were furious about it because they thought it was political intimidation.

So, this will be much more interesting and important than whether this particular person is prosecuted, who is certainly going to be prosecuted. The question is, will there be further Justice Department scrutiny of alt-right groups. That's an important question and that will be an important thing for Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General.

BLITZER: We'll see how the White House and the attorney general deal with that.

Everybody stick around. Don't go too far away. During the past hour, Charlottesville police chief defended his department's response to the violence. I want to ask our specialists what could have been done to (INAUDIBLE).


[17:41:01] BLITZER: We are back with our specialists. I quickly want to go to Jeffrey Toobin. A lot of concern that what we saw in Charlottesville could spread, it might just be the tip of the iceberg right now. Jeffrey, domestic extremism, how serious of a problem is this?

TOOBIN: Well, here's a statistic from New America, of the think tank. They say that, since 9/11, 95 people in the United States have died from jihadist terrorism, 68 people have died from right-wing terrorism.

That gives you some idea of what a big deal this is. It's not as big as the jihadist problem, but we hear a heck of a lot less about it than we do the jihadists.

So, I think it's a very major issue. It's not worth panicking over, but it is something that law enforcement should be looking at proactively just as we look at the possibility of jihadist terrorism proactively.

BLITZER: Speaking of law enforcement, Chief Ramsey, there has been some criticism of the Charlottesville police that you had two groups there and they didn't have a buffer in between. You're a former police chief in Washington and in Philadelphia.

When you have these kinds of protesters, counter protesters, don't you want to have them on different sides of the street?

RAMSEY: Absolutely. You want to have a buffer between the two. When I was watching it unfold on CNN, Saturday, that's the first thing that crossed my mind. Where are the cops? It looked like a scene from Game of Thrones where people with shields and sticks and going at each other and you didn't see any police.

You have to keep groups like that separated. It's no secret that there was a high potential for violence in a case like this. I didn't see their operational plan. I don't know how many people they had, how they were deployed, but certainly you want to do a better job of keeping groups separated, so you don't that kind of physical confrontation.

BLITZER: Yes. The police chief himself at a news conference a little while ago, he said, in the middle of the whole thing, the police had to go back and get themselves fully armed, fully equipped for what was going on. Clearly, they haven't been planning for these kinds of disturbances. Go ahead.

RAMSEY: Yes. And again, you may start off without all the gear that police officers wear, but you better have a few platoons very nearby that can move in very, very quickly and not have to leave, gear up, and then come back. That's just not very good planning.

BLITZER: Chris Cillizza, a lot of these protesters identify themselves as white nationalists. Where does this group, these white nationalists as they see themselves, fit into the political environment right now?

CILLIZZA: OK, two things. One, I think they can identify as whatever they like, a white nationalist, but I think we should call them what their belief system suggests they are, which is white supremacists. I think white nationalist is a nice way in their minds of saying white supremacist, but that's their belief system.

Number two, where do they fit in the political system, Wolf? The truth of the matter is they don't. They are not - they don't fit in a traditional political spectrum in any meaningful way, which is why Trump's initial response on Saturday was so problematic because what he tried to essentially do was fit it into the traditional way that we sometimes talk about publics.

Well, conservative say this and liberals say this and who can know who is really responsible? Right, this is not that in any way, shape or form. These are people who exist outside of that political spectrum, which again is why they should have been so easy for the President of the United States.

The argument was that this was his part of his base, he didn't want to alienate that base. You've heard the criticism.

CILLIZZA: Absolutely, a hundred percent. And again, I'm not in his mind, so I can't say what motivated him. I will say that what he should say is what other Republican leaders in the past, presidential nominees in the past have said, which is, if you support me, I don't want your support.

This is a corruption - I don't even call it a corruption of conservatism. I think it gives too much credit, but this is a corruption of a belief system. I really think does not exist on the linear scale at which or a spectrum at which we judge the political parties.

But when the President is ambiguous, like he was on Saturday, unfortunately what it does is it turns into a, well, some people say this, and some people say that, when, in fact, this is not what that is.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Rebecca, before the violence in Charlottesville, in our most recent poll, we asked, will Trump unite the country, not divide it? Thirty-five percent said yes, 61 percent said no. The perception over the past few days is that this country is not united.

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: No, not at all, Wolf. And what's interesting is that Trump, when he won this election, on election night, said in the ballroom in the New York hotel where he was having his victory party that he was going to unite all Americans and be a president for all Americans.

So this was kind of a fundamental part of his transition to the presidency and what he envisioned his presidency looking like, but it hasn't played out that way at all. And as I said earlier, I think Donald Trump has had a fundamental problem transitioning from candidate mode to presidential mode.

These moments that require great moral leadership, that demand the President inspire the American people, he hasn't stepped up in those moments. And he goes back, reverts, to campaign mode, which is, by its very nature, divisive.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. Doug, don't go too far away.

Coming up, we're going to go back to Charlottesville, Virginia where police are looking into other incidents of violence during this weekend's protests.

Also coming up, alarming new signs North Korea's military may be planning another missile launch. Stand by for an update on what U.S. spy satellites are now detecting.


[17:51:20] BLITZER: We have much more ahead on today's developments in Charlottesville, Virginia, but we're also following breaking news over at the Pentagon right now.

The Defense Secretary, James Mattis, just issued a new warning as U.S. spy satellites are detecting disturbing new signs pointing to another North Korean missile launch. Let's go live to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are your sources telling you?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Defense Secretary James Mattis met with reporters today off camera but on the record, and he warned again that the U.S. would defend itself if North Korea attacks.


STARR (voice-over): North Korea has moved at least one mobile launcher in recent days that could fire an intermediate range missile, CNN has learned. The launcher movement could signal everything will be ready for a potential missile launch in the next 48 hours if Kim Jong-un orders it, according to several U.S. officials.

For the moment, the U.S. doesn't see signs, however, of an imminent launch of four missiles towards Guam as the regime has threatened.

MIKE POMPEO, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: An attack from North Korea is not something that is imminent.

STARR (voice-over): The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, traveling in South Korea, making clear the U.S. is sticking to the plan for upcoming war games that will send more U.S. troops briefly to the peninsula.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I would tell you that, today, when you look at the rhetoric coming out of North Korea, the exercises are more important than ever. There's a direct linkage between these exercises and our ability to effectively respond.

STARR (voice-over): North Korea, objecting to the exercises. The state-run news agency says the drills cannot cover up the danger of a war outbreak. The Pentagon, taking no options off the table.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS (RET.), SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I think if they fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly. Yes, that's called war, if they shoot at us.

STARR (voice-over): The Chairman not ruling out future military action, if needed.

DUNFORD: What we would do in the wake of a -- of an attack on Guam or missiles being launched towards Guam is going to be a decision that is going to be made by the President of the United States, and he's going to make that in the context of our alliance.

STARR (voice-over): But there is a sense that Kim Jong-un is not willing to risk his very existence or his regime in a war with the U.S.

POMPEO: We have seen that he listens to clear communications. He understands that his primary goal is staying in power, keeping the regime intact.

STARR (voice-over): One researcher says Kim's rapid development in his weapons program may be due to North Korea acquiring advanced rocket engine technology through illicit Russian and Ukrainian channels.

MICHAEL ELLEMAN, CONSULTING SENIOR FELLOW FOR MISSILE DEFENCE, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: It appears that they sourced an engine from a foreign entity, and they have successfully incorporated that engine into some missile bodies.

STARR (voice-over): But Ukraine has pushed back, issuing a statement accusing Russia of pushing false information, saying, in part, we believe that this anti-Ukrainian campaign was triggered by Russian secret services to cover their participation in the North Korean nuclear and missile programs.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Now, despite all of this, Defense Secretary Mattis and the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, still insist they are hoping for a diplomatic solution -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Let's hope, indeed. Barbara Starr reporting for us at the pentagon. Barbara, thank you.

Coming up, we're following the breaking news as President Trump finally condemns hate groups by name after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.


[17:55:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, White supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Criminals and thugs. President Trump more clearly denounces racist and hate groups about 48 hours after his tepid initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Are his new remarks enough to satisfy outraged critics in both parties?