Skip to main content

tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  August 17, 2017 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT

10:00 pm
to repairing the problem. and that's what i think leadership is about, helping to repair and helping to move forward. and i would hope that the president and everyone else who is involved in would take that to heart. >> you know, one of the things that the president said was that on friday night, on the uva campus, those people who had marched upon the robert e. lee statue, that there were good people among them, that they weren't all neo-nazis and white supremacists. this was a group of several hundred, mostly young men, or men of different ages, carrying torches chanting "blood and soil," chanting "jews will not replace us." just as a rabbi, as a person of faith, when you heard the president say that there were good people there in that crowd, is it possible for good people to march with torches chanting those things? >> yeah. i was -- i was actually inside the church while that march was taking place. we were part of a very, very broad interfaith service but i
10:01 pm
think the sounds i'm hearing in the background, you know, they answer that question. and i would say that, you know, of all the things that you think about, you know, hate is like an illness. it's an illness of the heart and it can be cured and violence is a tactic and it's a sad one but the one thing -- and you hear them chanting in the background there. it's this language of us and them. us and them. and that's the language that doesn't belong in the vocabulary, not of a community or a complex society like ours and that's, i think, what we all have to take home from this, that we reject that thinking and we reject that vocabulary. it's we the people. we the people. the american people. not us and them. and that's, to us, the most -- you hear it in those chants and you saw it on the signs and you hear it in the slogans and there's momentum up there in the political realm and i think all people of conscience need to
10:02 pm
think about those words and that may be root of where we're at here and the problem that we need to solve. >> rabbi, thank you so much for your time. >> thank you so much. well, we have breaking news tonight. just past the top of the hour in the wake of another mass casualty terror attack involving a vehicle mowing down people on a crowded street. last weekend it was charlottesville, virginia. today it is barcelona, spain. a search for the driver which careened down the world renowned las ramblas. at least 13 people were killed by these terrorists. more than 100 hurt. on top of that, spanish police are involved right now in a separate terror incident south of barcelona about 75 miles south which spanish media are reporting four terrorists were killed. cnn's becky anderson is in barcelona. she's in there. she joins us now. what is the latest? i know obviously still a very fluid situation. >> yeah, very fluid situation. 75 miles southwest of here of barcelona in a town called
10:03 pm
cambrils near terragona, state broadcasters here in spain reporting that four terrorists, as they describe them, have been killed in what they describe as a terror incident. they say five people were taken down. four of them were killed. this, as you rightly point out, is a separate incident, as far as we understand it, to that which happened here this afternoon around 5:00 p.m. local time when this van plowed into pedestrians in what was an incredibly busy las ramblas, pedestrianized street, killing 13 and injuring 100. anderson? >> the barcelona attack, authorities are saying the driver of the van is still at large? >> yeah, correct. the driver of the van abandoned his vehicle. he fled and he's still on the run, according to authorities. now, u.s. sources who have spoken to spanish authorities here suggest that he may have
10:04 pm
been running towards a getaway car, but it's unclear as to whether he made to it that car. what they are saying, importantly, is that there is no evidence that he was armed. so the driver of the vehicle still on the run, as we understand it, abandoning that vehicle after plowing into pedestrians in which was such a deadly and devastating attack. men, women and children of 18 nationalities, we're told. that would be an incredibly busy street, full of international tourists on an afternoon here in barcelona in the middle of the summer. many of our viewers who have been to barcelona would have used that street. the driver still on the run. >> becky, the two who have been apprehended in barcelona, both from morocco, that correct? and it is correct to say that isis has claimed responsibility? >> that's correct. isis has claimed responsibility. and i think some background for this, there's been numerous arrests over the past few months of what are described as those
10:05 pm
involved with isis facilitation cells. this has been a hotbed, as described by authorities of discontent, of fomenting of isis inspired characters. isis claiming this attack. and certainly, as you point out, two people have been arrested. again, very difficult to work out whether they are actually connected with what happened here in barcelona at 5:00 this afternoon or what is going on in cambrils in terragona at this hour as we speak. but one of moroccan dissent arrested north of barcelona and as we understand it earlier on today, and a spanish national from the spanish enclave of melilia which is in morocco also arrested earlier on today. anderson? >> becky anderson, thank you. we'll continue to check in with you. i spoke with a witness of the attacks. his name is tom and asked not to use his last name. he's american. here's what he saw. >> i was actually in a taxi
10:06 pm
coming to my hotel and we just had turned onto las ramblas. we made a right on las ramblas and, you know, i had just -- the streets were full of people today because it's peak season and it's a beautiful day here and so when we made the turn about a half a block into it going down las ramblas, i heard just an entire crowd of people scream. and my initial thought was it must be a movie star or something because any time you hear a bunch of women scream like that, that's kind of what you think. kind of naive, i guess. and then i saw out of the corner of my eye just next to us literally the white van. it was like a cargo van without windows in the back. and it was just really in a very rapid pace coming down the boulevard in the center where the people were shopping buying
10:07 pm
nicknacks and things at these little stands and he was just plowing people down and he was swerving left and right and it was -- my taxi driver stopped and we just froze and he kept just saying, oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my god. at that point, we didn't know what to do. we just kind of froze for a moment in time and i didn't realize our hotel actually was right there. so he made a right and pulled into the hotel and as he was turning right, i looked to my left and i could see the van continuing down the boulevard and i could see people just laying there. like motionless on the ground. >> and tom, when you were in the cab, you said that -- and you saw the van, how close -- as the van was traveling, how close was it to you? >> 25 feet. >> wow. >> and -- and i saw it and at
10:08 pm
first you want to think, you know, this must be just some guy, you know -- some city worker or something like that driving too fast down a pedestrian and you realize, no, this is not it at all. this is chaos. this is panic. it's surreal. and i noticed his front right turn signal was already broken and then you just add it all up in your head in a moment and you realize that everything that you read about and watch on the news is something that's unfolding in front of you and to say the word terror doesn't really help you -- you just can't even imagine the fear that comes over you. >> president trump was quick to call the attack terrorism before the spanish government did. he's taking heat for that as well as something else he said in the wake of it.
10:09 pm
and on top of that, the president's own party went on the record questioning his moral authority, his competence, even his stability. and those are not his words. those are gop lawmakers saying this. joining us now is jim acosta. what has been the president's reaction to the barcelona attack? >> well, anderson, he has been behind closed doors all day long not out in front of the cameras for a second straight after his controversial remarks about the violence in charlottesville. he issued a couple of tweets. we can put those up on the screen. "the united states condemns the terror attack in barcelona and will do whatever we can to help. be tough and strong. we love you." the other one saying we must be united and com condemn all that violence stands for. there's no place in this kind of violence in america let us come together as one." while the president was behind closed doors staying away from the cameras and just tweeting about the events in barcelona, his vice president mike pence was out in front of the cameras not once but twice today talking about barcelona. so really it was mike pence, the vice president, who was taking the lead and speaking out on behalf of the united states, not
10:10 pm
the president, when it came to that terror attack. >> the president also took some heat today for tweeting out a reference to an alleged historical or piece of american history that is not actually true, right? >> that's right. he was tweeting about something that he used to talk about on the campaign trail. he was talking about general john pershing. we can show you this tweet. "study what general pershing of the united states did to terrorists when caught. there was no more radical islamic terror for 35 years." just a quick history lesson for folks, anderson. this was during the philippine american war during the turn of the 20th century. legend has it, and president trump has talked about this. he talked about it on the campaign that pershing would dip bullets in pigs blood before shooting muslim prisoners. that has been totally debunked.
10:11 pm
the president likes to repeat the story and do so in reference to terror attacks. he did so again today. anderson, not only has this been debunked, it's offensive to muslim-americans who don't like to be associated with terrorism. and so the president who likes to say this, he said this a couple days ago, he likes to wait before all the facts come in before he makes a comment about something is obviously once again talking about something that has been debunked time and again and did so again. >> i want to correct something. the first tweet was from the president today saying the united states condemns the terror attacks in barcelona, spain. the other tweet jim referenced was in reference to charlottesville saying we all must be united. and condemn all that hate stands for. there's no place for this kind of violence in america. let's come together as one. that was from 10:19. joining us now is josh green alice stewart, tara setmayer, steve israel and molly ball.
10:12 pm
how significant is it, molly, that you have senator corker coming out talking about the president's stability? for a republican to talk about the stability of the united states, that surprising to you? >> it is and it isn't. bob corker is someone who speaks his mind. so on one level it's not surprising he would say what he really thinks. on the other hand, there is this larger phenomenon. this was the week that a lot of people came to the end of their rope with donald trump. whether it was business leaders whether it was leaders in his own military, or whether it was republicans in congress. you saw a lot of people who said we have really tried with this president. we have stuck with him for as long as we could, for as long as we thought that maybe we could at least advance the agenda that we believe we share with him. >> a lot of those folks may have said that privately or tweeted against racism but they weren't actually naming president trump. >> and they are now. and they are now because they have realized what -- and you still did hear from senator corker. he said the president has not yet figured these things out.
10:13 pm
i think that that word "yet" is going to disappear from a lot of people's statements going forward as they realize a lot of people saying give him time, give him a chance, give him the benefit of the doubt, they're realizing that honeymoon period where he had a chance, where he had some time to get used to things and figure things out, nothing got any better. things only got worse and so, you know, people are cutting it off and saying, all right, this is it. >> the latest quinnipiac polling 81% approval rating with republicans. >> sure. there is a lot of them. ted cruz last night saying, let the president speak for himself on this. however, they are unequivocal with their denouncement of what happened in charlottesville and certainly as a whole with regard to terrorism. president trump is an on island with this. he's clearly on his own the way he responded to charlottesville and how he continues to still. we've had republican members of congress up and down the aisle. conservatives, charles krauthammer call it is a moral
10:14 pm
disgrace what happened. it's important now for republicans, as i spoke with the chairwoman mcdaniel yesterday. she said republicans unequivocally denounce this. we're a party of lincoln. we do not support this activity. the rnc is gathering next week. they're going to issue a resolution denouncing the kkk. we don't want your vote. we don't want your support. we don't support what you do and we don't want your support of us as well. >> can you believe we're having this conversation for the republican party that i've been a member of since i was 18 years old. in 2017, they actually had to at the republican meeting denounce the kkk again and whose fault is this? it's donald trump. i woke up to the tweet storm this morning and i was just was beside myself because i thought to myself, just when you think it couldn't get any worse, he quadruples down now on this. and he comes out talking about the history and culture and beautiful monuments and using
10:15 pm
you ha euphemisms that white nationalists use. i thought to myself, what exactly does he want to preserve? what culture is that? because the confederacy and civil war -- my white mother i'm biracial. >> white mother with the horrible things those folks would have done to my mom during that time for having a child that looks like me is unspeakable. my husband, who is a federal law enforcement officer who is black, they would have strung him up and did all kinds of things to him, too. and that's the kind of culture that he wants to remember during the civil war? he's picking sides here? it's infuriating to me that the president of the united states, instead of coming together and healing those wounds, he is ripping those emotional scars off in this country and not only is he ripping the scars off, ripping the wounds off, he's infecting them in a way that is so unbecoming to the office of the presidency. and what that does is he continues to put a strain, even institutionally on our democracy. and it starts to erode the moral leadership of the office of the
10:16 pm
presidency which is very dangerous when people start to look at the office of the presidency and no longer respect the moral high ground that it used to represent. >> one thing that is interesting about the statues and my dad's family comes from mississippi and in his town there's a statue of robert e. lee outside the courthouse. they were put up not to remember and honor the history of the confederacy. they were put up to rewrite the history of the confederacy, to make it some grand, you know, adventure, some grand battle full of honor that it just was not. so it's not a remembrance of history. it's a rewriting of history. >> and many of these statues were put off to coincide with a surging of the ku klux klan. many of them were put up during the civil rights movement. they were put up to sow fear. but just to the point of what is happening in the republican party right now, this is a party that is in crisis and couldn't happen at a worst time. they are 15 months away from a midterm election and i used to
10:17 pm
chair the democratic congressional campaign committee. rule number one, you never alienate your base if you're going into a competitive environment. the democrats may be on the verge of taking back the house. what is happening now, congress comes back on september 5th. this is about the time that candidates -- you know this well because you worked for a member of congress. >> yes. >> candidates begin to pull. they want to get a sense of what is happening back home. and every poll that's being written now by members in competitive districts has this question. would you be more or less likely to vote for congress person x if you knew that he/she was opposed to president trump? and when those numbers begin to slide for republican members in competitive districts, they will turn more quickly against donald trump. >> i will say this. i don't think by any stretch of the imagination of what is going on in charlottesville, the president is not alienating his base. in terms of many of them, i think see energizing them. >> he is, but not congressional candidates.
10:18 pm
>> exactly. >> yes. money speaks volumes. if you look at the recent financial disclosure forms with the rnc and the dnc, the democratic party has raised $38 million and republicans $75 million. if you want to talk about support, that money speaks volume. >> that's now. >> here's a problem that the republicans have and one reason why there's not been more of a rush to distance themselves from trump. there is a cbs news poll that came out this morning that said a 3-1 margin that the republicans support the president in his response. their ethical compass may say that we need to distance ourself from the president but the polls are saying this is where republican voters are. we have to be careful about how and whether we do that. >> we saw this happen during the campaign. any time republican voters had to choose between donald trump and republican leadership or republican members of congress, they always chose donald trump. it was like a bad divorce and the kids all chose daddy. it happened over and over again. >> or like a cult.
10:19 pm
>> the point is, i think is however a political problem for democrats because while the general electorate may be turning on donald trump, he has always had a distinct brand from the republican party and it's not donald trump that will be on the ballot in 2018. >> i can't remember how many panels i sat on during the election, and there were a lot of democrats during the election that seemed gleeful over things donald trump had done and yet donald trump seemed to know something that a lot of folks on the panel didn't understand about his electorate. that may well be the case now. as much as democrats are excited about upcoming midterm elections, donald trump, there is a reason he is doing this. he is not fool in terms of who his base is and who he needs to appeal to, right? >> i think that evil is on the march again. we see it overseas. we see it here at home. nazis are marching here. i see them marching overseas. so that's a real component of
10:20 pm
that and the bigger issue, to your point, is that when we focus on donald trump being able to tap into america, america has a fundamental issue understanding that everybody is not always on the right side of history. and how do you bridge that divide? sometimes you can outpace where society is actually going to be. we have to take a quick break. much more to talk about, including the president's disappearing presidential councils and why they are being s by disbanded or even abandoned before they even met. ife of unpredictable symptoms. crohn's, you've tried to own us. but now it's our turn to take control with stelara® stelara® works differently for adults with moderately to severely active crohn's disease. studies showed relief and remission, with dosing every 8 weeks. stelara® may lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections and may increase your risk of infections and cancer. some serious infections require hospitalization. before treatment, get tested for tuberculosis. before or during treatment, always tell your doctor if
10:21 pm
you think you have an infection or have flu-like symptoms or sores, have had cancer, or develop any new skin growths, or if anyone in your house needs or recently had a vaccine. alert your doctor of new or worsening problems, including headaches, seizures, confusion, and vision problems. these may be signs of a rare, potentially fatal brain condition. some serious allergic reactions can occur. do not take stelara® if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. we're fed up with your unpredictability. remission can start with stelara®. talk to your doctor today. janssen wants to help you explore cost support options for stelara®.
10:22 pm
that's why at comcast we're continuing to make4/7. our services more reliable than ever. like technology that can update itself. an advanced fiber-network infrustructure. new, more reliable equipment for your home. and a new culture built around customer service. it all adds up to our most reliable network ever. one that keeps you connected to what matters most. president trump is of the generation that grew up in news
10:23 pm
magazines when getting on the cover would be a big deal. tonight take a look. it is hard to imagine he would be happy about this. the president shouting through a klansman hood to the new yorker, blowing a sail that looks like a klan member and raising the flag-draped sieg heil salute. back thou with the panel. you were talking about, which i had forgotten, molly, is this infrastructure week again? >> it is not. but i have to say, infrastructure i have a theory and there's been a lot of jokes about this in the washington press corps that infrastructure is sort of like trump's kryptonite because the original infrastructure week is the week that was decreed by the white h was the week james comey testified. and then there were a bunch of unhinged trump tweets after the mayor of london and so forth. it was like a joke that infrastructure week has gone so well. this week, trump was doing an infrastructure press conference on tuesday. that's what it was supposed to be about. he was announcing that he was
10:24 pm
signing something on infrastructure when instead as we know went in a dramatically different direction. congressman saying before that infrastructure is sort of a big missed opportunity for trump. it's something he would have found bipartisan immigrant on. instead, every time infrastructure comes up, he manages to blow himself up in a new way. >> if this poll is correct, why would he change anything he's doing? >> i don't think he would and doesn't seem to be changing anything he's doing. he has guys like steve bannon in his orbit saying, no, this is good. we want you to sow this divisiveness. it shows that you won't be victim to the liberal media and their dictates. you shouldn't back down and you shouldn't have to apologize for a rally that you didn't organize and you're not responsible for. >> from a communications standpoint, when you're way off your message, as we started at the beginning of this week with charlottesville, the most important thing you can do is get back on message. no better message for the president this week than tax reform and infrastructure. and when he went out there and
10:25 pm
he rolled out the infrastructure announcement with elaine chow and others, great day. i was watching that thinking this is perfect. >> for about two minutes. >> however, two words come to mind as soon as that was done. teleprompter. he should have stayed on teleprompter, said his piece and walked away. >> is that really true, that he should stay on message? again, i keep going back to the election where all the experts said this is what he should be doing. he did the exact opposite and he oobviously won. if he has sense that this confederate monument issue is a wedge issue that rallies his base and makes all liberals seem like wringing their hands and politically correct and the base loves it and that riles people up and distracts them from everything else, why shouldn't he be talking about that? >> but anderson, the base is only about 25%. >> you were talking about folks in a diner on long island you
10:26 pm
walked in, and they were complaining about how the president is being treated. >> this is the strategy. he has an achilles heel. it is that all of the promises that it has made have not been kept. he was going to deliver tax cuts, no tax cut proposal, he was going to deliver infrastructure. no. on his first day, he was going to build a great, beautiful wall. no. i don't think the wall should be built but he hasn't accomplished it and so when you have to distract people from that one glaring weakness that you have in your administration, a weakness, by the way, that will lose swing voters and maybe part of his base, you've got to force the conversation to your sweet spot and his sweet spot is statues and -- vilification. >> burning the american flag is a tried and true issue which is upsetting to many americans but also used by politicians to divide. >> well, look. it's true uif you look the most recent polling that overall support from republicans may still be there for trump. but there are still in the
10:27 pm
monmouth poll, in the cnn poll, and even in the cbs poll, people are frustrated that to congressman israel's point, that things aren't getting done. so they're kind of still trying to give them a chance. that number is eroding as far as being okay with him not getting anything done. however, in the monmouth poll, it said that out of the people who support him, 61% would support him no matter what he did. and 57% would not support him short of resignation no matter what he did. so that is not a good sign. it shows how polarized people are when i say the cult comment. it's actually kind of true. but something else that speaks to what is going on here. you have -- that could affect trump. we all know he loves the media. and james murdoch, rupert murdoch's son, the chairman of 21st century fox, which owns fox news, came out, sent an e-mail castigating the president for his response to charlottesville.
10:28 pm
he pledged a million dollars to the anti-defamation league and said he cannot believe that we're having this conversation where we essentially have to reiterate our position to nazis. that could -- when you start to see fox changing, that could affect trump, too. >> it's easy to send a billion dollar check when -- >> that's true. but they run the network. >> here's the problem with always throwing up some distraction. or some cultural battle to distract from the fact that you're not doing anything. we're coming up against a period where the government is going to shut down if legislation isn't passed. the debt ceiling is going to be breached and cause a meltdown in the global economy. the stock market dropped because traders were worried that gary cohen, his national economic director might be leaving. and really nobody responseble in that white house is going to be able to keep the economy from collapsing. there comes a point where you have to function as a government. there is no sign trump is able to do that.
10:29 pm
>> we'll get a late update from spain where there's been another terror incident with fatalities. also, the mayor of birmingham, alabama joins us and how he is handling the confederate statues in his city. this is a car protected from storms by an insurance company that knows the weather down to the square block. this is a diamond tracked on a blockchain - protected against fraud, theft and trafficking. this is a financial transaction secure from hacks and threats others can't see. this is a patient's medical history made secure - while still available to their doctor at their fingertips. this is an asteroid live-streamed to millions of viewers from 220 miles above earth. this is ai trained by experts in 20 industries. your industry. hello. this is not the cloud you know. this is the ibm cloud. built for your business. designed for your data. secure to the core.
10:30 pm
the ibm cloud is the cloud for enterprise. yours. ♪ ♪ yours. what's going on here? um...i'm babysitting. that'll be $50 bucks. you said 30 dollars. yeah, well it was $30 before my fees, like the pizza-ordering fee and the dog-sitting fee... and the rummage through your closet fee. are those my heels? yeah! yeah, we're the same shoes. with t-mobile taxes and fees are already included, so you get four lines of unlimited for just $40 bucks each. and now get zero down on the hottest smart phone brands like samsung galaxy. more reasons why t-mobile is america's best unlimited network.
10:31 pm
10:32 pm
we are following late developments out of spain where there's been another terrorist incident hours after a vehicle attack took 13 lives in barcelona. melissa bell joins us with the latest of what is happening 75 miles southwest. i understand there's new information about the suspected terrorists possibly wearing explosive belts? >> that's right. and investigators are now working to confirm whether those four terrorists, alleged terrorists, we believe they were terrorists were wearing those explosive belts when they carried out what the authorities here in spain believe may have been a terrorist attack related to the one that took place just here in barcelona just a few hours before. we made it to the scene of where this truck rampage took place, anderson, just a few hours ago and what we believe happened here at 5:00 p.m. local time and
10:33 pm
several hours ago. that truck made its way down that street, making its way onto the pedestrian zone and mowing down those many hundreds of tourists that were making their way around the area in the afternoon. of course, 13 dead now and of course several hours later then this new incident in cambrils, as you mentioned. and the authorities working on the assumption that the two attacks were indeed linked. >> appreciate the update. thank you. be careful. returning now to the president's discussion about the removal of confederate monuments. the president tweeting this morning, sad to see the history and culture of this great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. you can't change history but you can learn from it. robert e. lee, stonewall jackson, whose next? washington, jefferson? so foolish. also the beauty being taken out of our towns and parks will be greatly missed and will not be comparably replaced. that's the president's take. joining me now is the mayor of birmingham, alabama, and former president of washington
10:34 pm
university. as in george washington and confederate general robert e. lee, two men who played critical roles in the university's history. mayor bell, you gave the order to cover up the statue in your city of birmingham. can you explain why you made that decision? >> first of all, anderson, thank you for allowing me to come on your program. the decision was made because of the activities that took place in charlottesville over the weekend and the reaction of the president to that terrible tragedy that took place. what i deem the core issue here is that the full story of the confederacy is not being told. we have monuments all across the country that tells a story of sedition and treason against this country, but it's being praised. and i took the position that either we tell the full story we don't tell the story at all. and part of the reason why we covered up the monument is there is a state statute in place that won't allow us to alter it, move
10:35 pm
it, or damage it in any way. but the statute does not speak to covering up. and until we can present that memorial in full context about the slavery that it puts forward, about the sedition and the treason, then we should not tell the story at all. >> the attorney general of alabama is actually suing both you and the city of birmingham for violating the new law that actually protects monuments like the one you covered. that's correct, right? >> that is correct. but we've examined the state statute and it does not speak to covering up or partitioning the monument. >> i see. so ken, i understand part of your decision to remove confederate flags at a chapel at the university was based on why they were put there in the first place. can you just explain that? >> well, that's exactly right, anderson. we had a decision to make in response to a group of requests, even demands from some students
10:36 pm
about removing the flags from the chapel. and i took the position that i wanted to find out why they were there, what they represented, how they got there in the first place, and how they fit in with the educational mission of the university. and what we found is something very similar to what i think you and some others have mentioned before and what mayor bell has mentioned. once you understand why certain things got where they are, that causes you to think about whether they should be removed or not. in our case, those flags went into the chapel 60 years after the chapel was erected. they went up in 1930. not after the civil war. and they had no real historical reason for being there. in the end, we decided to move them to the museum because we did see them as pieces of history. and as mayor bell said, to have
10:37 pm
the full history told, we wanted to put them in a museum where we could provide some context and some explanation about what they were and what purpose they served in a previous time. >> mayor bell, i think that ken raises such an interesting point. i don't think a lot of people understand and, frankly, i've just been learning this. when i grew up and visited my relatives in mississippi and we'd go to towns and saw statues, i assumed they were built to honor those who had died there fighting for the confederacy but in many cases these were made a hundred years later at a time when the civil rights movement in part to intimidate. >> exactly. and what people have to understand about birmingham, birmingham is not a civil war city. we were created in 1871, which was after the civil war. we are a civil rights city that stood for equality and human rights for everyone. and so we have no direct correlation to the civil war history.
10:38 pm
now, in our birmingham civil rights institute, we have klan robes. we have confederate flags and all of that in context to what it really means. but to have that monument in a public space lifting up the conflict that existed to overthrow the u.s. government to abolish the constitution, to separate from the u.s. government, i think it's an abomination to what we all stand for. >> ken, every family, who has a long history in america, has villains and heroes. in their ancestry. they have slave owners or people who were enslaved. and to -- there are a lot of americans who feel you don't want to cover that stuff up. you don't want to, you know, whitewash it, pretend it never happened. you don't want to eliminate it and just ignore it. people say it's part of the history that should be remembered. so how do you feel about that, ken?
10:39 pm
>> well, you know, i come at it from a different perspective than mayor bell in this respect. i was in a university setting as a university president and in an institution that had a very long history. in fact, a history that traced the arc of our nation's history before the founding, the founding through the civil war. and, you know, i thought that if any institution could help students understand the arc of our nation's history, it could be the one that i was at. but in order to do that, you had to look at things critically. you had to look at the full history. and you had to understand how decisions were made in the past in order to make decisions better for the future. so we i think very much looked upon our controversy as an
10:40 pm
opportunity really to not just educate our students, but to educate the broader university community that we were a part of. >> mayor william bell, i appreciate you being on and ken ruscio as well. it's an interesting and important discussion. i appreciate it. up next, my panel's take on this. should the confederate statues stay or go? we'll be right back.
10:41 pm
10:42 pm
back to the debate of confederate monuments. following the violence in charlottesville this week, across america symbols and monuments celebrating controversial civil war era figures have been removed or in some cases vandalized. as mentioned on twit their morning, the president railed against the loss of, quote, beautiful statues. a clear sign he's not backing down from his off the rails comments that he made of charlottesville on tuesday. a lot to discuss with the panel. josh, is the president trying to focus or refocus attention on the monuments issue as sort of a cultural divide and away from his more incendiary comments? >> yes, because it's a much more popular stand. with republicans than defending white supremacist marchers which is very unpopular. so returning it to the issue of statues and heritage and history and the demands of what trump would view as the liberal secular culture, wanting to tear down these monuments to our history i think puts him on safer ground than he was when he
10:43 pm
was trying to defend the marchers. >> does everyone pretty much agree with that? >> i think that's what he is trying to do. i don't know if it will be successful. i think ironically he seems to have polarized this debate in a way that it wasn't before. you did have various officials on both sides of the partisan aisle moving sort of cautiously around this issue and trying to find a way to diffuse it. now that it has been so inflamed, ironically you see it moving a lot fastener a lot of places. you see a lot of cities moving to take these down or to consider taking them down where before they were trying to put it off or diffuse it. it may have the opposite effect that certainly those marchers intended and the president as well. >> but if a lot of cities do move against it quickly, people may be upset who don't want to see the statues taken down. >> i saw the effect of president trump's strategy yesterday. when i was in congress and i wanted to know what people thought, i didn't need a poll. i walked into a long island diner. that's where i heard absolutely democracy without diplomacy. yesterday i walked into a diner on long island. two guys sat next to me. they're looking at the
10:44 pm
television at neo-nazi marchers and one guy says, these democrats, they will not let trump do what he needs to do. and the other guy says now all these democrats want to do, they're just worried about statues. that's exactly what donald trump wanted. these guys weren't talking about the real achilles heel in the trump administration and that's the failure to deliver anything to those two guys. instead of talking about the fact that there's no infrastructure bill, no tax reform bill, no progress on paychecks, no nothing, they're talking about statues. and i don't know but it's become machiavellian impulses that president trump has or it is what it is, but it's become a very effective strategy. it is another deflection. >> i don't think we got to this point, excuse me, tara. here we have right out of the gate that he didn't answer -- respond to this appropriately. his initial gut instinct wasn't to unequivocally denounce hatred and racism and big industry and
10:45 pm
instead of uniting us against hatred and bigotry, we are divided now over monuments and statues across this country and i think it's important to remind people as a republican the republican party is the party of lincoln. we are against hatred. we are against bigotry and in this issue, as in virginia, these should be decided on the local level. i'm from the south, born and raised in atlanta. having lived in arkansas. there's a lot of racial tension in the south and i think these are very emotional issues and should be decided on a local level and for the president to continue to drag this out i think is the wrong direction. >> i think it's a combination of a couple of things. i think it's true that he wants to shift the focus a little bit off of the fact that he gave aid and comfort to white supremacy but i also think there's a personal investment in this for him. we have to remember something about donald trump. he never does anything that doesn't resolve around him and it was clear that we saw who the real donald trump was on saturday, the both sides comment and then obviously in the train wreck of a press conference on tuesday. something i didn't think about until today, i was like, what is his obsession with this civil
10:46 pm
war stuff? and he has a personal investment. let's not forget, he gave his presidential paycheck to the national park service and designated that money to be used for a civil war battle site in maryland, the battle of antietam. who fought in that? robert e. lee. versus general mcclellan. that was a civil war battle involved with robert e. lee. he keeps bringing this up, he's very invested in robert e. lee. i think that donald trump has an obsession with the idea of tough guys. he looks at these generals and at the civil war and i don't think he really grasps the divide that the civil war really caused and the wound that that was. he sees tough guys fighting it out. that fought for their country, fought for freedom, fought for their families and the site that he chose to put his money into was the site where it was the bloodiest battle of the civil war in one day. >> for someone who doesn't like
10:47 pm
losers it's interesting he is focussed so much on the confederacy. >> it's interesting because more union soldiers died that day than confederate soldiers, by the way. but it even goes to the point where he put up a fake monument at the trump golf course and claimed it was a river of blood where there was another bloody battle. he made that up completely. it never happened. >> we're going to continue the conversation next. hear from the president of the afl-cio, one of many who left the president's council because of his reaction to white supremacy in charlottesville. today another council gone before it even began. what did you have in mind? i don't know. $4.95 per trade? uhhh and i was wondering if your brokerage offers some sort of guarantee? guarantee? where we can get our fees and commissions back if we're not happy. so can you offer me what schwab is offering? what's with all the questions? ask your broker if they're offering $4.95 online equity trades and a satisfaction guarantee. if you don't like their answer, ask again at schwab.
10:48 pm
when you switch to progressive. as easy as saving $600 winds stirring. too treacherous for a selfie. [ camera shutter clicks ] sure, i've taken discounts to new heights with safe driver and paperless billing. but the prize at the top is worth every last breath. here we go. [ grunts ] got 'em. ahh. wait a minute. whole wheat waffles? [ crying ] why!
10:49 pm
track your pack. set a curfew, or two. make dinner-time device free. [ music stops ] [ music plays again ] a smarter way to wifi is awesome.
10:50 pm
introducing xfinity xfi. amazing speed, coverage and control. change the way you wifi. xfinity. the future of awesome. >> another presidential council is over before it started. a white house official says the president scrapped plans for an infrastructure council. just yesterday two councils disbanded. ceos were fleeing in response to his charlottesville reaction. the president of the aflcio quit the president's manufacturing on tuesday. he joins me tonight. >> you said the president's statement on tuesday, quote, really unveiled his true feelings about charlottesville and around the country.
10:51 pm
you also said he made a spirited defense of racism and bigotry. i'm wondering what you think about what he said today about part of america's culture is being ripped apart. >> i'm really shocked by the statements that he made both earlier in the week and today. i think he doesn't understand the symbolism and the power that those monuments and statues have and how they attract people that support racism and bigotry. when i heard him give that statement, at first i was shocked. then i actually thought -- i felt bad for him because he didn't -- he didn't understand. i felt bad for the country because our president really didn't understand how he's dividing our country.
10:52 pm
>> you resigned obviously from the president's manufacturing council. the group was then disbanded because so many people are quitting. i wonder what you make of the fact that no one in the president's inner circle seem to take issue with his comments. or there have been leaks that they take issue but at this point, nobody has resigned. >> first of all, the council was sort of a joke. it was -- it never met. it didn't do anything. >> you never even met? >> it wasn't a vehicle to do real policy. >> there were never any meetings for it? >> no. there were never any meetings for it. he brought in some of the ceos but he never called a meeting or invited us to anything. but then, when you look at the symbolism of being associated with that council, was the second thing. and that's what i addressed by resigning. i looked at that and said his defense of groups that their whole purpose is racism and
10:53 pm
bigotry that we reject categorically is too much for us to be associated with. so we resigned. there are people on his staff that i'm sure are trying to work through what they do right now. they don't want to embrace that. >> what do you say to members of the president's base some of whom may be members of the afl-cio who voted for him, hard-working americans who are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt now? obviously you were a hillary clinton supporter during the election. a lot of the folks you represented probably voted for president trump. what do you say to them now? >> you know, we didn't support him. we supported his opponent. but right after the election, i met with him. because i thought it was our obligation to try to come together and do things that would help our members and our country to fix things. and i told him when i met with him, look, i'm going to call balls and strikes.
10:54 pm
if you do something that's good for working people in this country, i'm going to support you and do everything i can to help you to succeed. if you do things that are bad for working people, i'm going to oppose you and do everything i can to stop you from hurting working people. my members, with very few exceptions, have said, you did the right thing. we can't be associated with this kind of defense of a group whose core principal is racism and bigotry. >> i appreciate your time. thank you very much. >> you bet. >> back now with the panel. joseph, what does it say that ceos are leaving these councils but the president's religious advisory council, nobody on that, people of strong faith, nobody on that has backed away from the president in any way, no matter what he has said?
10:55 pm
>> i can't speak to what's going through the head of any of the individuals on that council. i would not presume to think what's in their hearts or minds. but i think today was a good day for moral leadership in america. i think when you see individuals who have in many ways drawn their own line in the dirt and say to the president that, as i said yesterday, there really can be no agenda. you cannot really seriously believe we're going to have an american agenda revolving around business when you are giving aid and comfort to individuals who do not believe i should be allowed to walk into their business. the preamble of the constitution says that we the people of the united states in order to form a more perfect union provide for the common defense. yes, we have laws. we have agendas. we want to do things with tax reform. we want to do things across the board that literally cannot wait
10:56 pm
because we have been kicking the bucket down the line for too long. all of those things are rooted in a fundamental understanding of what america is. which is a promise. a promise that we make to our citizens and a promise that we make to the world. so again, i would encourage those religious leaders to search their heart and say, what is it that i can do to get through to this president? because it's very apparent to me that the only thing that ever gets his attention is some form of personal affront. and at this juncture when you've demonstrated that there is literally nothing anybody can do to get you to do something you don't want to do, i think it is incumbent on all of us to start taking matters into our own hands. >> i'll say something about the
10:57 pm
evangelicals. i've been critical before. i think it's shameful none of them have spoken. we talk about moral leadership. the other night someone brought up martin luther king's reference to where those folks were during the civil rights era as well. it's unbelievable to me that what used to be the conservative movement that talked about the family values, faith, morals, has completely abdicated that to support and enable donald trump that is the antithesis to what they stand for. i say shame on them. as far as the business councils are concerned, this is an interesting thing. donald trump prides himself on being a great businessman. that was his whole thing. when you start to see those folks abandoning him that is a personal affront. and it could start to affect his pockets. when you see the cleveland clinic pull out of their conference at mar-a-lago. when you see businesses pull out of potential deals with his businesses and things like that, then you might see the needle move with him.
10:58 pm
it has to affect him personally. a lot of this is for show. you heard trump say they never had a meeting. a lot is for photo ops and show. just so he can say to people, look what i'm doing, i'm surrounding myself with these people. it's all for fluff. >> i don't disagree with you. i think that there is a substantive problem with disbanding these councils. look, the one area of bipartisan agreement when president trump was sworn in was on infrastructure. he campaigned on a trillion dollar campaign on infrastructure. house democrats supported it. house republicans and senate republicans supported it. it was going to be one of the first big items to pass and it should have been. and now, not only is there a proposal on infrastructure, there is no council to talk about infrastructure. and that's really sad because a lot of president trump's voters, they voted for him because they've been economically clobbered. they've been clobbered by a radical changes in manufacturing, globalization, automation. they have been clobbered by a
10:59 pm
decaying infrastructure in the united states. they look out their windows and they see decay. what could have united congress and those middle class and working families was progress on infrastructure. now we have disbanded that council and the white house becomes more of an echo chamber. >> nobody in the president's inner circle seems -- there's leaks every now and then this person is horrified and upset. but, and it's not a coincidence that's leaking out. they probably sent somebody out to leak it. but nobody is resigning. >> no. which i think shows the problem of serving trump and becoming part of an administration run by a guy who seems to know no limits. and on an issue like charlottesville really no decency when it comes to talking about the protesters. there's a certain sense that people who work for trump are -- captured. we talk to them all the time. they'll use reporters almost as confessors to say i can't
11:00 pm
believe he did this or that. but nobody wants to come out publicly. a lot are afraid of being attacked by the president. so far nobody has been willing to take that leap and break with trump publicly that might start a real wave of departures. >> i want to thank everybody. time for "cnn tonight" with don time for "cnn tonight" with don lemon. -- captions by vitac -- >> hello everyone. we're going to start this show with an uncomfortable conversation. we're going to talk about this, this symbol. this is probably offensive to a lot of people. some people may not be so offended by it. some people see it as a necessary part of their history. butmy question is as we talk about these uncomfortable things, right, why is the president reacting the way he is reacting? why was president trump okay with this the ultimate symbol of hate and the confederacy being taken down. >> i think they should put it in the museum. let it go.