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Trump Stays Firm with his Message; South Korea's President With Optimistic View on Korean Peninsula; Grief and Woe in Sierra Leone's Tragedy; Source: Trump Moving Forward Without Regret; U.S. Military Leaders Condemn Charlottesville Violence; Cities Quietly Removing Confederate Statues; Debate Over Removing Stone Mountain Carving; Anti-Immigrant Ship Trying To Block Refugees; Obama's Charlottesville Tweet Smashes Record. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired August 17, 2017 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Ahead this hour, we're told the U.S. President has no regrets about his divisive comments on neo- Nazis. But more lawmakers and top leaders in the military are speaking out.
South Korea's president mark his 100 day in office and pledges to keep the peninsula peaceful amid the heightened tension with Pyongyang.
And the aftermath of the deadly mudslides in Sierra Leone. Now aid and rescue workers are worried about another risk.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.
Four days after white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly, the college town is responding. More than a thousand people are gathered on the University of Virginia campus Wednesday night for a peaceful candlelight vigil. Marchers say there is no room for racism and bigotry in Charlottesville.
And U.S. military leaders, former American president and the host of republicans are echoing that message. And some are directing it right at President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KASICH, (R) GOVERNOR OF OHIO: This is terrible. The President of the United States needs to condemn this kind of hate groups. This is not about winning an argument. This is about the fact that now these folks apparently are going to go other places. And they think that they have some sort of a victory. There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-Nazis and anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Mr. Trump is said to be defiant in the face of the growing criticism. One source tell CNN the president is moving forward without regret. CNN's Sara Murray reports.
SARA MURRAY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump increasingly isolated as the backlash to these remarks a day ago failed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd like you to think this blame -- yes, I think there's blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt it and you don't have any doubt it either. And -- and if you report it accurately you would say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Trump equating neo-Nazis and white supremacist marching through Charlottesville without burst and anger from counter protesters opposing their white nationalist ideology.
The president's comments swiftly drew rebuke from GOP leaders in Washington former presidents and Wall Street executives, business leaders including the CEOs of Campbell and 3M began fleeing the president, quitting the White House advisory council.
On Tuesday, Trump insisted he had plenty of CEOs vying to replace those departed. By Wednesday, he scraps the councils altogether saying, "Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council and Strategy and Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all."
Meanwhile, Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush offered pointed word in a joint statement, saying "America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms."
Even as Trump shed supporters the White House double down, releasing a set of talking points declaring "The president was entirely correct, both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately and bear some responsibility" and insisting "Trump has been a voice for unity and calm."
Today, Vice President Mike Pence was one of the few republicans to stand by Trump, though he avoided answering a question on whether he agreed with the president's statements that there were very fine people on both sides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Columbia, and I stand with the president and I stand by those words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: As for the president, he recognize the memorial service hailed for Heather Heyer who was mowed down and killed by an allege white supremacist in Charlottesville with a tweet. "Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman. She will be long remembered by all."
Trump has not announced any plan to travel to Charlottesville. When ask about Tuesday, he used the opportunity to tout a Trump branded winery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States that's in Charlottesville.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now even though President Trump's comments have been widely panned sources tell CNN he is defiant in the face of this criticism and has no regret about the comments he made on Tuesday.
Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: Let's turn now to CNN political analyst and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers. She's in New York. Thank you so much for joining us.
KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Thanks for having me.
CHURCH: So, Kirsten, despite all the negative from CEOs across the country, as well as members of Mr. Trump's own party calling him out on the way he's dealt with the deadly attack in Charlottesville, and of course the racist protesters.
[03:05:09] We now know that the president has no regrets about his latest comments and the backlash that's followed. We've seen him stand firm in the midst of mass criticism before. Why might this be different do you think and what could the ramifications be for his administration going forward?
POWERS: Well, I think there's obviously been a lot of thing the president had done -- has President Trump has done that his -- that shocked a lot of people throughout his already very short presidency. But this one really does stand apart from a lot of the other things that have happened where you do see a lot of republicans coming out and criticizing him, including some people who even were supporters of his.
I mean, we have people here in the United States they're watching television breaking down on air, crying. I mean, this is something that is a very emotional issue, you know, in the United States that the idea of neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, you know, people -- you know, who are chanting racist, anti-Semitic, anti-black, things while carrying torches just like the KKK used to do.
And so, it really evokes really the worst memories, you know, of our country. And to have the President of the United States come out and defend that is just something that I think still has people really reeling and I'm not sure how he can really recover from this. Now, that said, I think if your viewers have been following President
Trump news he just have a lot of people who support him who don't seem to be shaken by anything. So what we have to wait and see is how they respond to this, and unfortunately, I think a lot of us are expecting that they probably not going to care.
CHURCH: That's what we've seen in the past, isn't it? And some republicans, though, are even going so far as naming and shaming the president. Could this perhaps represents some sort of turning point where the party may have had enough, and if that is the case, what options are available to the GOP at this point?
POWERS: Well, I -- main option for them would be to really condemn him in a serious way, do a sort of sense of Congress where you do an official condemnation of the president. It would be absolutely unprecedented and I don't think that that is something that's going to happen.
I think you would also see more republicans coming out. Right now we're having just a handful of republicans coming out but it's not the kind of widespread condemnation that you would expect for this kind of behavior.
And you know, I think that they would have to make it clear to him that this is unacceptable behavior and perhaps even tell him that he needs to apologize. That's not going to happen, though. And I think that we have these reports, you know, some unnamed republicans talking about the fact that they want to, you know, work with the president on tax cuts and the other things that they care.
And so, this raises some real issues because, you know, we're talking about a real moral issue of people who are just evil, clearance, you know, simple, no question and the president is defending it. And so, I think a lot of people are saying, you know, if the republicans don't come out and condemn him in some way in some sort of official manner that they're going to have a hard time recovering from this.
CHURCH: Indeed. And President Trump's embattled chief strategist, Steve Bannon, apparently sees a political advantage in all this speaking to the American Prospect publication. He said this about the democrats, I'll just read it out. "The longer they talk about identity politics, I got them. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the democrats."
Kirsten, given Bannon is under a great deal of scrutiny right now, what's your take away from those comments?
POWERS: I do fear that he is correct that there is a group of people who are motivated by this kind of stuff that the more the democrats talk about this and focus on this issues that that will keep their base motivated, and that -- and that they're not going to lose any people over this. I think he knows that. He knows that, you know, that probably when we get our next round of polls, I'd be surprise that President Trump actually is hurt that much among republicans. And if he is, I suspect that in a couple of weeks it will blow over. And so, you know, I think Steve Bannon knows the Republican Party and I think that he -- I think that he might be right.
CHURCH: Yes. It will be interesting to see what those numbers are going forward. Kirsten Powers, thanks so much for joining us. Always a pleasure.
POWERS: Thanks for having me.
CHURCH: Great to speak with you. German leaders had some of the strongest reactions to Mr. Trump's comments. Here is Germany's foreign Minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIGMAR GABRIEL, GERMAN MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): The American debate has shown with how much indignity the first remarks of the American president were received in the United States.
[03:10:02] This seems to be the reason that he now corrects himself, but the outrage was right. And we see what can happen when you give free reign to right wing extremists. Above all, this should be seen as a lesson for us in Europe in Germany.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party went even further in his rebuke tweeting this, "One must denounce Nazis definitely what Trump is doing is inflammatory, whoever tribulizes violence and hate betrays western values."
Well, Iran's supreme leader also weighed in. Ayatollah Ali Kahamenei who is on the record as denying the Holocaust says the U.S. should fix its racial divisions and mind its own business on the global stage.
Israeli politicians have also weighed in, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his time in doing so.
CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now from Jerusalem to talk more about this. So, Oren, why did it take so long for Israel's prime minister to respond, and once he did what did he say and how did his son weigh in on this issue.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has never once criticize President Donald Trump in his 200 plus days in office. And now it seems is no exception. He doesn't really seen criticizing the president for his statements and that may have quite a bit to do with why Netanyahu's reaction was so delayed.
It came three days after the original white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and only after President Trump condemned racism and white supremacists. When that reaction finally did come it was only on social media and it was a short one. He said in a tweet, "Outrage by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazis, and racist. Everyone should oppose this hatred." Just a few hours later, the president would reverse course and seem to draw some sort of symmetry between neo-Nazis and white supremacist and those opposing them. There has not been an updated response from the prime minister at this point.
In fact, the Netanyahu who weighed in the most was Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister's 26-year-old son who went on his Facebook page. And said that neo-Nazis are scum, but they are a, quote, "dying breed," which certainly seems to be an odd comment giving that they just held a torch bearing rally in Virginia.
He then went on to say, "The great threat, both the U.S. and Israel, is from the left from groups like the so-called antifa and Black Lives Matter." A source close to prime minister said Yair Netanyahu is his own person, he's an adult and those views are his own. Rosemary?
CHURCH: Disturbing on that matter. And what are other Israeli politicians on both sides of the political spectrum saying about President Trump's remarks on the Charlottesville protest?
LIEBERMANN: Well, their response has been unequivocal and very much unambiguous politicians from across the spectrum here, condemning President Donald Trump's remarks. Some calling out the president by name, others just condemning this idea that there is some sort of symmetry there. And now we're seeing that reflected in the papers as well.
There was some commentary yesterday, there is even more commentary and criticism today. This is the English language Jerusalem Post. It says, "America in crisis, Jewish outrages Trump defense Virginia white power rally." The Hebrew newspapers are just the same. This one says "A presidential hug for the extreme right."
So, Israeli is both politicians and the public quite angry over this one.
CHURCH: Yes, indeed. Our Oren Liebermann bringing us up to date from Jerusalem, where it is nearly 10.15 in the morning. Many thanks to you.
Well, South Korea's president says he is confident there will never be a war again on the Korean Peninsula. More on what he has to say about North Korea and it was President Trump. That's coming up.
And the hope is slowly turning to anguish to Sierra Leone as more victims of massive mudslides are found. We'll have the details for you just ahead.
[03:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: We turn now to the standoff with North Korea. South Korea's President held a news conference a while ago to mark his 100th day in office. When asked about the threat from Pyongyang, Moon Jae-in said U.S. President Trump has offered assurances he would consult with Seoul before making any military decisions.
And Mr. Moon said he was confident there would never be a war again on the Korean Peninsula.
Paula Hancocks joins us with more from Seoul, and Kyung Lah is in Tokyo. Good to see you both. Paula, to you first, as we just heard South Korea's President Moon Jae-in says there will never be a war again on the Korean Peninsula, how can he speak with such certainty on this given what we've heard from President Trump and Kim Jong-un?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Rosemary, what he was doing was saying that he knows what's in President Trump's mind. He has spoken to President Trump about this and he knows and has guarantees according to him that the U.S. won't go it alone. They won't make any decision about options before discussing and giving the approval from South Korea.
He is very adamant that there can't be a military option in on the Korean Peninsula before the South Koreans approve it. He says that simply can't happen and he also said that that there wouldn't be a second Korean War.
Given the fact that the country has built itself up from the ruins of the first Korean War. He said he could not let that happen again, and he would do everything to make sure it didn't -- asking the Korean people to trust him that there wouldn't be another war.
Now we did ask him about the fiery comments we heard from President Trump just last week about the fire and fury threats towards North Korea, and ask him whether or not that undermine what he was saying and whether or not that was a mixed message to Pyongyang.
Here's his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOON JAE-IN, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH KOREA (through translator): The stands of U.S. and South Korea is not fundamentally different. The stand of U.S. and South Korea is the same that we should make North Korea stop additional provocation through strong sanctions and pressure and leading them to the table of discussion for giving up nuclear.
The U.S. is imposing sanctions through the U.N., as well as its own additional sanctions. President Trump of the United States is trying to pressure North Korea through showing strong will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANCOCKS: So according to President Moon the threats from President Trump of military action are not necessary, meaning there will be military action but saying this is one of his ways of pressuring.
He also mentioned a red line. He said the South Korean red line when it comes to North Korea is when they have an ICBM, an intercontinental ballistic missile that is functioning and is able to have a nuclear warhead on top. He didn't though specify what he would do if that red line was cross or when he thought that would be. Rosemary? CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to Paula Hancocks for joining us there from Seoul in South Korea. Let's turn now to Kyung Lah in Tokyo. And we know the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford will arrive in Japan soon to reassure the country that the U.S. alliance with Japan is strong.
Now we just heard how certain South Korea as the president is that there will be no war on the Korean Peninsula, what would Japan likely say on this?
KYUNG LAH, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: What Japan will likely say is they are going to keep their comments restricted to the closeness of the alliance. That's about as far as we're hearing the Abe administration go in regards to their predictions their relationship with the Trump administration.
We do -- we are hearing that the new U.S. ambassador has just landed at the airport. We understand his plane may have just touched down. He was appointed by the Trump administration, by the president, approved by Congress and we're anticipating based on what we're heard so far, Rosemary, that he will also try to reassure Japan saying that the alliance is very strong.
These are being echoed also in Washington from two ministers who are here who left Japan and are meeting with their counterparts in Washington.
[22:20:03] So, these assurances about the alliance are being repeated a number of meetings and a number of levels publicly. Now what we are also seeing on the ground when it comes to defense here, the Japan self-defense force was having a drill with the U.S. forces. This is something that they opened up to the media.
What they were trying to achieve here is, again, that reassurance that at least on the ground they're also trying to maintain a relationship when it comes to the defense of Japan. Rosemary?
CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Kyung Lah with that live report from Tokyo where it is 4.20 in the afternoon.
Well, Sierra Leone is burying hundreds of people killed in a mudslide near the capital Freetown. They're trying to free up space in the city's overcrowded morgues and contain the risk of disease from decaying bodies. At least 600 people are still missing after heavy rain cause part of a mountain to wash away.
On Wednesday, the country came to standstill from moment of silence in honor of those who died in this disaster.
Well, CNN's Farai Sevenzo joins us now from Nairobi, Kenya. He's been watching this very closely. Farai, what more are you learning about the search and recovery effort and the aftermath of this tragedy?
FARAI SEVENZO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A very good morning to you, Rosemary. As we are learning that it is still very much a case of recovery at the moment. And of course, stories are starting to emerge of people who have lost the entire families, uncles, aunts, and children. And children are the most heavily affected. We know that 109 children died, that is more than the men who are about 55 and the women.
It's been a massive tragedy for the Sierra Leones. And we also know that mass burials, as you say in your introduction, are due to begin today or tomorrow, that families have been given time to identify their bodies. And of course, the mortuaries are very poor. And we also know that the floods, the massive, massive water has taken bodies right into the Atlantic Ocean but it was Freetown it seems into the Atlantic Ocean.
And of course, there are up to 2,000 to 3,000 people that are displaced at the moment and the government is appealing for help in order to house them and to feed them. At the moment is just coming to grip -- to grips with the grief that's been fallen to them, Rosemary.
CHURCH: The government appealing for help but I did ask you 24 hours ago, and I want to ask you again what all is the government doing itself to help the survivors of this disaster, as well as the families of the victims.
SEVENZO: I mean, the government's ministers in charge of social security are trying to identify these people. And I heard yesterday from people in the international NGOs like World Vision, WFP, they were scrambling to get there.
And of course, let's not forget that the threat of another mudslide is still there because the rain continues to fall. There are about 27 inches of rainfall, that's between July and August the 13. That's twice of what they usually get. It's incredible rainfall for that part of the world, and of course, everyone is on standby that such a tragedy doesn't get repeated.
CHURCH: Indeed. That's right. And we'll be watching the story very closely. Farai Sevenzo joining us from Nairobi, Kenya, where he's been watching the story.
I want to turn now to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. He -- now, Pedram, we heard there from Farai that there is this concern about the possible another landslide, a mudslide happening. What is the likelihood of that as these rains continue of course?
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Yes, Unfortunately, I think they are rather high at least the next day, 4 to 6 weeks, Rosemary. Because when you look at when the wet season is across this region typically it rise from June through October. So, the months of say August into September actually the heart of the wet season.
And the reason for that is we're sitting just north of the equator across this region, so when you have the wind from the southern hemisphere meet from the wind from the northern hemisphere the area of convergence right there is where the storms tend to pop-up and of course wet time of year you got a couple of hundred millimeter of rainfall. But what you heard in the previous story and we're overseeing climatologically is not only is that occurring but we expect this to be a couple times higher than average. What we see in the last couple of weeks.
So, here are the perspective looking offshore. We have Hurricane Gert sitting off the eastern seaboard of the United States. We have what could be tropical storms Harvey, Irma, and Jose. The reason I say that because these all come off of the west coast of Africa.
So with that said, these eventually becoming tropical disturbances it is the breeding ground for tropical season across this region so we're watching this very carefully. And we know the rainfall amounts have been tremendous upwards of 700 millimeters since the beginning of July, and that's a couple hundred percent above normal.
So, again, the wet season but are more than twice a wetter than what it should be in the wet season. And the forecast in the next 24 or so hours and the 48 hours' notice it is going to like a wet trend.
[03:54:59] And we think it will stay here are over the next several weeks at least with 25 to 50 millimeters potentially every single day over the next several weeks.
So, the concern with this is when you think about the geography of Western Africa, we know that in the past 100 years there's been a significant drop in the forestry across this region. Deforestation is a major issue. In fact, reports of 90 percent of this area have been deforested and that has a major, major implication to how the weather reacts to the landscape that interacts with.
So, deforestation in general we know it increases the threat of landslides by somewhere around 50 percent. You look at the landscape across this part of the world a closer look kind of shows you what we're dealing with here, so we're sitting right there on the western coast of Africa. Tremendous mountain ranges just offshore.
Regions right here one of the communities very hard hit. And a different perspective of region kind of shows you the valleys, the ridges of these mountains here, and I often compared to taking a wet sponge and pushing it against the wall and the end results is of force is water running down the wall. In this region the wet sponge being the cloud saturated here of course running right towards the mountain ridges and battering these communities.
And with deforestation along this region it's really important to show you how this plays out. Because any time you think about trees in general and mountainside maybe a great job of absorbing a moisture but also holding the soil together.
So, you remove the trees out of this region because of construction because of mining, very prevalent across this part of the world, of course, you're left with the watery hitting the ground being instant runoff.
A lot of construction debris, Rosemary, as well, is an issue across this region that runs downstream gets down into the valleys eventually gets to Freetown. Because all this water wants to make out into the Atlantic Ocean and it will. So it tries to make it there, but the drainage system is clogged up and debris from construction and that is causing a lot of these issues with flooding and also mudslides of course upstream where it all begins. Rosie?
CHURCH: We certainly appreciate that very comprehensive explanation. Thanks so much, Pedram.
JAVAHERI: Thank you.
CHURCH: Well, the tragedy in Charlottesville has led many American leaders to publicly respond including some who customarily stay quiet at moments like this.
Also ahead, Confederate statues are quietly being lifted up and carried away from public parks and other places around the United States. We will explain why.
CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church. Let's update you now on the main stories we're following this hour.
In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in says U.S. President Donald Trump has assured his country he would consult with Seoul before making any military decisions about North Korea. Mr. Moon added he is confident there would never be a war again on the Korean Peninsula.
[03:30:03] Charlottesville, Virginia is responding to last weekend deadly violence with a candlelight vigil for peace and unity. Huge crowd gathered on the University of Virginia campus Wednesday night.
Earlier in the day, friends and family remembered 32-year-old Heather Heyer who was killed in that violence. Sources say Donald Trump has no regret and remained defiant despite growing backlash over his reaction to the violence.
The U.S. president says both sides were to blame. On Wednesday, he defended two White House economic councils after several CEOs quit over the president's remarks on Charlottesville.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Historically, U.S. military leaders rarely comment independently on social issues facing the country.
But the tragedy in Charlottesville has brought on public statements from leaders at several levels of society. The Joint Chiefs of Staff now included. Our Barbara Starr reports.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All of the chiefs of the U.S. military branches have taken the extraordinarily rare step of publicly weighing in on the violence in Charlottesville.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, here is the thing, as now...
STARR: A political crisis for President Trump. I mean just hours after the demonstrations turned deadly, the Chief of Naval Operations first tweeted, events in Charlottesville, unacceptable and mustn't be tolerated.
U.S. Navy forever stands against intolerance and hatred. And aide says Richardson tweeted, because Charlottesville was a significant event that caught the country's attention.
RET. LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I know John Richardson very well. He was not being political. He was just very quickly saying maybe these are our standards. This is what we will live by.
STARR: Defense Secretary James Mattis offering a single comment.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I just want to tell you, I was saddened by -- very saddened by what I saw.
STARR: Aides are adamant, the military is not challenging President Trump but Richardson and the other chiefs making clear, violence and bigotry is not tolerated in the ranks.
At least two former military members now tied to extremist groups. James Field served in the Army for just a few months. He is charged with second-degree murder after police say he rammed his car into a crowd of counter protesters, killing Heather Heyer.
Fields involvement led General Mark Milley, head of the army to tweet, the army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we've stood for since 1775.
And following reports that Dillion Hopper who left the Marine Corps in January, leads a white supremacist group called Vanguard America.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Miller tweeted, no place for racial hatred or extremism in U.S. Marine Corps. Our core values of honor, courage and commitment, train the way marines live and act.
They were followed by the heads of the Air Force and National Guard tweeting, they stand with their fellow chiefs condemning racism, extremism and hatred.
HERTLING: This national conversation is about American values. What we hold dear, what we expect to our servicemen and women to defend and to fight for.
STARR: It may not be about politics, but what the chiefs have done is very widely be noticed. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH: The racially charged confrontation last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia has more renewed focus to Confederate monuments around the country.
In some places, city officials are quietly removing statues from public places before they can attract demonstrations like the ones in Charlottesville. CNN's Jake Tapper has our report.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Baltimore, a stark reminder that even that which is set in stone can be removed with enough force.
Statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were among four monuments hauled off into the night on a flatbed truck.
Hours earlier in Birmingham, Alabama cruise put up plywood to obscure a 52-foot obelisk honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors. All just hours after President Trump posed this question.
TRUMP: I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know you all -- you really do have to ask yourself where does this stop?
TAPPER: The Baltimore's mayor the answer was simple.
MAYOR CATHERINE PUGH (D), BALTIMORE: The Confederacy did not fight to unite this country and we are the United States of America. We should be focused on how to become a more united, more loving, city, state, country.
[03:35:00] TAPPER: Days after violent protests sparked at least in part because of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, government officials in at least nine other states are publicly contemplating the fates of their memorials to those who fought for slavery on the losing Confederate side.
In Durham, North Carolina, some broke the law and took matters into their own hands. Another nationwide debate about whether these monuments set in stone on her heritage or hate.
Were they erected by grieving mothers of Confederate soldiers or by someone else? The Southern Poverty Law Centers says a majority of the more than 700 Confederate monuments in public spaces across the country were erected decades after General Lee surrender.
FITZ BRUNDAGE, HISTORY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: They were erected when they were erected at the same time that white Southerners -- conservative white Southerners were -- if you will seizing power for white Southerners and imposing Jim Crow segregation and white supremacy on the society more broadly.
TAPPER: This carving on Georgia Stone Mountain planned in the early 20th century but finished in 1972, used to be a well-known gathering place for white supremacists.
As far west as Arizona, a state not yet part of the nation during the Civil War, Confederate memorials are up for debate as well. Some say the memorials are important to keep to remind Americans of our racist past.
GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R), ARIZONA: I don't think we should try to hide our history. I think we ought to try to -- to teach it, make people understand we've overcome a lot of mistakes.
TAPPER: Where should the line be drawn? Washington D.C. is a city named after the first but now the last slave owning president.
Statues of Confederate leaders grace the halls of the Capitol building. Interestingly, Robert E. Lee was once asked about placing memorials at Gettysburg in 1869.
The former general replied, I think it wiser not to keep open the source of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife to commit to oblivion. The feelings engendered. Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: Let's talk more now about one of the Confederate memorials, Jake, mentioned, the carvings on Stone Mountain. It's a big landmark here in Georgia and the tragedy in Charlottesville has renewed calls for it to be removed.
Some background on the carving, it's the largest high relief sculpture in the world, and it picks three Confederate figures of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson.
The entire carved surface covers 3 acres and tails more than 120 meters above ground. Doug Blackmon joins me now to talk more about this.
He is the author of the book Slavery by Another Name and a senior fellow at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. Thank you, sir for coming into the studio to talk to us about this.
DOUG BLACKMON, AUTHOR, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME: Good to be here, thank you.
CHURCH: So let's start with Stone Mountain and of course, we know all of the history behind this carving. It would be very, very expensive. We're talking about millions of dollars to remove it from the surface of the mountain.
Do you see it as a different kind of Confederate monument compared to say, a statue in a square in a -- in a town or a city?
BLACKMON: I think it's important for Americans right now as this debate has suddenly exploded in way that it really has never been taken seriously in the past. It's very important for no one to get in a posture of that every
single thing that has the word Confederate on it or every -- every single possible version.
All this is exactly the same thing or to get distracted into conversations, even things like how difficult it would be to -- to remove these carvings from a mountain outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
What -- what is more important is that there are hundreds and hundreds of these monuments. The were erected at little towns all over the south and another parts of the country that are outside the seat of county governments are at the center of commerce in these communities.
They were put there with the explicit intention of intimidating African-Americans back in the 1910s and 20s, to send a terrible message at the height of white supremacy and segregation, that's really the issue, is what to do about those monuments.
Things like Stone Mountain are very attractive to the good sources of arguments, but in my opinion, it is actually something with side issue.
CHURCH: Right and there ate of course laser shows that put that carving right at the center, that might be up for debate, perhaps whether they go forward with that.
But -- but how do you respond to critics who would say, you can't sweep away a nations history by removing all the Confederate monuments around the country that that they do mark the time in that country's history.
BLACKMON: What I say to that is that, when we took down all of the signs that said whites only.
[03:40:00] And colored on the bathroom doors and on the water fountains all across the south, when we removed all those things, it didn't erase the history of segregation.
It just erased an offensive message that had been forced upon African- Americans and everyone for generations. I think it's a little bit like perhaps the sounds trite in some respects.
But if someone comes along and spray paints a racial epithet on the outside of a historically African-American church, no one oppose long as this, well, that's just history now. It has to be there forever.
We can't clean it off the wall and the reality is that history doesn't go away because we realize that it is offensive to -- to continue to have this monument, so many of them in the ways there are.
It's a little bit like saying, this somehow, it was wrong of Germany to take down Nazi monuments and images of Hitler and the swastika after World War II, that's just not a logical position.
CHURCH: And just very quickly. Some of that who was joining us from all around the world would ask why were there Confederate monuments, say considering this side lost the Civil War.
BLACKMON: Well, the part of the answer to that is that there works to monuments at the time of the south lost the Civil War and that's another confusion of this, is that almost all of his mining, this will build 50 or 60 years after the Civil War was over.
There are not monuments to the dead and they are not in graveyards to honor the dead, they were erected 50 years later, at the very height of when Southern society, whites in the American South had reasserted their control of an apartheid kind of existence for African-Americans.
And there was a glorification of the Civil War, there was a desire to absolve the South of having been the perpetrators of the treasonous revolt that was aimed at destroying the United States.
And so this whole mythology was invented to try to make to say that the Civil War really wasn't about slavery. It was really about on honor. So the monuments are all about that fiction, that propagandistic fiction of a half-century later.
CHURCH: Doug Blackmon, thank you so much.
BLACKMON: Thank you very much.
CHURCH: Appreciate it. And as we just heard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis is among the three figures carved into the face of Stone Mountain.
Davis is named and likeness also appear in dozens of places around the country. But he's great, great grandson says he supports removing those memorials if they are offensive. Here's what he told CNN's Don Lemon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERTRAM HAYES-DAVIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BEAUVOIR: I think you have to have the history of the entire individual before you soy you understand what that statue means.
However, in a public place, if it is offensive and people are taking issue with it, let's move it. Let's put it somewhere where historically it fits with the -- the area around it. So you can have people come to see it who want to understand that history and that individual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: OK, let's take a very short break now, but on the other side of that break, why one group is trying to stop rescue boats from helping refugees stuck in the Mediterranean Sea. We're going have a live report just over this.
[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Call to resume the search for MH-370 are growing louder, thanks to some possible new clues. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: These satellite photos appear to show 70 objects drifting in the Southern Indian Ocean.
They were taken by the French military just two weeks after the Malaysian Airliner have vanished in March 2014. The photos shots in an area west of the original search sign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: More than 300 migrants were rescued off the Southern Coast of Spain on Wednesday after attempting to cross the sea in small boats from Northern Morocco.
Among those pulled from the water, a baby and at least 31 minors, nearly 125,000 refugees and migrants have made a dangerous trip to Europe this year, most of them across the Mediterranean Sea, 2408 died making that journey.
Well, Sea Rescue missions have saved thousands of migrants from dying in the Mediterranean each year but one anti-immigration group says, these rescues need to stop and they're trying to make that happen.
Our Melissa Bell is in the Port of Catania in Italy with the details. So Melissa, how is this anti-immigration group trying to stop these rescues and how likely is it that they will succeed?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Rosemary, word about the context here in Italy, you mentioned about me to go that story coming from Spain.
I think one of the reasons that you made see that new trend which is for migrants to head to Spanish was certainly something that is the headline here in Italy, is that the numbers of arrival here in Italy have dropped dramatically over the course of the last week.
That is because of the action of the Italian and Libyan governments who have been working very closely to try and crack down on people smugglers but also to keep a closer eye on the NGO ships like the Aquarius.
Behind me, that is the context in which this very ideological battle between two very different kinds of boat had been taking place off the waters -- in the waters just off of Libya, an area known as a search and rescue zone, SAR, just off the coast of Libya. Have a look.
C-STAR: We will start our operation in front of the Libyan coast, we advise you to leave the SAR area, because you're acting as a pull factor for human traffickers making them billions. We will watch you and the days of you unwatched are over.
BELL: It was the first encounter between the C-STAR, a boat structured by anti-immigrant activists and the Aquarius, an NGO rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea of the coast of Libya.
One month on, the C-STAR's crew is claiming victory. They say their operation has hampered the efforts of humanitarian ships. They accused of running a taxi service for migrants to Europe.
UNIDETIFIED MALE: Most have lost most of the package aboard. Many of them are giving our parts of (Inaudible). We came at Wednesday to (Inaudible).
BELL: But the C-STAR's month-long operation hasn't all been smooth sailing. The boat was turned away from some Mediterranean ports plagued by mechanical failures and difficulties in getting provisions.
And rescue operations in the Mediterranean continue. On Tuesday, more than 100 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya then brought to the Aquarius by another boat.
By Wednesday, those rescued were taken to (Inaudible) at the southern tip of Sicily. NGOs like SOS MEDITERRANEE facing increased intervention in their migrants rescue efforts.
Italian and Libyan authorities have joined forces in the last few week days, both cracking down on human smugglers and Italy introducing a code of conduct for NGO vessels.
But the crew of the Aquarius say nothing will stop them from doing all they can to help migrants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through a translator): We are talking about people in disarray and so, I am a seafarer and I know exactly that is one of the duties as a seaman, the rescue of people at distress.
BELL: The numbers of migrants arriving on Italian shores have drop significantly. According to Italy's interior ministry, the number of new arrivals in July of this year was half as many as had arrived in July of last year.
But according to the mayor of Catania, one of those towns most affect here in Sicily, the drop is the result of the actions of the Italian and Libyan government rather than the C-STAR's campaign.
ENZO BIANCO, MAYOR, CATANIA (through a translator): And they want to highlight a racist side of Europe, faces the race and lobby don't like them. They don't want them in Catania. They don't solve problems, they create them.
[03:50:00] BELL: Anti-immigration activists from defend Europe say that despite the difficulties and the opposition they face, they will be launching more operations in the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want to do is -- want to preserve European identities and we want to break this barrier of violent in political correct notions that is keeping the violent majority, violent disperse and powerless, and also this ship -- the C-STAR isn't away in (Inaudible), block this side of majority. BELL: But did humanitarian groups that operate them ship like the
Aquarius are a materialization of something else, the defense not so much of European identity as of European values.
BELL: One of the lessons of this I think, Rosemary, is that when authorities let things get out of control and that's been the case in the Mediterranean for the two years, then individuals were definitely -- very different ideas about what your options look like, tend to take things into their own hands.
The lesson is that with that cooperation between Libyans and Italians, the situation have been brought under control. You know when you speak to Italian authorities, a great deal of frustration at fact that they felt so abandoned by their European partners over the years.
Crucially it was by looking outward towards Libya that they were able to make progress. The question is now perhaps, how Spain will go about what appears to be becoming its problem. Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right. Melissa Bell, joining us there from Catania in Italy, many thanks. We'll take another short break, but step aside Donald Trump, there's a new in shape. A look at Twitter's most like tweet, that's still to come. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(ELVIS PRESLEY SINGING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: There he is, Wednesday marked 40 years since the legendary Elvis Presley died. Fans took part in a candlelight vigil on Tuesday at Graceland and Memphis to honor the king of rock 'n roll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We waited in line in the place for rest of the afternoon and you have a candle and it was just for a spirit. I don't know it's just a feeling that you get in the lobe for music and (Inaudible) and to gospel on self, and into set of feeling that he's here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His legacy has still lives on and on, and that's why he is the king.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, Elvis was born in Mississippi and began his singing career in Memphis. He died in 1977 at the age of 42. Graceland is holding Elvis Week all this week in his memory.
Well, major American business executives, that taking a concrete stand against President Trump's response to Charlottesville. Mr. Trump tweeted that he was dissolving his jewelry business councils.
But only out after nine CEOs that already quit this week over his comments. Apple chief Tim Cook is taking his own steps to help, in a letter to employees, he said, he would donate $1 million each to two organizations fighting hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
He also offered to match employees' contributions to those and similar groups through the end of September and the tweets from former U.S. President Barack Obama about Charlottesville has now broken a record.
[03:55:00] CNN's Jeanne Moos has more on that.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The irony is that hate inspired a tweet that got the most likes ever, a tweet sent by this former president quoting, the departed president of South Africa.
Barrack Obama send a series of three tweets, no one is born, hating another person because of the color of his skin. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
The quote from Mandela's autobiography is a favorite on social media honoring Mandela using his clan name -- Obama's tweets surged ahead of the previous record holder Ariana Grande's tweet broken from the bottom of my heart. I am so, so sorry, sent after a bomb went off after her concert.
Third most liked tweet is Ellen Degeneres' group selfie at the Oscars. But not everyone was bowled over by the former president's message. Obama did not write that. I have heard that exact quote over 100 times before, yawn.
One version was heard on the trailer for the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People learn to hate, they can be thought to love.
MOOS: Obama supporters taunted told President Trump with the popularity of his predecessors tweet, it's going to kill you know who.
Hey, @realdonaldtrump, how about you announce your resignation on Twitter and will make sure you top Obama's record, deal? Not so easy teaching it Neo-Nazis. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CHURCH: And thanks so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church, remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. The news continues with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.