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Steve Bannon Contradicted President Trump; Ousted Steve Bannon Threaten to Start a War; Another Trump Advisor Resigned After the Charlottesville Incident. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 18, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: It is just after 10 in the east, that means it's time to hand it over to Don Lemon and CNN Tonight. And you have a lot cooking tonight, my friend.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for watching us.
Sometimes when we put these things up electronically it doesn't really show you the entire picture so I'm going to do it this way. I want you to take a good look at this face. This is the face of the man who bragged about giving a platform to and mainstreaming and rebranding white supremacists as the alt-right. He's the same man, the same people, I should say, who are responsible for the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
This is Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon, you're fired. That's what the president's chief of staff said to him today. But while Bannon right now is the latest embodiment of a chaotic White House in crisis, in eight short, or long months, depending on who you talk to, there have been plenty where he came from. Today, it's Bannon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: We are in an outright war against Jihadists, Islam, Islamic fascism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But just a few weeks ago, July 31st, this was the face of chaos. Communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. You're fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The president is a winner, OK. And what we're going to do is we're going to do a lot of winning. I love the mission that the president has. I love the president. I obviously love the country. He's genuinely a wonderful human being.
I love the president. I'm very, very loyal to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, there wasn't much love for this guy, though. This was the chief of staff, gone just three days before the mooch took over. Reince Priebus, you're out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The president has a right to hit a reset button. I think it's a good time to hit the reset button. I think he was right to hit the reset button.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, just seven days before Priebus, the president hit the reset button on this guy. The guy who was the face of the president's message and so much ridicule, Sean Spicer. Gone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So before Sean Spicer, there was Walter Schwab right here. Walter Schwab he wasn't hired by the White House, but he's gone. Mike Dubke, gone. James Comey, fired. Angela Reed, gone. Katie Walsh, she's out as well. Michael Flynn, of course, gone. And then there is Sally Yates, not hired by this White House as well but also gone. And Michael Short. We couldn't find a picture of him. And so on and so on.
You get my point. Yet nothing has changed. Why? Because the buck stops with this guy. The President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Think of the upheaval his words and his actions have caused in just the last week.
And what a week it has been. Seven nights ago, white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, claiming to be angry about the planned removal of a statue of a Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. But this is what they chanted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Saturday, mayhem in Charlottesville. Violent clashes between the white nationalists and counterprotesters. A driver rams his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer. That afternoon, President Trump says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: On many sides. Outrage spreads over President Trump's failure to blame the deadly violence on white supremacists. Vice President Pence comes to his defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred which took place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the president, he gets the message. By Monday he does, saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:05:04] LEMON: And remarkably the next day, Tuesday, the president says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'd like to think there's 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 about it and you don't have any doubt about it either. And, -- and if you reported it accurately, you would say that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neo-Nazis started this thing in Charlottesville. They started in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesters--
TRUMP: Excuse me, you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of to them a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me, are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson, what do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The fallout starts immediately. American business leaders abandon President Trump's two business advisory groups which then collapse. Thursday two prominent republican senators publicly question the president's competency and moral authority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB CORKER, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.
TIM SCOTT, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority, and that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There's no question about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yet President Trump only seems occupied with calling the removal of Confederate monuments and statues sad and so foolish, which brings us to where we are tonight. This is where we are.
With President Trump possibly attempting to deflect attention away from his roundly criticized response to Charlottesville by firing the man who gave name and oxygen to a new face of fascism, racism, anti- Semitism, hate, and the alt-right.
Let's bring in our panel now. CNN political analyst April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Political commentator -- political contributor, I should say, Michael Nutter, the former democratic mayor of Philadelphia. Political commentator Matt Lewis, senior columnist for the Daily Beast, syndicated talk radio host, John Fredericks, a former co-chair for the Trump campaign in Virginia, and Robert Kuttner, he's the co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect magazine and he joins us via Skype.
Good evening. It's going to be a fascinating conversation and fascinating hour ahead. April, going through those cards and the week, I mean what a week it has been. It has been exhausting, a lot has transpired.
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: What a week.
LEMON: You're at the White House every day. Bannon is out, but there's still -- there's deep wounds that are far from being healed right now.
RYAN: Yes. LEMON: And this is from everything that's unfolded in Charlotte--
RYAN: Yes. There are deep wounds. Yes. There are deep wounds. And I'm going to start with this, Don. I've been watching the coverage all day.
LEMON: Charlottesville, I should say, sorry.
RYAN: Yes, no problem. But I've been watching the coverage all day. And you know, with the Bannon firing, Bannon is spinning this, and those who are in the Bannon camp are spinning this like it's a great thing, he's got his hands on the weapons. But he was fired. We have to remember he was fired. And when you're fired and when you leave the White House, you don't have the power you once wielded.
Well, typically you don't. We'll see what happens. But he is not in that inner circle. We know that there was a back and forth between -- a negative back and forth between Bannon and Jared Kushner, the son- in-law of the President of the United States. We also know that there was a concern about Bannon being one of the problems of leaking.
So, Bannon and his supporters are spinning this like it is a win. But this is not a win. But typically when you leave the White House, you don't have the, I guess, the power, the Washington power that you once wielded. And also there is a concern and they're spinning this because they don't want that base, that Bannon base. That Bannon base, the people who were in Charlottesville, some of the other people around the country who support that kind of thing, to break away from the president.
They're trying to make it look good, but it's not.
RYAN: And we will see what happens in the next coming weeks, days, what have you.
[22:09:57] LEMON: Yes. Mike -- you know, Michael, I said that it was possibly to change the narrative, but Bannon brought the alt-right into the West Wing. Does his ouster address any of the questions of racism or competence from this president?
MICHAEL NUTTER, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: No, Don. I mean, look, Donald Trump is, what, 70, 71 years old. I was thinking about this the other day. He was 22 at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Apparently that passed him by and he has no understanding, empathy, anything. He has no moral center.
But you know, Steve Bannon -- I mean, I don't know how much influence Steve Bannon had on Donald Trump, but he should have sense enough of his own to not do some of the things that he has been speaking directly from his heart. That is very, very clear. So Donald Trump himself is spiraling downward in a vortex of chaos and
confusion. And unless he changes, he can't fire his way out of the problems that he's having and that this White House and this entire administration is being consumed by unless he changes.
NUTTER: And allows General Kelly to manage up and down, deal with the staff, but a principal--
LEMON: And even--
NUTTER: And I understand this--
LEMON: -- and including--
NUTTER: -- a principal has to be managed also--
NUTTER: -- by primarily by the chief of staff and other people around him or her.
LEMON: Well, that's what I was going to say. Someone has -- someone has to manage this president because clearly if you look at, Matt, if you look at--
NUTTER: He doesn't want to be managed, Don.
LEMON: -- if you look at the picture and this is not everyone, by the way, who has come and gone at the White House or in the administration, Matt. When you look at these pictures, this is a higher number than most modern administrations, Matt Lewis of people who become--
NUTTER: David Gergen talked about this earlier.
MATT LEWIS, COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes.
NUTTER: I mean, this is a whole set of turnover--
LEMON: Matt. This is for Matt.
NUTTER: -- of your top people in the first seven months. This never happens.
LEMON: Go ahead, Matt.
LEWIS: It's OK. Yes, Don. I mean, you showed it to us, right? Don't tell it, show it. I mean, the pictures, they were right there and earlier today Brooke Baldwin didn't just talk about the staffers, the turnover, but also the turmoil. He had the whole Russia stuff, you know.
You've had Donald Trump attacking republicans like Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. You've had Donald Trump fail to pass any legislation, any meaningful legislation, including healthcare reform.
That is the state of affairs today. This administration, it's been six months now, enough time to get your footing, is a disaster. And I think it's time for republicans to admit that. And, you know, you showed those videos earlier. I think you're starting to see that, some senators walking away.
LEMON: John, what do you think, remember on the camp -- I've got a big brain or good mind or good brain. I hired the best people. And then all of these people are gone. What does that say? What do you think of this, John?
JOHN FREDERICKS, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO HOST: Well, I guess if he's hiring the best people, he should probably hire some of us, right, Don? Let's start there. But look, it's the game on, what happened here today. It's game on. And that's about as frank as I can be.
You know, the detractors inside the West Wing that are celebrating tonight because they were part of Steve Bannon's ouster, you know, my mom taught me an old saying a long time ago. Be very careful what you wish for, it might come true.
Steve Bannon's ouster today is a punch in the stomach to Trump loyalists and Trump supporters and this movement that really believe the president is on to something and he's trying to remake--
LEMON: But John, let me read something.
FREDERICKS: -- and transform the Republican Party into something -- into something that they have not accomplished--
LEMON: OK, I want to help you make your point.
FREDERICKS: -- which is--
LEMON: Let me help you make your point because this is what Bannon told the Weekly Standard.
FREDERICKS: Go ahead. Go ahead.
LEMON: He said "The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. We still have a huge movement and we will make something of this Trump presidency, but that presidency is over. It will be something else and there will be all kinds of fights. There will be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over."
You say this revolution has been hijacked, right, and you said it's a punch in the gut. Go on.
FREDERICKS: Well look, it has been hijacked by the establishment and the class of republican-based donors that all they care about is getting money and their globalist agenda and that's basically it.
Now, the only thing that is over with this presidency is Steve Bannon is no longer in that White House. I'm not sure where Steve was heading with that. I'm sure there's a degree of frustration he has. But the Trump base, Don and April, they're not going to sit idly by and see their movement and their extension of the victory they had--
LEWIS: But Donald Trump is the president.
[22:14:55] LEMON: OK. John, can I ask you -- hold on, Matt. Hold on, John. John, doesn't the buck stop with the president? There is no -- you're not placing any responsibility, no onus, no blame on the man who is sitting in the Oval Office. This is all other people hijacking, it's the media, it's everyone around him. There's no blame on this president?
FREDERICKS: The president now has to take the reins and take control and do what he did in the campaign--
LEMON: You're not answering my -- you're not answering my question, John.
FREDERICKS: Don -- well--
LEMON: Does the president takes no responsibility in this?
FREDERICKS: Obviously -- of no responsibility--
LEWIS: You know what?
NUTTER: Come on.
LEWIS: People like Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter, let's say, thrust Donald Trump on us. They pushed Donald Trump on the conservative movement and the Republican Party and they won. But the guarantee they gave the voters was this is a guy who believes in nationalism. This is a guy who believes in populism. This is a guy who's a winner. You're telling me that after six months he's allowed his administration to be hijacked?
LEMON: Eight -- eight months.
LEWIS: What kind of a winner allows-- (CROSSTALK)
RYAN: It's actually seven months. It's actually seven months
LEMON: Seven months.
FREDERICKS: We've got eight months--
LEWIS: OK. Seven months.
FREDERICKS: We've got seven months into an administration--
LEWIS: OK. It took eight months to hijacked. OK.
FREDERICKS: -- and what -- I didn't say it was hijacked. Now don't put words in my mouth. I said--
LEMON: You just say that.
FREDERICKS: I said they're not going to allow it -- they're not going to allow it to be hijacked, and a lot of the original--
NUTTER: By whom?
FREDERICKS: -- Trump loyalists have been tossed out of there. So the president has got to figure this out. He has three key advisers now along with his children that still believe in the core principles that got him in there and that's--
LEMON: His children are democrats.
FREDERICKS: Stephen Miller or Kellyanne and Hope Hicks--
LEMON: He has centrist republicans.
NUTTER: He has no principles.
FREDERICKS: He is driving an agenda but he's -- look, he's now surrounded.
RYAN: What is the agenda? The agenda has been hijacked by distractions. There is no agenda. The hijacking of the agenda from the president's own distractions, from wiretapping to confefe, to the possibility -- of the possibility of a tape between him and Comey. All of this other stuff. The president, and then going back and forth just within the last week on the issue of Charlottesville. The president is hijacking his own agenda and his own party is now publicly coming out talking about 2020 and the possibilities that they may not want him on the ticket.
LEMON: There have been a lot of people who have come and gone. A lot of people have come and gone in this White House, but one constant, this is the one constant in the White House right here is the President of the United States.
NUTTER: Donald Trump.
LEMON: Is Donald Trump.
LEMON: So I don't understand how it's been hijacked by everyone. I can't -- listen, I'll just say this show faltered, and I was no longer on the air, I could blame everybody but I'm the leader of the show. I could have done a better job. I didn't do a good enough job. The audience wasn't interested in me. I wouldn't blame it on everybody else. Why are you blaming it on everybody else? I don't understand that.
Listen, I've got to get Robert in.
FREDERICKS: Well, Don, we're not blaming it.
LEMON: That's not -- hang on. Hold on, hold on, John. Hold on, John. What did everybody else hear? What did you hear, Michael? Did you hear him blaming it on everybody else but the president?
NUTTER: It's been -- it's been captured.
LEMON: OK. Stand by.
NUTTER: It's been they're on an island.
LEMON: ZMatt, what did you hear?
NUTTER: He shot himself in the foot so many times it's impossible to understand he can still walk.
LEMON: Matt, what did you hear?
LEWIS: I think that the -- whether it's guests or Steve Bannon or--
LEMON: What did you hear John say, though?
LEWIS: I thought, maybe I misheard, I thought that it was hijacked, that the campaign had been hijacked.
LEMON: OK. And April, you said as much. Robert, what did you hear?
ROBERT KUTTNER, CO-FOUNDER & CO-EDITOR, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT MAGAZINE: What did I hear?
LEMON: Did you hear -- did--
KUTTNER: Go ahead.
LEMON: Go ahead. Because we all thought he said that it had been hijacked and there was no -- Donald Trump bore no responsibility for what's happened in his own administration.
NUTTER: The establishment.
KUTTNER: Well, are we talking about Bannon?
LEMON: No, we're talking about John because I thought that maybe we had been wrong. I don't want to beat up on John.
KUTTNER: Well, I want to talk about Bannon. Can I talk about Bannon?
LEMON: Absolutely. Because you, apparently this fury about Bannon is this interview with you, do you feel partly to blame here?
KUTTNER: I don't know if it was blame or credit. I think he was in the process of doing himself in and I was fortunate enough to get the phone call that turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
But my experience of that phone call was that this was a guy much too full of himself who was out of control who knew that he was probably going down. If he was going to go down in flames, he wanted to go down with all guns blazing and didn't have much loyalty to his president.
And I think ultimately he got fired because if you're Donald Trump, the one thing you cannot stand is being upstaged by staff. And Bannon--
RYAN: That's right.
KUTTNER: -- first of all, was getting too much attention. Secondly was disloyal to his president. And I think the irony here is that Bannon was the architect, as you said, Don, of this neo fascist, white supremacist garbage.
[22:20:07] And so, my worry is that with Bannon out of the White House he is more liberated to be more effective back at Breitbart and to be kind of a kitchen cabinet advisor to Trump under, you know, without any scrutiny from General Kelly or the rest of the staff and he can continue to play this role of advising Trump. So I think Trump -- Trump is at a crossroads. He's got to back off
this white supremacy garbage or, as recent events suggest, he may double down on it with Breitbart pressuring him to do more of it.
LEMON: John, why are you shaking your head?
RYAN: Don, can I ask--
LEMON: No. Let John, I want John to get in there because we, I don't want him to think we're beating up. I want to hear from you.
FREDERICKS: Why every conversation we have, we now have to bring in the alt-right white supremacists, this is an absurd -- this is an absurd statement that you just made. These people have nothing to do with Trump. The movement or anything else. The people that came to Charlottesville a week ago were crackpots and crazies and lunatics that the president disavowed--
RYAN: David Duke -- David Duke literally said thank you to the president.
NUTTER: That he support -- that he is supported with--
LEMON: One at a time. One at a time. April first.
FREDERICKS: You want to keep bringing it up over and over and over, April, because that is all you have. The democrats have no agenda.
RYAN: Now you're targeting me? Now you're targeting me. Did David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK--
FREDERICKS: Because it's ridiculous. Because they represent--
RYAN: -- it's not ridiculous. Excuse me? Let me say this.
FREDERICKS: They're crazy.
RYAN: Let me say this.
FREDERICKS: They're crazy people.
RYAN: OK. Well, they're not.
LEMON: Go ahead, David.
NUTTER: Well, then he is too.
RYAN: But David Duke did say -- David Duke did say, Mr. President, you better watch what you said because we are who supported you. Now, do you negate that, do you say that didn't happen? David Duke, who was a high leader in the KKK said that. That is fact. That's not myth, it's not conjecture, he said that. And then he supported him with that waffling statement, the last statement that the president made about both sides.
So you cannot say that I'm creating this. I am only reporting fact, and I'm reporting what is given to us by these leaders around this country. So you need to understand that I'm not having here or having an agenda or trying to put words in anyone's mouth. You can run back the tape and see, John.
FREDERICKS: April, who the hell cares what David Duke says? Nobody cares what this guy says. He's got--
NUTTER: Apparently Donald Trump does.
RYAN: He's got a lot of people. The people who were in Charlottesville--
FREDERICKS: And he's a crazy man. He doesn't care what he says either.
RYAN: There was -- a woman died, John.
FREDERICKS: They're nuts, April.
RYAN: John, I'm not going to argue with you.
FREDERICKS: There's crazy people on both sides.
LEMON: OK. All right, guys.
RYAN: I'm not going to argue with you.
LEMON: All right, guys. All right, guys. One at a time, one at a time. Robert--
RYAN: I'm not going to argue with you.
LEMON: Robert, I want to bring you back into this conversation because I think your reporting was so important. Bannon contradicted the president on North Korea. Did you want to add anything to what they were saying before we move on to talk about North Korea?
KUTTNER: No. I mean I just think it's pointless to try and deny that Trump has been legitimatizing these fringe people, giving aid and comfort to him and that they were a big part of his base. I think the really complicated thing about Bannon is that Bannon has a whole economic nationalist strategy that is part of his larger strategy, and it's one part economic nationalism, but it's one part racism.
And he in a weird way thought that he could create a kind of a left- right political coalition by reaching out to me, reaching out to other people who were more on the liberal side who have been critical of our china policy. But you know, the idea of Trump going into a meeting in the National
Security Council and saying hey, guess what, everybody, I've got Bob Kuttner supporting me on China is delusional. And what was just bizarre about this conversation was here's a guy, if you believe the New York Times story, who already had tendered his resignation under pressure two weeks ago and he's living in kind of a fantasyland where he thinks he's still making policy and he's inviting me to the White House after Labor Day.
So you wonder what planet these people are living on. I guess the question is whether Trump at this crossroads is going to distance himself from the really creepy neo-Nazi far right or whether he's going to double down on it, as he did Tuesday, as he may do in this rally at Phoenix, if it happens, if he pardons Joe Arpaio. And he needs Bannon in a weird way if he sticks to this course because Bannon was the architect of it.
LEMON: Yes. Hey, Mayor Nutter, I want to play, I want to put something else up, more from Bannon from the Weekly Standard. He said "I feel jacked up. Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons. Someone said it's Bannon the barbarian. I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There is no doubt. I built a bleeping machine at Breitbart and now I'm about to go back, knowing what I know, and we're about to rev that machine up and rev it up we will do."
[22:25:07] Knowingly -- knowing what I know. I mean what do you make--
NUTTER: Well, first of all, it sounds like a guy who's maybe holding on to himself. But he really does sound a little bit like the nut case over in North Korea. I mean I don't -- I don't know this man, you know, read the news accounts, but he sounds like he's coming off the -- coming off unhinged or off the rails, much like his former now boss, Donald Trump.
But the other thing I want to mention to you, Don, is from all accounts, virtually everyone who has left the White House, maybe with the exception of Jim Comey, Donald Trump still stays in touch with these folks.
So I think it was April that mentioned, you know, in the White House, out of the White House, he still talks to these people. This stuff, this white supremacy, neo-Nazi, all of that, I believe now we've seen the real Donald Trump on Tuesday. That is in his heart and soul. He is a vacuous vessel that people pour stuff into and he then amplifies it out to the public.
He has no center and goes with whatever the last person who talked to him about and then says it. And so we don't ever know what he's going to do. He created his own problems. He continues to create his own problems and then wants to whine about his agenda, which no one on this panel at least, maybe except for the one gentleman, no one else knows what that agenda is and then dumps on everyone who could possibly help him with his agenda that no one knows about.
LEMON: Yes. Matt, I want you to take a look at this. I hope you have a monitor. This is a photo of President Trump on the phone with Putin. This is from January. Everyone in that photo, Priebus, Bannon, Spicer, Flynn, all gone aside from the president and the vice president. And a source says that the chief of staff, Kelly, is not done yet.
LEWIS: Yes, watch out Seb Gorka, right?
LEWIS: No. That picture is telling. That's a big important moment. They're all gone except for Mike Pence and the president himself. Look, I think it's a valid point. Just because, you know, though, you have to say just because Steve Bannon is gone doesn't mean that he won't--
LEMON: That he's gone.
LEWIS: -- he won't still be talking, right? Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski.
LEMON: Right, exactly.
LEWIS: These people still talk to the president. I would say this.
LEWIS: I think we may be magnifying--
LEWIS: -- the power of Breitbart.com a little bit. I know they're important. I know they're--
LEMON: Yes. This gives them some nice publicity.
LEWIS: Right. You don't -- look, a lot of people out there do read them, but do you know how they really have influence? It's when the mainstream media shows them.
LEWIS: Like if on Monday Breitbart writes something attacking Javanka or Cohn or something and then the Cable News Networks puts them out there--
LEWIS: -- that will magnify. I think that's where they really have the power.
LEMON: Yes. OK, thank you all. John, you take it, buddy. Thank you for coming on. We'll see you -- we'll see you next time. FREDERICKS: Thanks for having me.
FREDERICKS: Thank you very much.
LEMON: Thank you all.
LEMON: Just ahead I'm going to talk to a pastor who has resigned from President Trump's Evangelical advisory board. I'll ask him why.
LEMON: I want you to pay attention to this because I think this could be a sea change. We've seen a lot of business people back away, we've heard members of the president's own party do it but now we have someone from the Evangelical community, part of the president's base, staunch supporters.
It's been a week, a week, a bad week for President Trump. His response to the events in Charlottesville caused so many CEOs to flee his advisory councils that he was forced to disband them but the reaction from members of the Evangelical advisory board hasn't been nearly as strong.
So let me bring in now Pastor A.R. Bernard, founder, senior pastor and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center, the only member of the president's Evangelical advisory board to resign. Thank you so much.
A.R. BERNARD, FOUNDER & CEO, CHRISTIAN CULTURAL CENTER: Thank you for having me. Good to be here.
LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate that he joins us here. This is exclusively. You haven't spoken to anyone.
LEMON: Here's what you said. You said it is -- "It became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration." Tell me about that conflict.
BERNARD: I think that as time progressed, you look for change. You look for consistency. You look for responsibility in leadership. And I didn't see consistency in a set of core values that influence and shaped his thinking. And when he vacillated over the last week, especially over Charlottesville, I had come to the point where I had to make a decision to more than just step away. I had to fully disengage myself.
You know, when you vacillate like that, it means that there's not a set of core values that you have determined to guide your thinking, your decision-making. Instead, it demonstrates that you are being tossed between opinions of those around you. And I've got a problem with that kind of lack of leadership.
LEMON: So you know what folks are going to say, right? They're saying well, what, why not the Access Hollywood tape grabbing women and that sort of thing. Why not when he made fun of people on the campaign trail or the harsh language he had or, you know, some of the things that happened at the campaign rally. Why not then?
BERNARD: I accepted the fact that, you know, the American public by their vote spoke and put a particular individual in office with all of the flaws, with all of the character issues. I was not there to judge that. I was there to see if there was an opportunity to effect change.
I was especially concerned when I looked around the room that there were just a handful of persons of color there, and I said, well, wait a minute, what's going to happen to our community? What kind of initiatives will be moved forward, if any, if there's no one at the table?
You know, and during the campaign I was on another network and I said the same thing. They said why? I said, well, one of us has to be at the table. I'd rather be at the table and I'm willing to present a degree of risk of my reputation in order to make that happen.
We think as Christians, as Evangelicals, we're not monolithic, we vary in our views concerning certain things but we think receptively. We think with hope. And we all went in at least I did in those who express that to me believing that we could influence some kind of change.
LEMON: And you don't think that that can happen?
[22:35:00] BERNARD: I have lost that kind of thinking. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm not here to bash the president. You know, that's not an easy task. But I have to say that there was a boundary for me. There was a line for me.
LEMON: Yes. Have you spoken to anyone in the administration, the president?
BERNARD: Not the president, no. You've got to understand the board, which was a significant number of individuals, was not afforded the proximity to the president to give the kind of necessary influence that all of this called for. There were some who had that close relationship--
LEMON: So you didn't really -- guys didn't have access to him?
BERNARD: I was not one of them. No. I couldn't say, OK, I'm going to call the president and respond to something that he said.
LEMON: But if you're part of an advisory board, isn't that part of--
BERNARD: Well, it should be that way.
LEMON: It should be.
BERNARD: It should be that (AUDIO GAP). It should have teeth. It should be more than a photo op. It should be substantive.
LEMON: OK. That's -- there you go. So do you think that he was using you guys, and I don't mean just the African-American, but the Evangelical pastors and people and members as a photo op, as a way to keep his base?
BERNARD: I cannot judge the motivation of his heart, I can just judge the actions, and that is that during the campaign right up until the present moment, there were meetings and there were group photos after that. But nothing substantive moved forward.
LEMON: They were photo ops?
BERNARD: Yes. And for me, I want to roll up my sleeves and get things done. I was excited when I heard that part of his campaign speech included African-American initiatives, especially with regard to the inner city. I was very excited about that.
LEMON: What would you like to see the members of the Evangelical community do? Because I'm sure you're going to hear, well, of course he may feel a certain way about it because he's a person of color, right? And he may have a much stronger reaction. Would you like to see--
BERNARD: Well, they're right, they're right, because I -- you know, Don, I would love to be Christian first. But America has created an environment where I'm forced to be a black man living in America first, and I'm a Christian. That's my reality. You understand? And that is not the same reality that many of the white Evangelical leaders experience.
LEMON: So what do you want to see--
BERNARD: There are two different Americas.
LEMON: What do you want to see from the white Evangelical leaders? What would you like to see from them?
BERNARD: I would love some substance. I would love for them to sit down and say, hey, let's roll up our sleeves and let's really hold the president accountable to an agenda.
LEMON: But on this particular issue what would you like to see?
BERNARD: Which particular issue?
LEMON: Charlottesville and the way he responded in Charlottesville about--
BERNARD: Charlottesville. You know--
LEMON: -- equivocating protesters and the people who--
BERNARD: And that was a false equivalence. I have to say that I don't have any expectations because of what I've seen. I would love to see more of the Evangelical leaders who are on the board make strong statements in reaction to it, and that doesn't mean they have to abandon him, you know, But they should come out and say something of substance.
LEMON: I have to ask you a very harsh question, OK?
BERNARD: All right.
LEMON: You know what Matthew 7:16 says. "By their fruits you will recognize them." And one of the fruits of the Trump presidency, neo- Nazis, white supremacist marching on the streets of Charlottesville, him not denouncing them saying they were very fine people, do you think this president is racist?
BERNARD: Do I think he is--
BERNARD: Racist? I had the opportunity of meeting him years ago at a particular social event. I sat down, I spoke with him, he shared -- we broke bread together, and he didn't come across as racist.
Is he playing politics? You know, I will lean in that direction. But one thing that I understand is that decisions are not made in a moment of time, they're rooted in your character. And your character is essentially those attributes that determine your moral and ethical responses to circumstances and situations. And I can only judge by his responses. They have not been consistent, but the kind of character that I can support.
LEMON: Thank you, pastor. Thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.
BERNARD: My pleasure.
LEMON: Thank you so much.
Up next, is Steve Bannon more dangerous now that he is out of the White House than when he was inside, on the inside? We're going to hear from a reporter who spoke to Bannon tonight.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Breaking news, Steve Bannon is out tonight as President Trump's chief strategist and back at his old perch running Breitbart News.
here to discuss now CNN political analyst, Joshua Green, senior national correspondent for Bloomberg, the BusinessWeek, and also the author of "Devil's Bargain." And joining us on the phone is CNN senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers.
Gentlemen, good evening. Good to see you. Welcome to CNN, by the way. You spoke with Steve Bannon tonight, right? And let me just put up the tweet. He said, "He told you he is leaving the White House to go to war for President Trump against his opponents." Do you believe he's out to fight for this president now?
JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: I do. That's what he told me. I talked to him right after he was fired. We got on the phone. I said, you know, are you going to turn against President Trump? What are you going to do now? And he said I am going to war for President Trump against his enemies in the political establishment, in the mainstream media, and in corporate America.
And I think by that he meant he was going to focus on Capitol Hill republicans like Mitch McConnell, like Paul Ryan, who he sees as inhibiting Trump's agenda. He was going to go after what he likes to call the opposition party, including CNN, and he was going to go after the business leaders who he feels have turned their backs on President Trump and fight this battle. He had been fighting internally, now uninhibited from the outside.
LEMON: The belief was that he was going to when they said war, right, I remember the Breitbart editor tweeted hash tag war.
LEMON: That it was going to be a war against the presidency.
GREEN: Well, hash tag war is a long-time Breitbart phrase that isn't specific to Donald Trump. That is just sort of their creed to core and their idea that they are taking on the world. I don't think that Breitbart meant that they were specifically going to war against Donald Trump.
And I asked Bannon that you know, who are you going -- is it the president? He said no. But he made clear that it is people in the president's administration who don't agree with his nationalist policies.
LEMON: Before I get to Dylan, how was he? How did he seem to you?
[22:49:55] GREEN: Bannon seemed absolutely excited. He seemed like a little kid that was about to get on a roller coaster. He was so -- he didn't sound like someone whose feelings were hurt because he'd lost his job. He sounded like somebody who was about to launch off on a campaign that had him very much excited.
LEMON: Bannon has been doing a lot of talking because, Dylan Byers, you've also been speaking to Bannon today and this comes at the end of what was seen as one of the worst weeks in the Trump presidency. President Trump said very fine people marches, neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Do you get a sense that Bannon his firing was a move to distract us from the president's own message?
DYLAN BYERS, SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER, CNN: Don, I think the timing of the firing was a move to distract from the message. I mean, Bannon has sort of been in a limbo state for quite some time. Obviously there are a lot of people inside the White House who are not fans of Bannon.
He clashed with a lot of president's top advisors. Clearly you have General John Kelly coming in as the new chief of staff wanting to clean up shop, wanting to stop leaks, wanting to get rid of a lot of that sort of infighting that's going on.
But the timing of it, the timing of it, having it happen now in the wake of the Charlottesville remarks, and especially with the sort of light support of Trump from his various councils, various companies, foundations pulling out, saying they aren't going to be holding any more events at Mar-a-Lago, it was truly of all the disaster weeks that this president has endured, this really takes the cake.
And it was an extraordinarily useful to sort of shift the narrative and I think that's what's happening.
You know, just to go back to what Josha is saying, as for how Bannon is doing. He is -- he is projecting calm and confidence right now. His feeling is really that he is going to continue pushing his agenda, this sort of populist nationalist agenda he talked about and he will be more successful doing that at Breitbart now knowing what he knows from having worked in the White House and having worked with Trump.
And as to who he goes after, it's not just republicans on the Hill and establishment republicans and the folks like that, what he might call globalists, it will also include some people in the White House.
And you know, for me if I'm Jared Kushner right now, you know, I'm probably pretty scared given the fact that Bannon and Breitbart are going to be going after folks like him.
LEMON: Josh, it is, as I said, a sword that cuts both ways. It's a double-edge sword because he can wield, he wields power at Breitbart with the alt-right. The president let the fox into the hen house. He let the alt-right into the Oval Office. Bannon has maybe more power outside of the White House than he does inside.
GREEN: Well, we'll see. I think he is certainly not going to see--
LEMON: Well, influence, I should say.
GREEN: We'll see. I think you may be right, but he certainly isn't going to be inhibited the way he was while he was in the White House by a chief of staff like John Kelly, who's trying to crack down and keep people in line, by the fact that anything he says will be seen to be coming from a senior White House official and, therefore, carries more weight and forces him to be more careful about what he says, although Bannon was never really careful about what he says. LEMON: So, you mentioned, so who might the target of his--
GREEN: Well, OK, so I asked him this. I think Dylan is exactly right. I said are you going to go after the White House democrats? That's Bannon's pejorative term for Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin, and he wouldn't engage in the question directly. He said, you know, there will come a time to have those discussions.
But clearly the unspoken answer was yes. That he is going to use the power of Breitbart, which he referred in an interview today as a killing machine, to go after the people he sees as inhibiting Trump's nationalist agenda and obviously in Steve Bannon's mind those are the sorts of people he's targeting.
LEMON: So, Dylan, you said if you were Jared Kushner you would be scared. But I mean, if Breitbart is going after the president's son- in-law, it's not going to sit well with the president. Who do you think he -- do you think he's specifically going after him? Are there others?
BYERS: Well, look, I spoke to one senior administration official earlier today. I said, so what's the relationship going to be like now between Bannon and the president. And by the way, let's remember that Bannon and the president, they had a sort of special and unforeseen close relationship despite differences of I think both character and differences of opinion on some things.
What the senior administration official said is Bannon can be helpful to the president on the outside. Others may need to duck. Others may need to watch out. And so again it goes back to what Josh is saying. It is those sort of White House democrats, is the term that he uses.
As for how this is going to sit with the president, look, I think two things. One, Bannon is a smart guy. You know, he can -- he can do damage in nuanced ways here that aren't always obvious. And then the second thing I would say is, you know, for Bannon, this has always been bigger than Trump. He saw Trump as a vessel--
LEMON: As a vehicle.
BYERS: -- to move this populist nationalist agenda into the White House.
BYERS: He's got -- he is more concerned with advancing that agenda than is he is with pleasing the president of the United States.
[22:50:00] LEMON: That's why I said he may have more influence out. Hey, I have to go. I have to go.
Sebastian Gorka did he -- is he on tonight?
GREEN: Sebastian Gorka who have been and finally refers to as the mad Hungarian. Probably he is not going to be long for this White House but there been rumors of his firing in the past, he's hang on. We'll see.
LEMON: Joshua Green, Dylan Byers, thank you both. Coming up, Frank Rich and the New York magazine. His take on the impact of Steve Bannon's ouster.
LEMON: What impact will the firing of Steve Bannon have on the Trump White House? Let's discuss now. Frank Rich, writer at large New York magazine.
Good evening, sir. Thank you so much. Let's talk about your tweet first, Ok, on Bannon's firing.
FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: OK.
LEMON: You said, "To reiterate any claim that Bannon's exit will change this White House is either foolish or pro-Trump spin." Explain why this departure changes nothing.
RICH: Because Bannon expresses or expressed what Trump really believed. Also Trump has been deserted by so many parts of the American mainstream, including corporate leaders, as you said tonight even a religious -- Evangelical leader stepped off his counsel and he's alienated a lot of mainstream republicans, including Mitch McConnell.
His base, his loyal base are people who read Breitbart, are the people who agree with Steve Bannon and see him as a leader. So his power will remain outside the White House and Trump already listens to Breitbart and Fox News more than anything and he'll continue to.
LEMON: Is this the White House trying to change the narrative that Trump is a racist?
RICH: I don't think that's going to succeed. You know, Trump is great at creating, you know, spectacle and new dramatic events and Bannon leading -- leaving on the fight I guess is one of them. But no, no. That is the narrative. It's going to continue the narrative and we're going to see it reinforced by Bannon and Breitbart and their nationalism in this new guise.
LEMON: So his firing it doesn't solve any of the major problems this president has had this week. Because it was the president who said there were very fine people on the side of neo-Nazis. Plus, we heard that this firing was in the work -- works for weeks.
[22:54:57] RICH: Exactly. That is what believes. We saw, I think everyone agrees we saw the real Trump this week and none of that has changed. And Bannon, whether he's inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or outside it still as the avatar of the views that there Trump views and that he'll continue. He's not taking them back and why would he? It's what he feels in his heart, sadly. LEMON: Bannon spoke to the Weekly Standard tonight. And he is saying
in part, "The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. What do you think he means by that?
RICH: I think that's a rallying cry to the base. I think he's saying let's not make it be over, let's really agitate for what we want and overthrow these softies, what he calls the White House democrats as the others were describing them, you know, fight against them and so that was a call to arms. It wasn't really saying it's over. It's saying don't let it be over, guys. Let's get back to the streets and back in, you know, rallying around this president with me, Steve Bannon in the lead.
LEMON: You wrote a great column for New York magazine where you say nothing is shocking anymore when it comes to the Trump presidency. And you write in part, you said, "His downfall will culminate only when the GOP and the existential extremist are realize that its choices are to leap from the Titanic or go down with the ship." Wow. Explain that.
RICH: Well, I think, you know, governance has sort of stopped. They failed to get healthcare through. Healthcare, for many Americans may collapse as the Trump administration tries to undermine and defeat Obamacare by other means.
We have a Congress that's coming back where the republican Senate leader McConnell is alienated from the president and they have to do things like pass the budget, the debt ceiling supposedly tax reform and infrastructure. None of that is going to happen because everything is in disarray. Getting rid of Steve Bannon doesn't change that equation at all.
LEMON: Frank Rich, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.
RICH: Thank you.
LEMON: Straight ahead in the hour, the Charlottesville violence sparking a nationwide debate over the removal or not of Confederate statues. Some of which stand inside the U.S. Capitol building.
For one Congresswoman, it's personal. She says she looks at statues of men who wanted to keep her ancestors in chains.