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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Community Mourns Lives Lost in Synagogue Shooting; Protesters Denounce President Trump's Visit. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired October 30, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Once again today, we have seen a remarkable outpouring here in Squirrel Hill and across the city of Pittsburgh, an outpouring of kindness and compassion and people supporting one another, at times literally so.
Outside Tree of Life synagogue, people linked arms today. They sang songs of faith and healing and did what they could to fill up the space where otherwise only pain would dwell. And that space is vast. The pain is still fresh tonight and fierce and is felt by so many people.
Two funerals were held today, one for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz and another for the Rosenthal brothers, Cecil and David. In the coming days, the stories of eight more lives will be told and the absence of eight more souls will be felt.
Also today, President Trump's visit and the protest that met him here. It was, best we can remember, unprecedented for a president of the United States not on welcomed by everybody at a moment like this. And although it will be a focus tonight, it will neither be the sole focus nor the thing that we look at first.
Which is why we begin tonight and it's really our privilege to with a closer look at how friends and neighbors, celebrities, even total strangers expressed their love and their appreciation for two very special individuals.
Gary Tuchman joins us now for that.
You went to the funerals for David and Cecil. It's amazing to me the outpouring of people who went. I mean, filling up the synagogue for them.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: David and Cecil were loved. Cecil 59, David 54, belonged to the synagogue. Loved going here. A mile away from here in another synagogue called Rodef Shalom more than 1,000 seats every seat full for the federal service. And more than 150 people standing in the back and standing on the sides.
CUOMO: I heard more than 100 members past and present of the Steelers came.
TUCHMAN: And that was remarkable. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very important institution in this city.
TUCHMAN: And more than 100 former players and current players came in for the viewing where the caskets were in front. And the ownership, Art Rooney II, came in also. These are important people in the community. They wanted to pay respects.
It's really important to mention, these two brothers were mentally disabled. They could not read. They could not write.
But, boy, they could talk. And they joked. And they had fun. And everyone loved them.
Cecil was an usher at the synagogue. Everyone saw them -- everyone saw him --
COOPER: The unofficial greeters, apparently.
TUCHMAN: Right. During the eulogy today, their sister and brother- in-law spoke. And the brother-in-law said that Cecil could have been the mayor of Squirrel Hill if he wanted to be. That's how popular he was. But during the eulogy, the sister and brother-in-law said they were kind. They were thoughtful.
They were gentle giants. They were big guys. But they were nonjudgmental. And they were very innocent. And that's the important thing.
They just loved life and never knew there were any problems. And that's the tragic irony here, the sad thing. That these men who were so innocent and so vulnerable and this building behind us, someone so violent ended their lives in this building they loved so much. It's so hurtful and so sad.
COOPER: When I hear you say that, I -- you u know, I can only imagine what was going through their minds when this person came in, the astonishment they must have felt since they were -- really felt nothing but compassion.
TUCHMAN: And that's, when we talk to everyone who is inside, the same thing they said. They couldn't imagine this could happen to such two fine and nice and innocent men. And we talked to so many people as they came out. So many people said they were these brothers' friends.
I want you to listen and our viewers to hear what some of these friends told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The heart of Squirrel Hill is Forbes and Murray. OK? We should change the names of the streets. One being Cecil and one being David. If we can't do that, then there should be a park, OK, that for Cecil and David, because their memory should be a blessing and continue forever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have any recollections of being at the Tree of Life and Cecil not being there. He was there --
TUCHMAN: Before you got there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before I got there. He was usually the one to open the door for me and my family. And he was the one to reserve my seat for me and my family when we sat in the back with the rabbi's family.
And if I happened to step out for more than a couple minutes, he would chase me down. And usher me back to my seat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: And what was beautiful about the service, Anderson, in the synagogue, it wasn't just Jews. It was Christians. It was Muslims. It was atheists. It was everybody.
It was black, it was brown, it was white. The whole community came out. Everyone loved these two men.
COOPER: I'm so glad you were able to be there and tell us about it, Gary. Thank you very much.
There will certainly be missed as will Dr. Rabinowitz. His funeral at the JCC, the Jewish Community Center, just a few blocks from here drew so many people.
[20:05:02] They overflowed the building and stretched down the block. He was like the Rosenthals, a pillar of the congregation and a fixture in this community.
Someone who showed such compassion and humanity toward HIV/AIDS patients in a time when compassion was often eclipsed by caution. We're talking about the late 1980s. If not just caution, outright fear. When others shrank away from patients in need, Dr. Rabinowitz, who was a young doctor then, embraced them.
That was not forgotten today and it won't be forgotten soon. And later, you're going to hear from one of his patients later in the program.
More right now on the president's visit and the way it was received by many people here. Bluntly put, many did not want him to come. Not a single political figure in either party actually accompanied him, though they had been invited. He was greeted at the airport by an international guard colonel, commander of the 171st Air Refueling Wing, as well as the colonel's wife.
He was met here at Tree of Life by the sound of protesters marching just a few blocks away. They were kept away from the immediate area.
Our Kaitlan Collins is here with details of his visit.
There were certainly questions about what would happen, where would the president go today? We really didn't know up until the last minute where exactly he was going to go. Did the White House, I mean, was it a scramble?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was a bit of a scramble, to say the least. Even the city of Pittsburgh, the mayor said they were not aware that the president's plans to come were official until the press secretary announced it yesterday during that White House press briefing.
But the president came, he made his first stop at the Tree of Life synagogue. He went inside just to the entrance with the rabbi and the first lady --
COOPER: Still a crime scene so they can't --
COLLINS: Still a crime scene. The FBI agents still inside there today. They couldn't go very far. They just went to the entrance.
While they were in there just a private ceremony. No cameras or any reporters in there. They lit a candle for each of the 11 victims from Saturday's shooting.
Then they came outside where all the cameras were waiting in this makeshift memorial over here that the community has put so lovingly, these flowers and balloons. And they went to each of these stars, each one bearing the name of the victims, and put stones on each one of them. The first lady put white roses on them.
COOPER: It was also nice. It seemed like the rabbi, Rabbi Myers, was telling them about each of the people. That's what it seemed like at each star.
COLLINS: It did, because they would go to each star and linger for a few minutes. It did seem, they were in private conversation. We couldn't hear them. But it didn't seem they were saying that.
And we should note the rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, who survived that attack is one of the only people that was welcoming the president and said he did welcome him here to come now, not in general, some others said he was welcome to come in a week from now after the dead were buried. He was the one of the very few in this community who welcomed President Trump now.
COOPER: They then went to the hospital.
COLLINS: They went to UPMC, Presbyterian, the hospital nearby where a lot of these victims were treated. And the president was there visiting with them. He visited not only with the medical staff who treated the patients but also with the police officers who ran into the synagogue when a lot of other people were trying to get out and trying to leave.
COOPER: Some of them were wounded.
COLLINS: Several were wounded. One is still in the intensive care unit. The White House did note that. He spent over 80 minutes there visiting with them before finally leaving and going back to Washington. COOPER: It is startling that a number of elected officials were
invited by the White House to accompany the president flying here and for one reason or another chose not to.
COLLINS: A lot declined. It wasn't just elected officials locally. When the president typically go somewhere, flying with him on Air Force One are those elected officials representing the state and then greeting him at the airport are the local officials. None of that happened today.
As you just showed, it was a member of the military there greeting the president and first lady and members of his administration. But that was it. That's a really rare thing. I don't think we've ever seen that in any trip the president has taken domestically since he took office so far. But that was the only person to greet the president today and no elected officials were traveling with him.
COOPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
The Pittsburgh Police Department today gave a status report on the officers who were hurt or wounded during the shooting. Kaitlan was just talking about that. One was shot in the hand. Another suffered a graze wound and or shrapnel wound to the head. Both have been released from the hospital thankfully. Two others, Timothy Matson and Daniel Mead, remain hospitalized.
To their great good fortune Pittsburgh is home to some of the finest medical care in the planet. With me now, one of the professionals who makes it possible, Dr. Donald Yealy, who chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Also with us is Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Erika Strassburger.
Thank you so much for being with us. I know it's been a very busy couple days for both of you and a very trying couple days for both of you.
Can you just talk a little bit about the people who are still hospitalized, how they're doing?
DR. DONALD YEALY, CHAIR, UPMC DEPT. OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE: There are three people still at UPMC Presbyterian. Two of whom are in the intensive care unit. Both are improving. They're no longer receiving assisted ventilation and showing real signs of recovery right now. There's a third person who's also in the hospital not in the intensive care unit, again showing signs of recovery.
COOPER: I visited one person at the hospital yesterday and met with her family.
[20:10:00] And it was so extraordinary just to, I mean, she seemed in great -- her mother was killed. Her mother is 97 years old. But her entire family was there gathered around and sort of keeping their spirits up. YEALY: Really an incredible moment not only between an injured person
and their family members but the outpouring of support from almost every direction really is palpable when you visit with the family.
COOPER: What do you want people to know about this community and what's going to happen moving forward? How this community moves forward?
ERIKA STRASSBURGER, PITTSBURGH CITY COUNCIL: Well, as you can see from the past couple of days, this is a community of neighbors helping neighbors. That's what we've seen. And neighbors wanting to be together right now, finding solace with one another.
I think there -- the sadness and the grief is soon going to turn into a call for action of some sort. I know for me as an elected official, I feel a responsibility for my constituents. And I also understand it was Jeffrey -- Rabbi Jeffrey Myers' call to elected officials and leaders to eradicate hate from their words and actions.
And I pledged today in city council to do just that. And I would call on other leaders to do the same, to lead with compassion and love.
COOPER: You were there when the president visited today. Can you tell me about the visit?
YEALY: We had a room set up adjacent to the hospital care areas where four different patients and their families and friends were collected along with the medical staff. The president visited with each individual patient and their family members and then with not only the medical staff from the hospital but the police officers from the scene, EMS providers and medical director for the city and the public safety director.
So, he listened to what their stories were about the event and the recovery, and interacted with each.
COOPER: How long would it have gone on for?
YEALY: In that session with the four families, it was a half hour, maybe 40 minutes and he spent a considerable amount of time with each group of people that he stopped with.
COOPER: Were you in favor of the president coming today? Or what were your thoughts on that?
STRASSBURGER: Really, like I said, my first responsibility is to my constituents. And over the last couple days as the announcement was made that president might be visiting, I've heard loud and clear through phone calls and e-mails that they were -- my constituents were extremely concerned about his visit. That it would add to the trauma of a very raw situation here in Squirrel Hill. And I have to respect that.
At the same time, I have to respect that there are members and leaders in the Jewish community and perhaps some families of the victims who found comfort in his visit. COOPER: The funerals obviously began today, three funerals. It's
interesting. I talked to one of the leaders of the Muslim community today who has been behind the fund-raising and raised more than I think $150,000 at this point.
He was on with a rabbi who he's had a long relationship with. The bonds, you know, in the wake of something like this, often on television you see sort of people of different faiths coming together. They made the point that this isn't something just for TV cameras today. This is a relationship that actually has been going on for years and years in this community.
STRASSBURGER: Yes. I think the multi-faith effort that was pulled together for the vigil on Sunday is a testament to that. How else would you be able to pull something together in less than a day that showed so many faiths and so many different types of people coming together unless those bonds were already there? I don't want to overstate it. But yes, those bonds are already there. They've been working closely together for years and years.
COOPER: Well, doctor, we appreciate all your efforts and everybody at the hospital, thank you so much.
YEALY: Thank you for having us.
COOPER: It was really an honor to go there yesterday.
And, Councilwoman, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.
STRASSBURGER: Thank you.
COOPER: Obviously a lot of difficult days and weeks and months ahead. I want to dig deeper now into how this is all unfolding on the national stage.
Joining us for that is CNN political analyst David Gergen, Gloria Borger, as well as Carl Bernstein.
David, just in light of the fact that some local officials thought it was an ill-timed visit with funerals taking place and maybe taking resources away, do you think the president was right to come here today?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: I think he was right to go to Pittsburgh, not today. It became an extremely awkward day for the president. He did the right thing in wanting to go and comfort families. But the awkwardness started right after the fact that he arrived basically with his wife alone.
He was not met at the airport. He was met with lots and lots of protesters in the streets. He did not apparently -- he met with the families of those who had been wounded, as far as I can tell. And this may be wrong, but I'm not sure he met with the families of those who lost their lives. And he left in silence. Our presidents when they've gone to the days like this, you think of
Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, they all spoke out and gave meaning to what happened and tried to be healers. They came to be known as the mourners in chief.
[20:15:02] And it is an important responsibility of the president. I wish he'd come another day when he might have been able to fulfill a lot of those kind of needs for these families.
COOPER: Gloria, CNN is reporting that the president chose to visit today because it was the best day essentially for his schedule since he has a string of campaign rallies that start tomorrow and they thought it would be awkward if, you know, he came here and then went straight to a campaign rally. It seems like they didn't consider the idea of maybe canceling a campaign rally.
I'm wondering what you make of, you know, him coming here as he did?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, this was clearly done because of the president's schedule and because of his convenience. He's got 11 rallies coming up and the president wants to get to every one of them. You know he has been very involved in this campaign.
And don't forget, they don't want to mix a rally and the kind of a visit he did today. I mean, on Saturday night, he had a rally right after the shooting. And I think there was a lot of agreement that that did not work out so well. Remember, the president said to everyone should I tone down my remarks? Maybe I'll tone down my remarks. It just didn't -- it didn't work.
What struck me is also what struck David was kind of the loneliness of all of this today. The president and his wife walking down alone from Air Force One, not being greeted with Ivanka and Jared, but there wasn't a sense of community, we want you there. There was sort of a sense that, you know, the president believed he needed to be there. And I do think he needed to go at some point.
But there wasn't support from the community. I mean, it's stunning. Remember Barack Obama going to Newtown or Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City.
They were wanted and they spoke. And I think maybe it was right that the president did not speak today, and that all of his communication was kept private.
COOPER: Carl, I mean, to be fair, the president insisted on visiting Pittsburgh today because over the weekend he said he would -- you know, he would do it long before anyone knew about objections from local officials here. So, I mean, he certainly did keep his promise in terms of what he had previously said he would do.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He kept his promise.
I think we need to look at this from a different point of view. And that is that the presidential pulpit of Donald Trump is an incendiary device. It has become an IED. That he spews division and hate and disunity.
And so, we've had this horrible slaughter in Pittsburgh which is a great opportunity for him to move the other way. He held his rally. He came to Pittsburgh.
He did not take a moment to say we need self-reflection, I need self- reflection. It's time for me to examine what I've been saying from the presidential pulpit. Let's all look at our hearts. Let's all look at what's going on in this country. Let's look at anti-Semitism. Let's stop calling the other names.
He had every opportunity to make this a turning point in his presidency. He has resumed his divisive rallies. That's where he's going. He resumed within hours the language of hate, the language of division. And that is who he and this presidency and his pulpit is.
COOPER: David, I mean, it's also interesting, you know, the killer here was motivated not only by just a general hate and anti-Semitism but also this obsession on the caravan and, you know, invaders, echoing language that president himself has used. It doesn't seem like the president has stepped back from that, if anything he's pushing the gas pedal down further talking about revoking birthright citizenship which obviously we'll talk about a little bit later on in the broadcast, which is not something he actually can do by fiat.
But for him to continue to echo the words of, you know, invaders coming, it's certainly not tamping down any rhetoric and continuing to call the media the enemy of the people.
GERGEN: You're absolutely right, Anderson, and also sending in 500 troops on the weekend before the elections long before the marchers and the caravan ever reached the border. They don't need to be there this weekend. That's a ploy.
And I do think that in the background everything that was happening today is the fact that many people in Pittsburgh, many people around the country, they don't blame Donald Trump for the particular shooter. They don't hold him directly responsible. But they long for a presidency that has a moral core to it, a president that shows moral leadership.
In the background today was a sense that somehow the president's words of resentment and hate and stirring up resentments especially among whites contributed to and led to the door of the synagogue.
[20:20:12] So I do think we ought to go back and think about, you know, how Bill Clinton went to Oklahoma City in 1995 and healed. He didn't go after the terrorists. He didn't sort of make a -- beat the drums to go out and stalk the terrorists all around the country.
He tried to heal and it was a turning point in his presidency. He was embattled when he went to Oklahoma City. That turned his presidency around in a very positive direction.
I have to wonder whether the fact that President Trump has gone through this awkwardness and he is linked in this way to what happened, whether his words are now going to come back to haunt him and his presidency for the indefinite future.
COOPER: Well, it also seems, Carl, that the president and the White House are very eager to, you know, to move on to be able to continue to focus on the election as he himself, you know, I think it was a tweet days ago before this massacre, talking about how, you know, focus on the bombings and other issues had taken attention away from coverage of politics.
BERNSTEIN: Look, Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States of America and he has made no attempt to be the cohesive president of the United States, to reach out to all of the people in this country. And he is back at it with barely a break.
After the bombing events of last week, the mail bombs sent out, after this slaughter of Jews in Pittsburgh, he has gone on like business as usual here. This oughtn't to be a time of business as usual. And it oughtn't to be a time business as usual for Republicans in Washington either. They ought to be speaking out about what this president has done in reaction to the events of the last week.
It's very significant that there were no Republican leaders who wanted to come with this toxic president on Air Force One at a moment what should have been a time of national healing because those leaders understand although they have been complicit in enabling Donald Trump to do this and to incite with his message, they weren't there today and they need to be speaking out against what Donald Trump has been saying throughout this campaign.
COOPER: Yes. Carl Bernstein, Gloria Gorger, David Bergen, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we want to broaden discussion of words and deeds and a climate of violence.
Later, the president claims he can get around a constitutional amendment with a stroke of the pen. He can't. We know. We'll talk about why he's making such a dubious case right now a week before the election.
[20:27:02] COOPER: Well, as we reported, the first funerals in the synagogue massacre here in Pittsburgh were held today, including a service for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal.
The Tree of Life's rabbi said the brothers were the sweetest, most wonderful people with not an ounce of hate in them. No hate. Unlike the suspected shooter who posted anti-Semitic slurs on social media, complained that the president had too much Jewish people around him, blamed Jews for helping migrant caravans in Central America.
Hate speech is, of course, nothing new. But there does seem to be a renewed sense of emboldening on the part of white supremacists in Charlottesville and beyond. The Anti-Defamation League says incidents of public anti-Semitism including bomb threats and vandalism rose by 57 percent in 2017. Here's how the mayor of Pittsburgh put it when I asked him if the
rhetoric that has entered public life in a way we haven't seen in quite a while has an impact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL PEDUTO (D), PITTSBURGH: Words matter. If you take a drop of dye and put it into a glass of water, it turns the color of the water. When you put words of hatred out in a place where those words had been hidden and recognized as being words that were not acceptable and you allow that to become acceptable, then you allow the next steps to occur. The next steps where there is violence against people walking down the street. The next steps where there is graffiti being written on walls. The next steps where somebody enters into a place that is so sacred where people go to find sanctuary and peace with God and somebody feels that is the way that they will express their hatred, with murder.
Yes, words matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP
COOPER: I want to focus more on what is happening right now in America. Joining me is Nicole Hemmer who researches hate crimes and Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and national director of the Anti- Defamation League.
Nicole, you wrote yesterday that the seeds of Pittsburgh were sewn in Charlottesville. And I wonder, can you just explain what you mean by that?
NICOLE HEMMER, HATE CRIMES RESEARCHER: Sure. So one of the things that was so dominant in Charlottesville on August 11th and 12th were anti-Semitic slogans and slurs and symbols. And those things kind of dropped away from the analysis of what happened in Charlottesville shortly thereafter.
But I think what Pittsburgh shows us is how important and how central anti-Semitism is to white supremacy, especially this new type of alt- right white supremacy that we're seeing in America today.
COOPER: Jonathan, I'm wondering if you agree with that. About the impact of Charlottesville as we're showing some of the video of that, you know, tiki torch march by young white men mostly chanting "Jews will not replace us," chanting "blood and soil," which is a former Nazi slogan.
Has this become more normalized under -- in the last two years?
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO & NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It's deeply worrisome. But the fact of the matter is Nicole is right. That rally in Charlottesville which was ostensibly about preserving Confederate statues degenerated into the chants of Jews will not replace us. With men with torches assembled around the synagogue threatening to burn it down. Anti-Semitism is at the core of white supremacy. And we've seen, as you reported in our stats, this increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the past year. And, you know, to understand the details, we're talking about nearly 90 percent increase of anti-Semitic incidences at colleges and universities, almost 100 percent increase at K-12 schools.
So the words that we hear, they're translating and jumping online to offline and showing up in our communities, on our campuses, in our schools. We should be very concerned.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're hearing of anti-Semitic incidences in kindergartens and lower schools and middle schools and high schools?
GREENBLATT: The ADL has 25 field offices across the United States. And indeed my offices are tracking acts of vandalism and harassment at K-12 schools. It's one of the reasons why we really prioritize anti- bias education in classrooms. Because kids need to be taught that what you might be hearing even our leaders at the highest level saying is absolutely unacceptable if we want a society that's predicated on respecting tolerance for others.
COOPER: Nicole, many of the people who are protesting, they certainly feel that the rhetoric that's come out of this administration, the rhetoric particularly from the President of the United States, well, maybe not directly responsible for what happened here, but certainly has fueled or emboldened some people maybe with pre-existing ideas or with hate in their heart. Do you believe that's the case that, you know, as the mayor said that the words matter?
NICOLE HEMMER, HATE CRIMES RESEARCHER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think that one other lesson out of Charlottesville was, you know, it was a day where everything went wrong in a lot of ways for the outright. The one thing that they took as a victory out of Charlottesville was the President's comments.
They felt that they -- the President could have had their back after Charlottesville and that did embolden white supremacists. I would even say it radicalized white supremacists and helped them not only --
COOPER: How do you know that they felt that? Is that what you read? I'm sorry, did you hear it? I mean, is that what people were saying online?
HEMMER: Absolutely. They celebrated in those videos and in statements online the President's comments.
GREENBLATT: Yes. Anderson, if I can just add on that, you know, the ADL were tracking anti-Semitism online. We have a whole center in Silicon Valley that we built. And indeed the white supremacist, if you read their words, if you look at what they're saying on Twitter and on Facebook and on these other sites like Gab and Fortune (ph) and H.N., they are celebrating the winks, the dog whistles. They let us know in their own words that they're connecting with them. COOPER: Jonathan Greenblatt, I appreciate you being with us, and Nicole Hemmer, as well. Thank you very much. An important discussion we'll continue to have.
Coming up, with the midterm election a week away, the President is pulling out all the anti-immigrant stops using the military, migrants seeking refuge and misinformation. Question, of course, is what impact is it having? Will it work? We'll get into that next.
[20:37:13] COOPER: With allegations that the President's rhetoric about invaders coming into the country played a role in the horrific events here in Pittsburgh, Mr. Trump is certainly not apologizing or backing off.
In fact, considering that the President just announced he's immediately sending thousands of troops to the border to allegedly stop a group of migrants, the President calls it an invasion, were hundreds of miles away from the United States. Consider the fact that at least some of the troops are expected to arrive just a day before people go to the polls. Let me just repeat, this main group of migrants who the troops are apparently there to stop are walking on foot and are nearly 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border.
Consider now one week from the midterms, he apparently thinks you also should be afraid of babies who are born here and become citizens saying he can end birthright citizenship, the 14th Amendment, with an executive order, which is not true according to legal experts.
In an interview on "Axios," airing on HBO this weekend, the President said, "We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby and the baby is essentially a citizen." That also is not true. Dozens of countries have the same situation, but you don't have to take our word for it that the President can't overturn the 14th Amendment or even the word of legal experts coast to coast.
Listen to the Republican Speaker Paul Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order. We didn't like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives, you know, we believe in the constitution. You know, as a conservative, I'm a believer in following the plain text of the constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment's pretty clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now is CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. So, Jim, I mean, it seems pretty obvious about why the President is suddenly talking about, you know, an executive order about the 14th Amendment. It just seems a week before the midterm it's not a coincidence. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not a coincidence, Anderson. It is part of the President's playbook for the midterms. He's been advised by people both inside and outside the White House to go after this immigration issue.
This is an issue of birthright citizenship that he's brought up before. And when he brought it up before just about everybody in Washington reminds him that you can't do it through an executive order, that would be unconstitutional. You have to amend the constitution and that's obviously not going to happen.
It's interesting tonight, Anderson, one of the President's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, was briefly talking to reporters and said contrary to the facts out there, that this is an untested constitutional question. She said there are aspects of this that could be tested constitutionally.
And almost at the very same moment this evening her husband, George Conway, who is a prominent lawyer here in Washington was writing an op-ed in "The Washington Post" saying, "No, it is crystal clear this is unconstitutional if the President wants to do it."
[20:40:00] COOPER: What about sending U.S. troops to the southern border? Again, the caravan of migrants is still hundreds of miles away. I mean, when are American forces expected to arrive and exactly what role are they expected to play?
ACOSTA: Well, White House hasn't really given us any clear guidance as to what the role of these soldiers will be. They've already tried to send National Guard troops down to the border as sort of a show of force.
And as you mentioned, these migrants are about 1,000 miles away and they're not going to be here any time soon. So to call this an invasion, it might be the most pathetic invasion of a country in world history if this were actually an invasion. But, of course, it's not.
We should point out, Anderson, that, you know, we've been told by sources close to the White House, people inside the White House frankly, we'll tell you this privately, that they see the caravan issue as one of their big ticket items heading into the midterms.
You heard it almost repeated nonstop. I think the President has even mentioned this at his rallies, caravan and Kavanaugh, they want to run on both of those things heading into the midterms.
But unless you are really isolated inside an ideological bubble at this point on this issue of immigration, you really can't see this caravan as anything other than a lot of people, a lot of migrants trying to escape countries where in some cases they're escaping from violence and that you have a lot of women and children trying to come into this country and seek asylum to try to find a better life for themselves. And at this point, the President is saying that's not going to happen and he's trying to offer the show of force.
One other thing we should mention tonight, Anderson, the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis had a rare public appearance. He was appearing at the U.S. Institute of Peace here in Washington. He was asked a whole range of questions on a slew of issues from Syria to Russia and everything else. He wasn't asked a question about this issue, so it doesn't sound very pressing for the Defense Secretary either. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
Joining me now, former RNC Chief of Staff and CNN Political Commentator Mike Shields, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Republican Strategist, Rick Wilson, author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Jeff, so first of all, the President is claiming he can end birthright citizenship with an executive order. Obviously it seems from every legal scholar, from a non-starter, I just want to read to the viewers the 14th Amendment, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." He can't change that with an executive order, correct?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, he not only can't he change it with an executive order, even an act of Congress couldn't change it, because the constitution Trump's any other attempt by state or the federal government to do anything. This is a political stunt. I don't know whether it will succeed, but the idea that the President could change birthright citizenship, that anyone could change it other than through a constitutional amendment is simply false.
COOPER: So, Mike, I mean, as a conservative Republican, are you OK with the President saying that he can unilaterally change this, the 14th Amendment of the constitution? And do you agree with Jeff that -- I mean, this is basically just about politics and manipulation before the midterms?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, couple things. Senator Graham also lent his voice to the idea that this hasn't been tested in what jurisdiction are people under. Are they under the country that they're from or under the U.S. jurisdiction?
But, look, here's what this real issue is about. And whether or not you can change it this way or whether or not you have to change it legislatively, this is a legitimate conversation to have because birthright citizenship is being abused.
And there are 700,000 immigrants in line right now to become lawful immigrants to the United States from Africa, Latin America, Asia, all over the world, and yet there are loopholes that allow people to get into the country illegally, have a child and become a citizen.
Harry Reid when he was in the Senate, Democrat and hardly a conservative said, you know, birthright citizenship is being abused, we had to look at it. Many of the Republicans running for president in the primaries last year brought this up. So it's not like it's an issue out of left field. And immigration is a defining difference between the two parties. The Democratic Party, their vice chairman wears a T-shirt that says we're for open borders. Republicans watched that and go, wait a minute, we've got to get even more sort of aggressive about how it is we go about protecting the border.
Maybe we have to look at something that's being abused that allows illegal immigrants to come in and game the system when there are 700,000 people waiting in line dutifully to become American citizens.
TOOBIN: That is precisely wrong. And it is important to point out that we actually have laws in this country where there are procedures. If you want to change birthright citizenship, help yourself. That is a perfectly legitimate argument to have, but you have to have it on the right subject, which is a constitutional amendment.
To do it as a stunt a week before the election pretending that you as president have the power to change it, that is not legitimate, that is not a legitimate debate to have. And I think its demagoguery, it's not policy.
[20:45:10] COOPER: Rick, do you see this basically just as a stunt? Yes, go ahead.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. This is absolutely a stunt. This is absolutely the president once again doing this performative version of the presidency where he throws out red meat so he can start this next news cycle on Fox and elsewhere, pretending this is going to happen. It's no the going to happen. Just like the wall and a whole bunch of other Trump things, it's an absolute illusion targeted only to the base only politics of the reddest of the red states.
And I think what's really dismissive here in the President's attitude is that of constitutional filthy. You know, Republicans are supposed to be the party that believes the constitution as a sacred document that we have to treat with reverence and care.
If Barack Obama had come out and said I'm just going to get rid of this part of the Second Amendment by executive order, it was a sure fire -- it would have been a sure fire recipe for Republicans to go into an absolute connection fit, lose their minds for months on end and call for immediate impeachment.
But Donald Trump is suggesting the same sort of thing. Its executive fiat, which we said during Obama over and over again was absolutely an (INAUDIBLE) conservative principle, but here we are.
SHIELDS: Well, can I -- so outside of the process of how you do this --
COOPER: Go ahead, Mike.
SHIELDS: Outside of the process of how we do this, I would ask my two colleagues, do they think that this -- that birthright citizenship is being abused at all? Do you guys believe that it's ever being abused?
COOPER: Mike -- hold on one second. Mike saying outside the process, the whole thing about this right now is the process. The President -- as Jeff said, I mean, you can have this debate about birthright citizenship and it's been had before. But the President announcing that he can do this by executive order, you know is just not true, right?
SHIELDS: I think that this is a defining issue between the two parties going into the election as immigration.
COOPER: But you know it's just not true. I mean, don't avoid the answer.
SHIELDS: Well, I don't know if you can constitutionally do this or not. I don't know the answer.
COOPER: We're talking about the lie that he -- you don't know that the President cannot do it by executive order, that he can't overturn the 14th Amendment by executive order? You don't know that?
SHIELDS: It doesn't appear so. And when Barack Obama illegally claimed that Dreamers could just become citizens, that was challenged and this administration did not want to challenge it in court because they would be defending something that --
WILSON: But that was a question of law, not of the constitutional provisions.
WILSON: This is a different order. This is a different order of magnitude, Mike. This is the constitution we're talking about. It's not like popping the hood on a car and playing with the spark plugs. This is the big thing.
And so, you know, even the President that is believed to have unlimited executive power in the era of Trump does not have that power in this country. If you feel comfortable with that, if there is a Democratic president down the line, then you have to sit quietly while they say, we're going to change a lot of things about the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, the fourth. I mean, there are -- this is a bad door to open, Mike.
SHIELDS: Well, it would be challenged in the courts if it it's not constitutional then it wouldn't be allowed. And so I'm fairly comfortable having things go to the courts like the travel ban did and it came back in any form that was actually allowed to be --
COOPER: But you know this is ridiculous.
SHIELDS: I'm sorry?
COOPER: Yes. You know this is ridiculous. I mean, this is ridiculous that -- for the President to have this discussion. It's purely about just something to throw up a week before the election to stop people from talking about 11, you know, murdered Jews a block behind me. I mean, it's clearly just like bombs being sent to --
SHIELDS: I do not agree with that.
COOPER: Just like bombs being sent to people that the President, you know, singled out and railed against and got stadiums to rail against was not a message the President really wanted to talk about and he tried to change the subject. You don't believe he's trying to change the subject off of what happened here?
SHIELDS: No, I don't, in fact. And I think it's -- I think so much of what happened there is so tragic and every time we try to pull it back into a partisan fight, people just put their jerseys on and they ignore the real thing that we should be talking about, which is the segment you had before, the rise of anti-Semitism is a real thing we should talk about and instead it gets dragged back into a partisan fight all over again. There's an election in six days. And that election is one of the big issues --
COOPER: Right. We're talking about birthright citizenship because the President tweeted about it.
SHIELDS: Yes. And one of the big issues in that election is immigration. The two parties have very, very different approaches to immigration and that is something that will be voted on next week. It's a legitimate conversation.
COOPER: Mike Shields, I appreciate it. Jeff Toobin, Rick Wilson, thanks very much.
I want to check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I want to know who the lawyer is in the White House that told the President he can change what's in the 14th Amendment by fiat. He said his lawyers told him.
CUOMO: I want to know who that lawyer is. I think the White House should produce them. And I think that that party -- the election is a week away. You're analyzing it exactly right. You're doing it from the right place.
[20:50:04] Is the whole party on board with Trump's campaign of fear and loathing? Are they? We have a congressman on tonight from that party, a young leader, who says it needs to stop.
And then we're going to put Cuomo's court in session and we're going to go through the legalities of bringing the military and changing the 14th Amendment. We'll give people the facts.
COOPER: All right, Chris, I appreciate it. I'll see you in just a couple of minutes. All the victims here in Pittsburgh touched the lives of others in so many unique ways. Just ahead, I want you to meet someone. I'm going to talk with a man who knew Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz very well. He says he really saved his life after he was diagnosed with HIV back in 1989. We'll hear from him ahead.
COOPER: One of the funerals here today was for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, a physician, who was a family physician, but he also treated HIV/AIDS patients with care and compassion at a time in merit (ph) y when not everyone did.
[20:55:03] One former patient, Michael Kerr, posted this on Facebook writing, "Thank you Dr. Rabinowitz for having always been there during the most terrifying and frightening time of my life." Michael Kerr joins me tonight from New York.
So, Michael, it was in 1989 you found out you were positive. You were actually living in this neighborhood. How did you hear about Dr. Rabinowitz and what made him so different?
MICHAEL KERR, FORMER PATIENT OF PITTSBURGH VICTIM DR. JERRY RABINOWITZ: Well, I mean, you're right. I lived right down the hill from where you're standing. And, you know, Pittsburgh is a close-knit community. We -- when those early days of HIV hit, there weren't any real treatable medicines that targeted the virus, so we put our ear to the ground, ear to the wall, we called our friends and found out who the doctors were that were keeping us alive the longest and word of mouth it was Dr. Rabinowitz. He's at the top of the list.
COOPER: It's not an understatement to say. I mean, for people who don't realized what being HIV positive then back in 1981, '82 all throughout the '80s and even at the early '90s before (INAUDIBLE) inhibitors and those drugs came online. I mean, that early on, there were people in the medical profession who wanted nothing to do with people who are HIV positive or people who have AIDS or were scared to, you know, breathe the same air as that.
KERR: You know, that was the time when, you know, you had to hide your health records for pre-existing conditions from insurance companies. Dr. Rabinowitz had a system, though. He will put those HIV notes in a little piece of paper on the side and I can't help but think that maybe if something happened and somebody came and knock on his door, that piece of paper would have gone away. He protected us.
COOPER: I mean I can't imagine the fear that you must have felt in 1989 in graduate school. You get the diagnosis and the fear that you must have felt and how Dr. Rabinowitz was able to help you at least combat that fear.
KERR: I got to be honest with you. There were some dark times. There were some really dark times. And he was always there. And he was just such a brilliant yet compassionate man. He's a family physician and the true sense of what we define family as meaning -- there are so many versions of family.
COOPER: You're wearing an ACT UP (ph). An ACT UP was a group that was instrumental in getting changes in pharmaceutical companies and how drugs were tested, how drugs that were on pipeline along with the treatment action group, which was an off shooter of ACT UP. Do you think -- do you know the other thing about Dr. Rabinowitz that seems so special? I mean, he was a very young doctor when he started opening his doors to people who had HIV and AIDS?
KERR: Timing is everything. When it was time for him to point me towards a study, if it had been six months sooner, maybe the dogs would have been available in that study or, you know, it was all about ACT UP getting it done quick, you know, so those drugs could be -- could reach -- could be safely delivered for research protocols. So timing was everything and having a good doctor that whatever little there was in the tool box at the time to treat us, he did it.
COOPER: And just finally, Michael, when you heard the news about what happened here on Saturday, you know, reports are that he went to try to help. He went back in to try to help those who might have been wounded. I'm just wondering what your first memory of him was, what your thoughts were on Saturday or when you heard the news.
KERR: It still hurts. I'm never going to see his face. And all those pictures you see of him with the bow tie and his smile that -- that that what's I remember. And he held our hands without rubber gloves and he hugged us and he spent time with us. And he's just -- he's a brilliant and compassionate doctor and the world is going to be -- the world is at a lost, I think.
COOPER: And it's also makes me so sad just to hear you point out that he would hold your hand without a rubber glove and to think of all of those, all those young men and others who didn't have their hands held without rubber glove or without a medical professional with the mask on because of the fear and the stigma.
Michael, thank you very much for being with us and telling us about Dr. Rabinowitz. Thank you.
KERR: Thank you for helping us to honor him.
COOPER: We honor him and all the 11 who are killed here. There's many ways to help the Pittsburgh community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is accepting donations for the shooting victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue. Their website is on your screen.