Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Addresses Nation On Mass Shootings. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: -- another site of a massacre by guns.


Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. Any minute now, we will hear from President Trump, this as the nation mourns 29 people killed in two states just 13 hours apart. What will the President say? What will he do? What will he push for? What will he deliver? So far, he has floated the idea of tying universal background checks to something he's desired for a long time, immigration reform, which normally means money as well for a wall on the border.

He also took a moment to blame the media for the attacks and the violence, left unsaid anything about white supremacy. In fact, since these shootings, particularly the one here in El Paso, where the shooter referenced white supremacist views, the President has not used those words.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And just look to the comments of his FBI Director, Christopher Wray, emphasizing the danger in this country right now.

Meantime, the country is mourning so many lives lost so quickly and we keep seeing videos like this day after day.

That is Dayton, Ohio this weekend where video released overnight shows how quickly that gunman was able to kill and how quickly Dayton Police stopped him seconds before he entered a bar packed with people trying to hide from him. So what can be done and what will be done, Jim, to prevent this from happening again?

SCIUTTO: I'll tell you, I spent a lot of time in war zones. I've heard those sounds in Iraq and Afghanistan. That kind of gunfire, to hear it on an American street, is just a different story, and yet it's not the first time and likely won't be the last.

Let's get to CNN's Pam Brown. She's live at the White House. So, Pam, the President telegraphing something here, the possibility of background checks in exchange, a quid pro quo, for immigration reform. Any mention of assault weapons or is this going to be the President's path?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this morning President Trump suggested tying those background checks to immigration reform after the shooting in Texas that targeted immigrants.

What he didn't indicate, Jim, to your point in his Tweets this morning is whether he supported legislation passed in the House earlier this year requiring background checks that the White House threatened to veto. President Trump also has yet to address white nationalism and the wake of the gunman in El Paso apparently targeting Hispanics and immigrants.

Trump has frequently warned of an invasion of undocumented immigrants at the southern border, and some of that was echoed in the manifesto believed to be authored by the gunman. Though he said he had views before Trump. But President Trump has yet to acknowledge his rhetoric.

Now, we're going to learn more about President Trump's plan when he addresses the nation any moment now. White House officials tell me the President is expected to introduce preliminary policy ideas in what will be prepared remarks from the teleprompter.

In the past, he has appeared to consider assault weapons ban and raising the age limit for rifle purchases. But then he backed away from that under pressure from the NRA. In brief remarks yesterday, the President focused on mental health issues and not guns in the wake of the back-to-back shootings.

So as we await his remarks, will the President take more of a leadership role on gun control? Will he address white nationalism? In the past, he said he didn't believe it was a rising threat. Has that view changed? And will the President take any responsibility for his rhetoric? Here are the White House, officials are defensive about the suggestion the President's rhetoric prompted the Texas shooting, but his rhetoric on immigration as President of the United States cannot be ignored. Back to you.

HARLOW: It absolutely cannot. Pamela Brown, thank you so much for being there. We're going to hear from the President right there in just moments, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The President's words certainly heard loud and clear here in El Paso. I've heard that from a lot of residents in these last 24 hours.

Let's get the latest from El Paso. Police say the shooting suspect is volunteering information now, but he is showing no remorse or regret for a massacre that left 20 people dead. We've also learned that the Justice Department is seriously considering bringing federal hate crime and federal firearm charges against the suspect.

Josh Campbell, he's been following the story. He's a former FBI Supervisory Special Agent as well as a CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

So, Josh, tell us what of value investigators can learn from a shooter who, in unusual circumstances, rather than dying in the midst of a massacre like this, turned himself in? What can they learn of value now? JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Jim, we've seen so many instances in the past where a shooter will be engaged by law enforcement and is killed or opts to turn the gun on themselves. We just saw that just over a week ago in California at this food festival where a shooter killed three people, injured a dozen more and then turned the gun on himself after being shot by officers.

This is a different case in El Paso because the shooter is alive. He was questioned by law enforcement. We're told that he was providing information and was answering their questions willfully.


Now, what helps them get to the motive, that idea of why this person came here intending to cause mass violence, intending to cause mass murder.

Now, we've talked about this investigation and some of the threads that are still lingering. One of them pertains to the distance between where the shooter is from and the location of the actual attack. He lived some 650 miles from this area, from this Walmart.

And so we've seen this manifesto that's alleged been tied to him. Law enforcement is working to definitively determine whether that was his, in which this person describes this white supremacist ideology, hatred toward immigrants hatred toward Hispanics.

We're in a border city right now with a large Hispanic population. The key item for investigators right now is trying to determine did he come here to kill Hispanics, to kill minorities. And so that was likely to have been glued (ph) in that interview.

Again, sadly, Jim, also we've seen instances in the past where these types of white supremacists and murders are actually proud of what they've done and are willing to tell law enforcement exactly what the steps were that they took to cause the mass murder.

SCIUTTO: That is remarkable. That's one reason they like to share. They like to share as if they're proud of what they did, bragging about it almost. Josh Campbell, it's good to have someone of your experience on the case. Poppy?

HARLOW: It certainly is.

All right. Let's take you to Ohio, because police there say it is still too soon for them to really speculate on any motive about what caused this gunman to just murder nine people in a minute. But four former classmates of the gunman say he had a hit list in high school of students that he wanted to kill. Our Polo Sandoval is live for us this morning in Dayton, Ohio.

What more do you know about that list, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, nine people that were killed, and that includes the shooter's own sister here. And as we are hearing from some of the former classmates of this shooter, they say that they describe him as essentially a dark and depressive individual, who, according to at least four former classmates, kept a kill list on some of his classmates.

And at the same time, people here though are still searching for that motive. They still want to hear from police eventually here why this killer decided to do what he did here. And what we are hearing though is a very shocking but short timeline here, Poppy, that gives you a sense of just how quickly things changed on this street yesterday morning.

Investigators saying that in a matter of second, we're talking 24 seconds. This killer was able to injury 35 people, nine of them fatally. It took only about 50 yards or so from the moment he made his way out to the street to when he was finally stopped by police who sprang into action almost immediately.

So today here in Dayton, Ohio, what people are doing are reflecting on the memory of these five people, certainly praying for the recovery of about two dozen people who continue to recover from their injuries. But at the same time, they are certainly hoping to hear what that motive was and, of course, hoping to hear from the President, the Commander-in-Chief himself.

HARLOW: And that will happen in just moments. Polo, I really appreciate your reporting on the ground. We're waiting for the President. He will make a statement in the diplomatic room.

Here comes the President who said just yesterday, we have to get it stopped. This has been going on for years. Let's listen to what he says right now.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Good morning. My fellow Americans, this morning, our nation is overcome with shock, horror and sorrow. This weekend, more than 80 people were killed or wounded in two evil attacks.

On Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, a wicked man went to a Walmart store where families were shopping with their loved ones. He shot and murdered 20 people and injured 26 others, including precious little children.

Then in the early hours of Sunday morning, Dayton, Ohio, another twisted monster opened fire on a crowded downtown street. He murdered nine people, including his own sister and injured 27 others.

The First Lady and I join all Americans in praying and grieving for the victims, their families and the survivors. We will stand by their side forever. We will never forget.

These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation and a crime against all humanity. We are outraged and sickened by this monstrous evil, the cruelty, the hatred, the malice, the bloodshed and the terror. Our hearts are shattered for every family whose parents, children, husbands and wives were ripped from their arms and their lives. America weeps for the fallen. We are a loving nation and our children are entitled to grow up in a just, peaceful and loving society.


Together, we lock arms to shoulder the grief. We ask God in heaven to ease the anguish of those who suffer and we vow to act with urgent resolve.

I want to thank the many law enforcement personnel who responded to these atrocities with the extraordinary grace and courage of American heroes.

I have spoken with Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, as well as Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso, Texas, and Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, to express our profound sadness and unfailing support.

Today, we also send the condolences of our nation to President Obrador of Mexico and all the people of Mexico for the loss of their citizens in the El Paso shooting, a terrible, terrible thing.

I have also been in close contact with Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray. Federal authorities are on the ground and I have directed them to provide any and all assistance required, whatever is needed.

The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.

We have asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism, whatever they need.

We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.

The internet, likewise, is used for human trafficking, illegal drug distribution and so many other heinous crimes. The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored.

In the two decades since Columbine, our nation has watched with rising horror and dread as one mass shooting has followed another, over and over again, decade after decade. We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless.

We can and will stop this evil contagion. In that task, we must honor the sacred memory of those we have lost by acting as one people. Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided. We must seek real bipartisan solutions. We have to do that in a bipartisan manner that will truly make America safer and better for all.

First, we must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs. I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.

As an example, the monster in the Parkland High School in Florida had many red flags against him, and yet nobody took decisive action. Nobody did anything. Why not?

Second, we must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and gristly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.

Cultural change is hard, but each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life. That's what we have to do.

Third, we must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people, not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement.


Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.

Fourth, we must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.

Today, I'm also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively and without years of needless delay.

These are just a few of the areas of cooperation that we can pursue. I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference.

Republicans and democrats have proven that we can join together in a bipartisan fashion to address this plague. Last year, we enacted the stop school violence and fixed next acts into law, providing grants to improve school safety and strengthening critical background checks for firearm purchases.

At my direction, the Department of Justice banned bump stocks. Last year, we prosecuted a record number of firearms offenses. But there is so much more that we have to do. Now, is the time to set destructive partisanship aside, so destructive, and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love. Our future is in our control. America will rise to the challenge. We will always have and we always will win.

The choice is ours and ours alone. It is not up to mentally ill monsters, it is up to us. If we are able to pass great legislation after all of these years, we will ensure that those who were attacked will not have died in vain.

May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo and may God protect them. May God protect all of those from Texas to Ohio, may God bless the victims and their families, may God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: The President there issuing an emotional, I think you can say, public statement following these two days of deadly violence in America.

He said two things there, Poppy, that he has not yet said about these shootings. He mentioned white supremacy and said that there should be a clear condemnation of racism, bigotry and white supremacy, words he hasn't used in relation to these shootings.

He also called the violence domestic terrorism, again, a phrase that we've rarely heard him apply to acts like this here on U.S. soil.

But, crucially, what is next? What will be different now? The President did not explicitly mention support for universal background checks. He talked about the internet. He talked video games. He talked about mental health laws. He talked about so-called red flag laws, which would prevent people who have mental health diagnosis and other warnings from getting weapons. He also mentioned instituting the death penalty for hate crimes and mass murders.

But, you know, Poppy, we were talking a lot going into this, is this moment different in terms of how the country reacts and at least on gun control measures? Universal background checks does not appear that the President has moved significantly on that.

HARLOW: Despite 90 percent of republicans supporting them. I don't know if this moment is different. Let's hope so, but I don't know. If Sandy Hook wasn't different and Parkland wasn't different, why should we believe that this will be different?

Okay. So Jim and I would like to bring in all of our panelists now who just listened to the President with us.

Nia-Malika Henderson, we heard the President say, quote, mental illness pulls the trigger, not the gun. And he did bump stocks, for example, right? His administration did ban those.

But what he also did before Parkland is he rolled back an Obama-era regulation specifically aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It would mandate that certain information from the Social Security Department had to go out about people that were trying to buy guns to indicate if they were getting help for mental health issues, and his administration chose to take that away.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. You know, I guess this speech, in some ways, is sort of a diversionary tactic for this president. If you look at what happened in El Paso, right, it was about what Christopher Wray has been talking about, which is the rise of white nationalism, which is the rise of white supremacists and this ideology that this killer likely laid out in this racist essay.

So the President, you know, he wants to talk about video games, he wants to talk about mental health and he certainly doesn't want to talk about the ways in which he, in some ways, through his own speech, has -- I think, in some ways, if you're a white supremacist, you find the President's words possibly inspirational, possibly comforting. I mean, the white supremacist in there and the way that he sort of tries to absolve the President, he certainly points to him too, right? He essentially says the President is echoing his own thoughts.

So I think that's a big missing piece. But he talks about the white supremacy. In some ways, he says, oh, the nation needs to come together and really call these people out. I think his speech has been so horrific over these past four years as he's running for president and then as president. And this is a big problem, I think, that the republicans don't want to talk about, that this president obviously wants to talk about. They want to talk about everything else, video games in this sense, mental health, and as you point out, even in what he's done as president. It shows that he doesn't even really think that's an issue that he wants to address.

HARLOW: Pamela Brown, you were with us before the President spoke. You heard his words. What's your read on this from the White House at this moment?

BROWN: Well, a couple of things here, Poppy. What stuck out to me was the President was really focused on evil attacks, pinning this on mental health issues, an act of evil. And he clearly, from my view, stayed away from connecting these shootings to gun violence and proposing anything new in terms of gun reform. He only looked backwards, looking at the bump stocks ban that his administration did enact.

But, clearly, the President is not as forward-leaning on gun control as he has been in the past after other shootings, like the Parkland shooting, when you'll recall, he considered assault rifle bans, when he talked about raising the age limit for buying rifles, background checks. We didn't hear any of that today. And, of course, as we know, he backed away from those proposals under pressure from the NRA.

Something else that stood out to me was the President condemning white nationalism, white supremacy, his words, racism, but he didn't acknowledge his own role in fanning the flames. Instead, he pointed the blame at the internet, at social media.

And so the question is does the President have any acknowledgment of the role his rhetoric as the President of the United States might play in what happened in El Paso? We do know that he has called the invasions of people coming over at the southern border, that language was used in the manifesto connected to the gunman, though that gunman said he had his views before President Trump. But that was also something missing from the President's statements.

SCIUTTO: David Urban, let me ask you, because the question following these attacks is always what is different. What will be done now? The President Tweeted this morning the possibility of expanding background checks in exchange for immigration reform, yet the President came to the podium there and he did not mention that proposal again. He talked about video games. He talked about instituting the death penalty for hate crimes.

And I had a republican congressman on earlier, the only one who said yes to our request among 50 sitting GOP lawmakers. And he, again, pushed back on moving too quickly on background checks or on gun control measures. I wonder -- you're inside the Republican Party. Is there any change here? Will republicans vote for anything different now, particularly if they don't hear from the President there calling for a particular gun control measure or background check measure after these shootings?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, Jim, let me just start out by saying, like everyone, my heart goes out to all the families affected by this tragedy, both in Texas and in Ohio. It's horrific and I can't imagine what those families -- so my thoughts and prayers are with those families and their friends.

As to your specific question, Jim, you know, you could go back to 1966. You know, I was just looking at some articles and some data. 1966, at the top of the University of Texas bell tower, a shooter goes up and kills 15 people, injuries 30. That's how long this has been -- we've been talking about this. So I looked at Bill Moyers' statement, LBJ's Press Secretary --

SCIUTTO: You know, the numbers -- David, the numbers are going up significantly in recent years. I know it didn't begin yesterday. But you know the Department of Justice --

URBAN: No, no, Jim, it's going up.

SCIUTTO: And the weapons make the death toll go up.

URBAN: So -- yes. So just let me answer the question, Jim.


Give me a second, right? So I think that they need a holistic approach. I agree there needs to be much more common sense. We talked about the mental health background checks, right? You shouldn't be able to get a weapon if you're being treated for some sort of mental health issue, right? That's just common sense. I think common sense, things to be taken, background checks should be --

SCIUTTO: There's no evidence that these shooters were being treated for mental health. I mean, there's no evidence, David, that these shooters were being treated. And so the question is like what measure is going to happen now?

URBAN: Jim, I don't know. Listen, the Congress and the President need to sit down and really take something. I heard you earlier advocating for reducing clip size, right, that if you had a smaller clip, you don't kill as many people. That's absolutely true. But these people are twisted, Jim. They'll find ways around that, right? They'll tape two clips together. They can tape -- you've been in a war zone before, Jim. You see how you take a clip and you tape one and the other one upside down so you can change it quicker, right? You do that.

But these -- the people who are perpetrating these crimes aren't normal. You watched the shooter walk into the Walmart. He had hearing protection and eye protection. What kind of sick person puts hearing protection and eye protection on before he goes to slaughter people? I mean, it's --

SCIUTTO: I'm asking the question, what addresses that availability?

URBAN: I don't know, Jim. I mean, without banning, right, so you could advocate banning all assault weapons, all assault-style weapons, and then somebody is going to resort to something else. I mean, there has to be some sort of common sense approach taken here obviously to reduce this kind of incredibly activity that these unstable people get a weapon that could cause a lot more destruction than a normal -- let's say, a handgun with -- if you went back to a revolver.

But, Jim, let's not forget, machine guns have been around since the late 1800s, early 1900s. Gangsters and criminals used them in the Elliot Nasser (ph), John Machine Gun Kelly.

But listen, there has been -- what has been different? Machine guns have been available, Tommy guns. What has changed in American culture that makes people do what they're doing today? Weapons have been available for a very, very long time. Something has changed in society. Something has changed in American families. Something has changed in our culture that somehow --

HENDERSON: And something changed in the White House too. I mean, we have a president now where you have a manifesto where someone is calling out the President about his own speech, about Latinos. I mean, that certainly is something that has changed too if that's something you want to talk about. Do you see that as something that's changed as well?

URBAN: Yes. But the shooter says in the manifesto, why don't you take him at his own words. He said the President has nothing to do with this.

HENDERSON: Yes. But he's also acknowledging that the President's rhetoric is similar to his. That is also what he's -- he's not completely absolving him. He's saying don't point to the President who has a similar rhetoric as the shooter does.

HARLOW: I would just say I want to bring in the Congressman Gutierrez. But, David Urban, I would say Nia does make a point. Well, one thing that has changed -- a lot has changed. One thing that has changed is that the highest office in the land has seemed to make it okay to call people from other countries invaders and has said that congresswomen should leave this country, okay, minority congresswomen.

I'm not going to fight with you about this because I want all the voices in. I'm just stating a fact that that's one thing. You asked what has changed. That's one thing that has changed.

URBAN: But, poppy, it's an unfair jump to say that's advocating violence. It's unfair, Poppy. It is.

HARLOW: It's not an unfair jump to make when I (INAUDIBLE) that one thing that has changed, David Urban, is the rhetoric in this country.

URBAN: Poppy, when the gentleman shot up the republican baseball team, right, who was a fan of social media on the left and television on the left and politicians on the left, was there a human cry against those television personalities or those politicians that fueled the flames of that gentleman? I'm just asking a question.

HARLOW: Congressman Gutierrez, to you. You said one thing that has changed. I noted one thing that has changed.

Congressman Gutierrez, to you. The President just made a promise to our kids. He just said our kids are entitled to grow up in a world where this isn't their reality. And he said, and I quote, we vow to act with urgent resolve. Should the American people tomorrow morning, next Monday morning, expect anything different?

LUIS GUTIERREZ CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not hopeful. As much as I am grieving with the rest of the American people, I'm not hopeful. Let's remember that the Republican Party and evidenced by the fact that they won't show up on T.V., on CNN, to speak to this issue.

The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA. They do their bidding first and foremost. And until that ends, nothing is going to happen.


And I say to my Democratic Party candidates, let's stop being spineless and standing up. We passed in.