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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Addresses Nation On Mass Shootings. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

LUIS GUTIERREZ, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Going to happen. And I say to my Democratic Party candidates, let's stop being spineless and standing up. We passed a 1993 -- the Brady Bill. We passed an assault weapons ban. We have to reexamine our relationship, this relationship in America and that Americans have with guns, and how it is.

And lastly, let's remember one thing. This is the President who began his campaign by saying Mexicans are murderers, rapists, they're drug dealers, we need to get rid of them. This is a President of the United States that calls people like me who come to the United States of America, breeders, animals, and he has no self-examination today in his comments.

He said that those that are prejudice and bigotry and hatred are heartless, don't have a heart, don't have a soul. Well, Mr. President, by our own words, you are heartless and soulless because you have been the propaganda chief of hatred here in the United States of America.

And, look, black people can't go to church unless they're assassinated by a white supremacist. Jews can't go to the synagogues, Latinos can't go shopping, Muslims can't go to the mosque. People live in fear because of hatred.

And, yes, we need a war, a war on terrorism here in the United States of America to eradicate. But the first thing we need to do is the President of the United States has to stop, has to stop igniting the flames of hatred and bigotry and division in this country. We all bleed the same, we all defend this nation when it comes under attack. We are all Americans, not just you, Mr. Trump, and the people you want to vote for you. Represent us all.

I don't believe any of what you said today. You have no legitimacy and you have no standing until you have your own personal self- examination about the contributions that you have made to white nationalism and white supremacy and its rise in the United States of America.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: David Urban, what is your response to -- I just would like to let David Urban respond to that. David?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, Poppy, listen. You know, Congressman Gutierrez has his perspective, which I don't agree with. I again would go back and say I do believe we need some common sense. The Congress of the United States, I agree with the Congressman Gutierrez, that Congress needs to get into action and really find some common sense things they can do about -- you know, to deal with the gun problem in America.

Look, in his state of Illinois in Chicago, more people die every week, every month from gun violence than do in the shooting. There needs to be a holistic approach so Americans could be safe in their homes and not worry about being killed anywhere.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: John Avlon, let me ask you a question.

GUTIERREZ: Here's the problem. Donald Trump doesn't care about inner city people that live in Chicago. He doesn't care about people that live in Chicago and that are dying because of gun violence. He doesn't care. He simply wants to use us as a foil to speak to his political base.

Look, the fact is the President of the United States must stop inciting violence in America. He is the inviter in chief of the violence that we are living in America. He has a huge platform. And there was no self-examination of his own contribution.

Stop calling people like me breeders. Stop calling people like me murderers. My mom and dad are great people. My children are great people. We came to America to contribute. Stop demonizing us. We love our neighbors and care for our neighbors. And we have contributed to the great success and democracy of what is America.

Stop using us as political pawns in your game of re-election. The American people should be -- first of all, look, we're going to be back here in two weeks, and here's what I predict, nothing happened because this president will not act.

The last time we had the Brady Bill, the last time we had assault weapons ban, we had a democratic president and a democratic house and democratic -- and you know what the republicans did? They used our advancement of gun control to take and make sure we didn't have a majority in the House of Representatives. They used it against us.

So, look, we have to stand up for the American people. Yes, my heart broke. Let's stop allowing people to break the hearts of the American people as they watch these deaths occur each and every day on T.V. And let's just say the President, you must have a self-examination and a self-reckoning with your own words and your own contribution to the death and the mayhem that exists in America today.

[10:35:00]

URBAN: Jim and Poppy, listen. I was just going to say, listen, to the Congressman's point, there have been plenty -- again, to go back, 1966, this is when this started. There was a democratic president then. There have been plenty of democratic presidents and democratic congresses with democratic majorities to move common sense gun legislation forward. America needs to act. We do need to do things. There needs to be a holistic approach. You can't just make away magazines and think everything is going to be better. We need a holistic approach to this and we really do need to address it if America needs to be safer.

GUTIERREZ: But the Republican Party is owned by the NRA. It has to -- it's owned by the NRA. The President of the United States, when he won this election, went to the NRA. They contributed tens of millions of dollars to his campaign. They are foremost against any, any attempt by the legislative branches of government and by the executive branches of government --

(CROSSTALKS)

SCIUTTO: One at a time please, gentlemen. We're not getting anywhere when you're talking over each other. David, a quick response and then I want to get to John Avlon.

URBAN: Yes. I was just going to -- look, I was going to -- and just again, you know, there have been, democratic majorities in the House and the Senate but with large margins with democratic presidents.

You know, Congressman Gutierrez is not telling the truth when he says this is simply the republicans holding up the world. It's not true. You're not being honest, Congressman.

SCIUTTO: David, the facts are you know as well as me that the NRA ratings for republican congressmen matter. And if they vote for gun control legislation, they get primaried. That's a fact.

John Avlon, the question following these things --

URBAN: Jim, they mattered for democratic congressmen as well.

SCIUTTO: Okay.

URBAN: So you can't lay this at the feet of the Republican Party.

SCIUTTO: David, did democrat-controlled house just passed a universal background check bill which has been blocked in the Senate? That's a recent example. It's a fact.

John Avlon, my question is to whether -- okay. You agree. But, John Avlon, for this broadcast, we asked 50 republican lawmakers to come on. The only one who said yes was Ted Yoho, to his credit.

But when I spoke with him a short time ago, he was repeating many of the positions we've heard from republican lawmakers following past shootings, back to mental health, talking about not rushing to a decision on universal background checks, he doesn't support universal background checks, and the President, while Tweeting this morning, that he might tie background checks legislation to immigration reform, did not mention new background checks legislation in his public statement there when he had an opportunity to do so.

Your read of the politics here, have they changed one iota after these attacks today? Is the dynamic any different?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It should be. But you saw the President go out in front on Twitter and call for universal background checks and it was notably omitted from his scripted remarks. What was that conversation like inside the White House? What pressure groups were calling and saying, you can't say that?

And, look, here's the real shame of it, is that this is a 90 percent issue. 90 percent of Americans support background checks. But it keeps being blocked a very small number of folks.

And David Urban is talking about a holistic approach, a common sense approach. Well, mental health may be part of it, video games may be part of it, but there are countries around the world that have mental health issues and video games but they don't have the kind of persistent mass murder that we see here in the United States because of gun violence, and so universal background checks ought to be part of that.

You know, let's not be naive about what can get through. But let's also not disagree about the fact that this has been blocked by Mitch McConnell, opposed by republican presidents over and over again. This is not an issue where there's mythic (ph) moral equivalence even a little bit.

HARLOW: You know what, Wes Lowery, as Jim aptly brought up, HR-8, bipartisan background checks after 2019 passed the House, 240 votes to 190. Eight republicans -- only eight republicans joined on HR-1112, bipartisan Background Checks Act, again, passed the House but didn't go anywhere in the Senate.

So how does Mitch McConnell answer these questions when this issue of background checks has 90 percent of republican support?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly. I mean, this has been an issue for a long time where the politics and our political representative system has been out of touch and undemocratic with what the will of the people is. If this went up for a national vote tomorrow, all of these things would pass, right? NRA will be very, very upset. But the reality is, because of the way our political system works, it's not a true democracy, it doesn't really matter the vast majority of Americans want many things that are considered common sense steps.

You know, going back to the President's comments though, because I do think it's very clear, it's very obvious, the republicans are the ones obstructing legislation to change the way guns operate in our country. We know that. We don't need to pretend this is on both-sides issue, right?

[10:40:00]

But going back to what the President's challenge was today, right? He had to deal with two crises, concurrent crises, the gun violence crisis in our country and the crisis of white supremacy and white domestic terror. He acknowledged one and did not acknowledge the other.

He acknowledged the white supremacist terror crisis we're dealing with. He met lowest bar. He named it what it was. He called it racist. He did not, as the Congressman notes, involve any introspection of the fact that this racist manifesto, the President's words, included the President's words, things like invasion.

But on the gun crisis issue, I do think that there was a refusal to name what it was. What we know is that -- what we know that we have a health crisis in the country, in terms of mental health crisis, but to demagogue these shooters and to make it about mental health, there's some danger too, right, that there are a number people deal with mental health and mental health crisis. The vast majority of them will never pick up a weapon and do something like this. In fact, what we know is that someone in the midst of a mental health crisis is more likely to be the victim of violence like this than to be the perpetrator.

Second, video games, I mean, we should be doing studies of Japan and China then. We don't -- you know, every country has video games. This reminds me of Marilyn Manson being blamed for Columbine, right? The reality is there is one thing that is different in the United States of America, and it is our guns and it si the availability of them.

I'm sure, would banning one type of gun get rid of the complete possibility of someone committing an act of terror, of course not. But the hope would be, and that we would get together, to take the most steps possible to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to commit an act like this.

It was mentioned earlier Tommy guns and machine guns. Well, guess what? Those things are illegal now and people can't walk into places and use them.

AVLON: And the important point to that, they've been illegal since the 1930s, right? I mean, you know, the President talked about mental health. Dave Urban talked about mental health. And one of the first things he did was overturn an executive order by Obama when he came in that dealt with gun access to folks with mental health issues.

So, I mean, you know, maybe that's a reversal, maybe it's some sign of progress but let's look at the whole field and not be naive, because that speech was about isolating, which is a lot of republican talking points that don't get to the heart of the issue we deal with too often in America.

GUTIERREZ: I'm not optimistic. I'm not optimistic about the future as long as this President of the United States is in the White House, as long as my republican colleagues are wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA. They respond to their beck and call each and every time. We should put Americans first.

Let's remember the people praying in their church. Let's remember the Jews praying in their synagogue. Let's remember Latinos going shopping. Let's remember that Americans are fearful of day-to-day activities because they could be mowed down. We need gun control, not just background checks. We need vigorous gun control. This is a war on terrorism. We should go after the terrorists.

HARLOW: You know, Nia, it just brings to my mind, it's a national embarrassment. I mean, who cares how strong our economy is or how strong our military is if Americans are killing Americans like this over and over and over again, Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, think that's right, only in America. This is a unique problem to this time in American history where you have this proliferation of guns. You can talk about mental health, you can talk video games all you want. But as Wes pointed out, certainly there are mental health issues in other countries, there are video games in other countries as well.

And the other unique part of this era is Trump's rhetoric on race, his rhetoric about black and brown people in the Republican Party's unwillingness to really talk about it and in some ways really pick up that language. If you look at John Cornyn's Twitter feed, for instance, some of the language in his Twitter mirrors some of the language in that manifesto from the killer in El Paso. So that is problematic.

You know, David Urban has a lot to say about Congress and what Congress needs to do. I wonder if he has any advice for what the President should do in terms of his language, talking about Mexicans as killers, talking about Mexicans as rapists, talking about Baltimore, talking about African countries in a disparaging way.

So all fine and good that he wants Congress to come together and sort of clean up their act and address gun control. But listen, the President also has a responsibility. I think most Americans agree to not be so disparaging towards black people, towards brown people in the way that we've seen him do time and time again, endless, countless examples of him really, I think, inciting this sort of rhetoric at his rallies. And, again, we saw it in that manifesto with this killer pointing out Trump's own rhetoric.

URBAN: Nia, to be fair -- you should be fair, and you know --

GUTIERREZ: Not only does the President of the United States go to rallies, in which people --

[10:45:00]

SCIUTTO: Let's let David respond, if we can, Congressman.

GUTIERREZ: The President of the United States -- okay, sorry.

URBAN: So, Nia, I think to be fair to me, you should recognize that I do call the President out each and every time. And every one of those instances you just talk about, I have said that the President should not do that. It is not helpful, it's not right, and I call him out each and every time. So I think you should be fair and acknowledge that.

HENDERSON: And you realize -- go ahead, Luis

GUTIERREZ: I think it's time to stop talking -- look, that's good that you call the President out. It's time to turn your back on this president. It's time to abandon and stop supporting this president.

URBAN: Congressman, you --

GUTIERREZ: As long as people do that, he will continue to speak to these issues. Yes, in America, sometimes you have to take on your own leader.

And I know what you're going to say, that we should do the same thing. Well, guess what? When Barack Obama refused to keep his promise on immigration, democrats are the ones that took him on, called him deporter in chief and had him change his ways.

People within the party have to take the President of the United States on. We did it in the past and we need to do it in the future today.

Look, the majority of people in America, in two polls, two nationally registered polls, a majority of people, how sad it is, believe the President of the United States is a racist. That's not me. I stand with the majority of the people of the United States of America. That's a sad commentary when the majority of people believe this president is a racist, a racist President of the United States of America.

SCIUTTO: Just a moment now. We have a reaction from Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio, and, of course, also a democratic candidate for president.

You may have noticed that when the President concluded his remarks, he seemed to reference the wrong city. Of course, the shooting was in Dayton but he said Toledo.

HARLOW: He did, yes.

SCIUTTO: That is Tim Ryan's response, Toledo, F me.

John Avlon, a moment where the President's -- John Avlon, where the President didn't seem to have specific knowledge of where this tragedy, nine dead people actually took place in the State of Ohio.

AVLON: The wrong city in Ohio. And presumably, I mean, you've got to imagine that's not in the teleprompter. I understand Tim Ryan's frustration from the great city of Youngstown, Ohio. These cities are not fungible. But it's about what emotional mark did this massacre make in your heart and in your mind. And then does it -- can you be bothered to remember the right city's name? And then can you focus on the real underlying issue?

In the history of mass shootings we've had in this country, and there have been far too many for far too long, what's new is the introduction of white nationalist terrorism that is on the rise in America. And the President checked the box by mentioning it, but he's got to do more than that. He's got to lead.

You know, Mitch McConnell said that criminal justice reform was dead. President Trump used his political power to get that passed. Is he going to show the same kind of sustained leadership or is this just going to be another speech undercut by a Tweet hours, if not, days later?

HARLOW: David Urban, I get that people make mistakes -- go ahead. Go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: To John's point -- I was just going to say, to John's point, in fairness, the President uttered words and phrases that he had not yet, one, being condemning white supremacy and also calling this domestic terrorism. And those are important steps because those were words that people were hoping to hear yesterday, calling on the President to call out definitively. And he did do that there and I think credit where credit is due, in fairness.

HARLOW: It's very important to hear it over and over again for exactly what it is. You're right, Jim, echoing what his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray, said very loudly in July.

David urban, your response to that hearing it from the President, the question becomes what happens with action? And then to the Toledo thing, I get that people make mistakes, but Dayton, Ohio has just suffered a huge massacre and the President didn't seem to know where that took place in a state that he says he is so representative of.

URBAN: Listen, the Toledo, Dayton, it's regrettable. I'm sure it's a slip-up and I'm sure the President is well aware that it took place in Dayton and not Toledo. To the previous point you made about the President calling out white supremacists and this hate crime and this terrible scourge that is affecting our nation, look, I think I heard him say that he's asked the Attorney General and the FBI to kind of focus on it and crack down. I suspect you will see it furthermore.

This is something that obviously ravages America, but no one is America is proud that this is happening on our shores. Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal office building in Oklahoma City. It's a terrible thing. We should attack it just like we attacked ISIS. It should be just as big a focus, internal terrorism.

[10:50:02]

And, look, our law should be fixed. There are numerous problems with FBI and their powers, what they can and can't do with terrorism on our own shores. That should be all eliminated to make sure that Americans are safe in their homes, are safe in their places of worship, are safe when they go to shop and don't have to fear these types of things.

There are gaps in our laws that need to be remedied, and they should be remedied.

HARLOW: Nia, we're hearing from other -- go ahead, Congressman.

GUTIERREZ: We watched the President of the United States go to a rally and the audience was there and they started chanting send her home, send her back. And then the President the next day said, oh, I didn't tell them to say that. He actually stepped away from it. And I said, wow, maybe he's seen something. Maybe he's walking away. Maybe he's going to change course. And you saw what happened one day later. One day later, it was like, hey, I can't control them. Maybe they'll say it again.

So we've watched this president. He cannot stop. He knows only one way, one avenue, one road to the re-election -- to his re-election as President of the United States, and that is to continue to pit us one against the other, and to continue his vitriolic, ugly xenophobic language, hate-filled language against immigrants. He's not going to change. He's not going to change. And the Congress of the United States is not going to unchain themselves from the NRA. Until we do that, we will not save America and make it a better and safer place.

HARLOW: Nia, I'd like to get your reaction to Senator Cory Booker, who his main issue in this campaign has been gun control. And he's even called out some of his fellow democratic contenders for the presidency for not going far enough, he thinks, on gun licenses, for example.

His campaign manager just Tweeted what Senator Cory Booker just wrote calling it a B.S., such a B.S. soup of ineffective words, as he listens to the President. We should quickly condemn his lack of a real plan. Nia?

HENDERSON: Well, you know, I think the President has made his feelings on all of this known for the last many years. I mean, in some ways, this speech was superfluous. I don't think it's going to remain in terms of any sort of focus on any of the issues he talked about, whether it's white supremacy, whether it's gun control, whether it's mental health, whether it's video games. I mean, this was a speech that he sort of felt like he had to give. There was a big void there.

I don't think anybody was really clamoring necessarily to hear from the President on any of these issues because we know where he stands on these issues. We know what he has seen -- what he's talked about when he talks about immigrants coming to this country. We have heard him talk about an invasion. We'd heard him talk about killers and rapists.

So the idea that now he can talk about white supremacists in one speech in the Oval Office, I don't think he's going to use his bully pulpit to go after white supremacists in the way that he has gone after immigrants. You know, I would be surprised if he goes at white supremacists with a sense of vigor he has gone after other folks in this country.

So, you know, I didn't really expect much from this speech. I don't think it has much staying power. I think what does have staying power is what we've seen from this president already in his speeches, on his Twitter account, and we've seen, in many ways, republicans, either through their silence or through their echoing his words as well, essentially rally around this president and the ways he wants to be racially divisive. And we see the ways in which it really matters in this country and the ways it can lead to violence.

SCIUTTO: The words matter, and we know they matter, because they're often echoed by people who carry out acts of violence.

I want to reference a particular one, Wes Lowery. This from a Trump rally in May of this year in Panama City, Florida. Have a listen to this and how the crowd responded. I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: But how do you stop these people?

AUDIENCE: Shoot them.

TRUMP: You can't. There's -- that's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: If you couldn't hear it there, the President said, how can you stop these people? He's talking about immigrants. And the crowd chanted shoot them. The shooter that came here to this Walmart in El Paso came targeting Mexicans, he said. He came to shoot them. Does the President's rhetoric matter in that context, Wes Lowery?

LOWERY: Of course it does.

GUTIERREZ: It matters. It matters a lot. He's the President of the United States that said famously, infamously, that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nothing would happen to him. This is the President of the United States, at his own political rallies, calls upon his supporters to use violence and says don't worry, I've got the bond money, I got the lawyer to get you out of jail.

[10:55:07]

This is the President of the United States that began his presidency by demonizing Latinos and Latino immigrants, by lying about us and by continuing his lie about other sectors of the American public.

So, look, words matter a lot. But I have to repeat that we're going to be back here in a couple of weeks and I am not hopeful with anything. We cannot protect our children, four, five, six-year-old children in grade schools, high school students, middle schools. We see them being assassinated and mowed down by assault weapons and we do nothing to protect our children. What do we expect the President of the United States to do? Protect immigrants? I doubt it. I don't believe it.

SCIUTTO: Listen, Congressman, we appreciate your passion on this and all of you. This is a difficult conversation. David, I know you were taking some hard questions here. This is a conversation America needs. We're going to continue to have it as best we can. Poppy and I thank you.

HARLOW: We thank you and we promise you, Jim and I, that we will stay on this. We can guarantee you that. We hope lawmakers do as well.

Thank you for being here, Jim. We'll be back with you in El Paso tomorrow, Jim, great reporting on the ground there. Thank you so much.

I'm Poppy Harlow. At This Hour starts next.

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