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INSIDE POLITICS

At Least 30 Killed In Two Weekend Mass Shootings; Former NSC Officials: Make Domestic Terrorism A Higher Priority; Death Toll Rises to 22 in El Paso Mass Shooting. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Time and time again.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But then I want to just end with this, that's not enough. Change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington. We didn't get women's rights, civil rights, and worker's rights by waiting for people in Washington, we demanded that change.

This is a time for American activism to hold their leaders accountable for what is going on and demand from them the change that's necessary. This is not about sitting back and waiting. This is about making the change happen. BOLDUAN: Senator, thank you for coming on, I really appreciate you jumping on the line.

BOOKER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Senator Cory Booker right there.

A programming note, also coming up today, CNN exclusives happening tonight as former Vice President Joe Biden is joining Anderson Cooper. That is 8 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

We are awaiting an update that should be coming from hospital officials at the Del Sol Medical Center. There's a live picture of the room we'll be taking you to soon. You're expected to get an update on the injured from the El Paso massacre. We'll have that soon. When it happens, we'll bring it to you.

Stay with us, please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:42] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The number is now 30. Thirty people killed, nearly 1,600 miles drive apart, now forever linked by two shootings in the span of just 13 hours. And as we continue to get new details about how their lives were taken, we also are starting to get a sense of how they lived.

Erica Hill joins me now with their stories. I mean, if you consider going into a Walmart, anywhere in the country on a Saturday morning, you're going to get a broad swath of the community, ages, races, different walks of life and we're seeing that here. ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's everything that we're learning. And we're learning that in Dayton too, a mix of people. So, in Dayton, nine people as you know were killed. Some new details on some of those victims coming to us in just the last hour or so.

Nicholas Cumer, 25-years-old. He was a grad student in the Master of Cancer Care Program who's actually finishing up an internship. His professor released a statement calling him a special person who was humble and sincere, saying that the loss of Nick has left a hole in his family, our campus, our band family, he was instrumental (INAUDIBLE) in the marching band and each one of us as fortunate to have called him a friend.

Also killed in Dayton, another 25-year-old and a father of four young children ages two to eight, Thomas McNichols. He goes by T.J., his aunt Donna Johnson, joined me earlier and told me he was a gentle giant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONNA JOHNSON, AUNT OF THOMAS MCNICHOLS, DAYTON SHOOTING VICTIM: To see all of the love, comments that people had about him, teachers, co- workers, everybody, it was like, oh, I know him. I know him. That was the sweetest guy. He had the biggest smile. He gave the best hugs or whatever. And I will let those kids know, and which they knew how much their father really and truly loved them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And the other victims in Dayton range in age from just 22, the shooter's sister, Megan Betts, all the way up until 57. And here in El Paso, as you mentioned, such a range of people who were in the Walmart on that day including a young couple people in their 20s, Jordan and Andre Anchondo who leave behind three young children including a two-month-old baby boy who was shielded as his mother tried to protect him from the bullets. Leo Campos and Maribel Hernandez had just dropped their dog at groomers then made their way to Walmart in the morning. And also 86-year-old Angie Englisbee, her family was looking for her before finally their worst fears were confirmed. The same happened for Arturo Benavides' family.

In all, as you mentioned, 30 people, 21 at the Walmart here behind us. And we are now starting to learn more about, as you said so aptly the lives they lived. And it is so important that that is what we remember.

BLACKWELL: And there are still dozens of people who were injured, some of them still in the hospital. We're expecting that update from Del Sol Medical Center.

Erica Hill, thank you so much.

For more information about how you can help the victims of these mass shootings, you can go to cnn.com/impact to learn how. Still ahead, six former National Security Council officials sending a firm message to the federal government. Make domestic terrorism a higher priority. One of those officials joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:41:50] BOLDUAN: As El Paso and Dayton mourn the loss of now 30 victims, the country is now faced with a very serious reality, the rising threat of domestic terrorism. In just the past few months, the number of white supremacist domestic terrorism cases has grown significantly. Do not take my word for that. That is according to the FBI. And that has brought now together six former counterterrorism directors for presidents of both parties, coming together penning a letter demanding that the U.S. Government do more and do better.

They write this in part. "We call on our government to make addressing this form of terrorism as high a priority as countering international terrorism has become since 9/11."

Joining me now is one of the authors of this statement of this letter, Joshua Geltzer. He's a former senior director at the National Security Council under President Obama. Thank you so much for being here.

JOSHUA GELTZER, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Thanks for the invitation, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course. At the end of your letter, you write we simply cannot wait any longer. Why now, Joshua?

GELTZER: Look, the past few days have been particularly awful. But really this has been gathering for months. We've seen this surge in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil by individuals who are not connected to Al Qaeda, they are not inspired by ISIS, they are instead driven by white supremacists, neo-Nazi, other ideologies like that. That has not been the focus of U.S. counterterrorism for the past couple of decades and clearly, we need to catch up.

BOLDUAN: If more resources are needed, that to me says that it is not in place right now, of course. What is lacking right now? What isn't being done?

GELTZER: I think there are a few things that can and should be done right away. First, we need to take the existing federal statutory definition of terrorism and attach criminal penalties to it. That's not currently a crime right now. There's a crime of international terrorism but there's no federal crime of domestic terrorism. That should change.

There's another thing that should change, the National Counterterrorism Center which was set up after 9/11 to be the intelligence hub for international terrorism is not permitted by federal law to work on these types of groups and actors. That should change too. BOLDUAN: It seems -- I'm sure it involves a lot but that seems like a pretty, I don't know any other way to say it than a duh moment. Like it should be done. If that's what their job should be. Obviously, I'm a layman when it comes to those types of things though.

But I mean, one thing that the president focused on, Joshua, this morning in talking about what he wants to see -- what he prescribes in the aftermath of these two shootings is he took on violent video games as like a driver or a cause of what we're looking at. I wanted to know what you think of that. I mean, are violent video games or the use of violent video games something that you ever looked at as part of assessing a threat?

GELTZER: Look, I really think the president should start with himself on this. He is putting out via tweet, via statement all sorts of language that those of us who work in counterterrorism never ever dreamed we would see from a president of the United States. It may not encourage violence but it indulges the notion that immigrants somehow constitute an invasion or something like that.

[12:45:02] I have kids, I do worry about violent video games. I'm sure there's more we could do as a society on that or on mental health issues which deserve resources and focus they don't get. But if I'm President Trump, I'd start with my own language and what it does for violence in this country.

BOLDUAN: I'm really interested in your take on that because I just had Cory Booker on, running for president, obviously, the senator from New Jersey. And he says along with most of the 2020 candidates, that he says the president is responsible for these attacks because of fomenting the anger and racial division that he does. Do -- in what you see in the growing threat of white supremacist threats in the country, do you see a connection between words that come from the president's mouth and the attacks of this weekend?

GELTZER: Words that come from the president's mouth matter. You can never draw a perfect causal chain. But when you see the president picking up on what are standard tropes in the white supremacist community, some of these tropes go back to even the Civil War. The idea of referring to certain immigrant or minority communities as dirty or filthy. The idea of describing immigrants as constituting an invasion.

Those who are listening in certain crowds, they think the president is indulging, maybe even encouraging them in the views that they hold based on those ideas, based on those trigger words in a sense. And that's a really dangerous place for our country to be.

BOLDUAN: Joshua Geltzer, thank you for being here. The final line in the statement, you along with five other counterterrorism directors that span administrations, we simply cannot wait any longer. Thanks for being here.

GELTZER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the city of El Paso still grappling with Saturday's attack. Joining us next is an El Paso native who says the shooting was more than a quote-unquote stab in the heart for his hometown but to the heart of his people.

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[12:50:36] BLACKWELL: Breaking news now, another person has died as a result of the mass shooting here on Saturday in El Paso, Texas. That means that 22 people were killed in that shooting at the Walmart behind me. That's according to medical officials here in El Paso.

It's also the hometown of my next guest, Richard Parker. He is an opinion writer for the New York Times. Now, in a new op-ed he writes this, here's part of it. "The El Paso massacre, and that's what it is, it's not a mass shooting but a premeditated massacre, was the inevitable by-product of the Trump era's anti-immigrant and anti- Latino in invective which with its pervasive vile racism has poisoned our nation. El Paso-Juarez is a big, bustling desert city of over two million, straddling the U.S. and Mexico. My hometown has virtually zero modern history of ethnic strife. El Paso alone is over 80 percent Hispanic. We switch from English to Spanish without skipping a beat and we are fine with that. But the Trump era is not."

Richard is with me now. Richard, we talked a little bit before we came on. You watched what the president said today from the White House, and it's safe to assume you were not satisfied with that?

RICHARD PARKER, OPINION WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES: No one should be, frankly. I can't imagine that people in El Paso will be after this. The discussion of this killing as somehow being the result of mental illness or video games is the new thoughts and prayers, frankly. But I think even worse on the part of the president was his tweet this morning tying immigration laws to making this community safe again from this kind of horrific gun violence? That was frankly just salt in the wound by the president of the United States.

BLACKWELL: You know, the alleged shooter in this document that was found online being called a manifesto says that El Paso and you know this community, it's your hometown, is it indicative of what is wrong with America, the blending of races. To that ideology, you say what?

PARKER: I say, well, many of us in El Paso are of blended ethnicities and races, myself included. My mother is a Mexican immigrant and my father came to Texas from Arkansas. And so what he is attempting to do is to deny reality. The majority of people in Texas are already Hispanic. That is not in the future, it is today.

And so this kind of ideology has no place in the 21st century, no place in the city of 2.3 million people. And most importantly, it has no place in modern Texas.

BLACKWELL: It appears that this -- at least the aftermath is much like what we've seen before, that some people will point to mental illness, they're bringing back video games again, as if China doesn't have video games and Japan doesn't have video games and they don't have the mentally ill, or 21-year-olds. What is different about this moment? Is there anything do you expect will be different after this shooting here?

PARKER: The indelible difference of this shooting from any other, and I actually think there's no research to support that mental illness explains that we have 250 times as many mass shootings as other developed nations. But the main thing is that this was a calculated, ethnically-driven hate attack aimed at Latinos. It was the largest massacre of Latinos in American history. The last such one took place in 1918 and cost 15 lives. This one superseded it in a matter of moments.

BLACKWELL: If the president is saying now what he said -- listen, the president is getting plaudits online for invoking white supremacy. He did the same thing, August 14th after Charlottesville and then the next day he said there were very fine people on both sides. Same room, same podium.

PARKER: Right.

BLACKWELL: What should everyone else do knowing what the playbook is? What are you expecting or hoping for from everyone else?

PARKER: I actually think that this is going to be a pivotal moment in the history of Texas. And that's very important politically. To think about it, these two incidents took place back-to-back in two crucial states in electoral terms, Ohio and Texas. This is going to have consequences in Austin. The governor now is under tremendous pressure to do something. This is the third mass shooting in Texas in two years.

So I don't think that the status quo will suffice. I wouldn't predict that it's going to change overnight, but the pressure has now become far too great.

[12:55:02] BLACKWELL: Well, Richard Parker, thank you so much for being with us. And I know this being your hometown, you know how people here are feeling and are speaking with several of them. Thank you for speaking with us.

PARKER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, to follow the latest in the investigation and breaking news here in El Paso, we're going to stay here, obviously, but Kate, let's send it back to you in New York.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Victor. And thank you for being there on the ground, I really appreciate it.

We do have some additional breaking news on a very different front that we want to bring to you, though. The DOW is taking a major hit right now, down over 700 points. It's been bouncing back and forth but staying down over 700 points for quite a bit. The NASDAQ is also on pace to be posting its worst losing streak since before Trump was elected.

There's much more on that to come. We are going to be keeping an eye on that and bring you all the details on that. But also, I just want to thank you for joining me today and thank Victor for being here with us for a very tough and honestly just a very sad two hours that we've had to report on.

For our viewers in the United States, our special coverage continues. For our international audience, AMANPOUR is next.

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