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Mass Shooters Kill 20 in El Paso, 9 in Dayton; Family Members Remembers Dayton Shooting Victim. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do about it? Mr. President, what are you going to do about it? No more questions. No more search for answers. How about solutions?

[07:00:09] NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got shots fired. We've got multiple people down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did see a child got shot. I saw bodies outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was an attack on the Hispanic and Mexican community, period.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This kind of hate is being legitimatized from on high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can just go and buy guns, kill people in broad daylight, broad nighttime. This has got to stop.

LETA JAMROWSKI, JORDAN ANCHONDO'S SISTER: She had a personality that would light up an entire room. She'd give anything for those kids. Even her life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a gun violence epidemic but also a hate epidemic. Until we confront that, we're going to keep seeing this.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill reporting on the ground, live from El Paso, Texas.

White supremacist terror. In just a few hours President Trump will address the nation, a nation battling, as you just heard, an epidemic of hate, an epidemic of mass shootings. CNN has been told the White House has been scrambling all weekend to come up with new proposals, but the president has struggled all weekend to come up with the words "white supremacist terror." He has not spoken them. Not from his golf resort in New Jersey. Will he say them this morning from the White House? And will he act on those words?

Now, the president did just write about gun violence. He says Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.

Now, background check legislation exists. The House passed it in bipartisan form. It is sitting in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't even allow a vote. Democrats in the Senate are calling for the Senate to return to Washington to vote on those measures.

Now, will Mitch McConnell move? Will the president's words this morning make -- make Mitch McConnell move?

It's important to note that CNN this morning has invited dozens of Republican leaders from Texas and Ohio to discuss gun violence with us. That includes Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Texas Governor Greg Abbott; Ohio Governor Mike DeWine; and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. None of them agreed to appear.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: John, here in El Paso, we are still waiting to learn the identities of all 20 victims who were shot and killed. Authorities have not yet released those identities.

We can tell you the gunman is in custody. Taken into custody without incident. And investigators say he's volunteering information. But he is also showing no remorse.

Among the 20 people killed, a young mother. She was there shopping for school supplies. She died shielding her 2-month-old son from gunfire, and then her family learned on Sunday that her husband was also killed.

In Dayton, police have released new surveillance video of the massacre there which shows people running for their lives. At this hour, investigators do not know what inspired the Dayton gunman to open fire and kill nine people.

Joining us now from Dayton is Donna Johnson. Her nephew, Thomas Nichols, was killed in the shooting this past weekend, and she joins us now.

Donna, first of all, our condolences to you, understandably, on your loss. We would rather not be talking to you under these circumstances, but I know it's an opportunity for you to tell so many people about your nephew and what he meant to you. And as I understand it, he was known as a gentle giant, Donna.


HILL: Dad of four. Four kids. Ranging in age from 2 to 8. I know that's got to be tough for you, that you're grappling with that, as well. He was all about love, from what I understand. Never said good-bye to you without telling you that he loved you. JOHNSON: Correct. Correct. He loved everybody. He'd walk in a room

with a big, beautiful smile and just let you know, hey, and give you a big, nice hug. And it's just a tragedy for no reason.

HILL: And you had seen him earlier on Saturday, correct?

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, ma'am. He got off of work, and we both was sitting down, watching television, eating Twizzlers, sharing Twizzlers from chair to chair, and just watching television and just talking and just -- just chilling like we always do.

He had got off of work. And we talked about how was work. And we got -- got ready to go our separate ways or whatever. And before he left, "I love you, Auntie."

I told him, "I love you, too."

[07:05:04] HILL: When you first heard about the shooting, were you concerned that he may be among the victims?

JOHNSON: When I first -- well, when I first got the initial phone call from his sister, she told me to get down to the Oregon District. And I was like, "What's going on?"

She said, "I need you to get to the Oregon District." And I jumped up immediately, and I came down here to the Oregon District. By the time I got here, there was police tape all over the place, and they was -- they had everything blocked off.

And I was calling his sister, like, "What's going on? What's going on?"

And she was like, "I think it's T.J."

And I said, "Where are you at?"

And she was like, "I'm up here by Ned Peppers."

And I had parked down on the opposite side of the Oregon District. And I walked to get to her. And I'm like, "What's going on?"

And she was like, "They said that T.J. was shot."

I'm like, "Are we sure?"

And she was, like, "They said that T.J. was shot."

And we stayed up here from -- hours. Just to find out later on that day -- morning, rather, that he was definitely one of the victims that was brutally gunned down.

HILL: That's a lot for you to take in, especially being there in that moment. I'm guessing these last 24 hours probably feel like a blur to you and feel like much longer than that.

You know, I mentioned that he is a dad of four. Four young kids. What will you tell them about their father? How will you honor him?

JOHNSON: We will honor him to let them know and let everybody know that he is just -- he was the best guy in the world.

This morning I woke up early this morning. I was looking on Facebook, and to see all of the love, comments that people had about him. Teachers, coworkers, everybody 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 would let those kids know -- and which they knew how much their father really and truly loved them.

And the thing of it is, is it's something that is going to be a big gap -- a missing gap in our family for a while. It's going to take a while for us to heal from all of this.

HILL: We've heard from a number of lawmakers. President Trump is -- is going to speak to the nation later this morning. What do you want to hear from lawmakers? From the president?

JOHNSON: I -- I would love for them to get ahold of this gun control, you know. The sad part about it is that all of these mass shootings, the one in Texas, the one here, a lot of people think, like, "Oh, this won't happen to me. This can't happen to me." And it will happen to you. And I would love for them just to get ahold of it.

I mean, you know, I understand it's a money-making business, but at what cost? At what cost? Family members are hurting, from their loved ones because someone is angry. And then they're able to get hold of a gun and just mow people down. And it's just unfortunate, and it's sad. And I wish they would do something about it.

They can do stuff about any other thing, and they can definitely do something about this gun. They can do something about this.

HILL: Donna Johnson, I hope they are listening to you this morning. Thank you for taking the time to be with us. Thank you for telling us more about T.J. Important to continue to honor that memory, as you said, so that his four children know what a force of love he was. Donna, thank you and our condolences again.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HILL: John, we'll send it back to you now. We'll see if -- if lawmakers do listen to Donna, to so many others who are calling for action this morning and, frankly, who have been for some time.

BERMAN: Her words, so simple, so poignant, so direct, and so true, Erica. They can do something about this. So what is the question this morning?

Joining me now is Andrew Gillum, former member of Tallahassee, Florida and a CNN political commentator; Terry McAuliffe, former governor of Virginia and a CNN political commentator; and David Gregory, CNN political analyst. David, I want to start with you. We are expecting to hear from the

president in a couple of hours.

And there are two things I want to address. And if I can sort of separate them this morning, to an extent. It's the epidemic of hate in America and the rise of white supremacy in these attacks that are going on. And then also gun violence.

First to the issue of white supremacy, David. The president has yet to call the attack in El Paso a white supremacist act of terror. And there are those wondering whether he will this morning and what it means that he hasn't so far.

"The Washington Post" has another take on it. And I just want to read this to you as I ask you what you think he needs to say this morning. "The Washington Post" says, "We know by now not to waste time calling on the president to do the right thing. He sows division and bigotry rather than promoting unity and understanding," David.

[07:10:13] So what will the president do this morning?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's so hard to predict, because of this record, because he has sowed that division. Because he's been such a demagogue and a nativist and a political opportunist. That he's failed to seize a moment of potential leadership to speak out against hate, against white supremacy, about terrorism. About failing to call the kind of threat to the country that we're seeing what it is.

We saw after 9/11 the country mobilized, because the government was motivated and mobilized against the kind of hate that was directed against America on 9/11. We saw President Clinton speak for the nation and capture the anger and the hurt and the shock after the Oklahoma City bombing.

But this is a different kind of leader who doesn't want to go big. And the great danger in this moment is that we yet again fail to get beyond the kind of kind of template of our culture, our broadcast cable and social media culture that divides so many people, and to go big. To call the threat what it is. To call the problem what it is. And to mobilize the government and the people of the country to do something big.

Again, I don't think this president has it in him, because he spent so much time doing the opposite. And yet, as I was speaking to a veteran of a Republican administration recently, what the president says matters. Always, for good and for bad. And that's the test before him.

BERMAN: I don't think that's in any more direct relief than it is this morning. No question about that, David.

On the other hand, Andrew Gillum, Beto O'Rourke had a moment last night which I think speaks to the frustration many have when it comes to this president. And speaks to the frustration that many have when it comes to even asking the question what can he say this morning to make it better?

Listen to what former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who is running for president, said last night when asked, is there anything in your mind the president can do to make things better?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything in your mind that the president can do to make this any better?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What do you think? You know the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) he's been saying. He's been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.

I don't know -- like, members of the press, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Hold on a second. You know, it's these -- it's these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he's been doing in this country.

He's not tolerating racism. He is promoting racism. He's not tolerating violence. He's inciting racism and violence in this country. So you know, I just -- I don't know what kind of question that is.


BERMAN: Mayor Gillum, what do you make of that?

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The president of the United States has forfeited any moral ground under which he could lead this country at this time in this really painful moment where people really are looking for leadership, moral clarity.

Absolutely, he should call this what it is: white supremacist terrorism in this country. But the truth is, is that he may not have loaded the gun, but he absolutely is responsible for the bullets. He has sown seeds of hatred, and that's not an overreaction.

When you call people race -- rapists, roaches, when you dehumanize people, when you say that there is equivalency on both sides when you're talking about racists and people who act against them. These are the kinds of seeds that this president has sown using words like invasion, a military style word.

And then you get surprised when someone decides to take you seriously, picks up arms, military-style arms, drive eight hours to go and mow down the people who you've told them are invading this country.

And then you think at 10 a.m. today, we're supposed to listen to your words and believe that you have some emotional connection to the traumatic loss that people are feeling right now? This is a crazy. What I want to hear from this president is I want to hear a plan.

What I want to hear from this president is I want to hear a plan. Yes, you ought to call this what it is. But you also ought to call Congress back to Washington, D.C. You ought to ask them not only to pass the most anemic form of gun reform by having background checks become universal, but you should also call for a ban on assault-style weapons, weapons of war.

You should also, Mr. President, call for the Congress to ban these kinds of weapons and put limits on the kind of size of artillery that can be put into these guns.

And I don't want to hear anybody say anything about good people being able to have a gun and respond to these incidents. It took 30 seconds for nine people to be killed and over 20 other folks to be injured last night. Thirty seconds before law enforcement could respond. That was the quickest response that any of us could have asked for. Yet, there's carnage all over the place. And the president has to take responsibility for that and demonstrate some real leadership for a change.

[07:15:18] BERMAN: So Governor McAuliffe, the president moments ago floated what appears to be some kind of deal on background checks here.

He said, "Republicans and Democrats must come together to get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform."

Now, I do want to note before I ask you to weigh in here --


BERMAN: -- there is background check legislation that's passed the House, with some Republican votes, that is sitting and waiting in the U.S. Senate for action right now. But Mitch McConnell has chosen not to act. It would expand background checks to gun shows, close the loophole in some person-to-person sales, and it would extend the waiting period from three to ten days. So that legislation exists. All it takes is a vote.

MCAULIFFE: That's it. And you asked what the president should do today.

I'll remind you that we are exactly one week away from the second anniversary of Charlottesville, where that day the president of the United States should have stood up in front of the cameras and condemned white supremacy and the neo-Nazis. I talked to him that day. He said he was going to do it. He refused, did not do it at the end of the day.

So here we are, two years later. We're in a very similar situation. So the president has to do two things, in my mind, today.

He ought to get up in front of the cameras, and No. 1 -- I know this is hard for Donald Trump -- but he ought to apologize. And he ought to say to the American public, "My rhetoric has gone too far. And I'm asking all Americans to come together. I'm speaking to the young people today. Stand down, stop the hatred." And he ought to say, "Listen, I'm responsible for some of this, and I was wrong." That would go a long way. And as David talked about, what presidents do in a very important time

in our nation's history, this is a big moment for Donald Trump. He has to change.

Can he do it? I really don't know.

The second thing he needs to do is look at the camera today, and we're talking about all this guns legislation. He ought to say, "I want the Senate and the House to come back immediately. I'm looking to Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader," and say to him on camera, "Mitch McConnel, I want you to call a vote. We've got to have universal background checks. We've got to shut the gun show loophole. We've got to get rid of these assault weapons. We've got to get rid of these high-capacity magazines." That's what the president should do.

And if he puts the Republicans in the Senate very right there and say, "You have to do this," because they do whatever he wants, and they never speak up. Even though they disagree with him, they never speak up. This is a time for him to show real leadership. "I'm sorry for the grief that I've caused."

I mean, think of it. This is the first time a president goes before the nation, and there's a question of whether he is culpable for the issues that he's about to address. Usually, a president gets up to be the moral leader. This time, the president has a responsibility because of his words.

This is a big moment for President Trump. He ought to stand up and do the right thing and turn our country around and bring us together.

BERMAN: David, I'm out of time. So in ten seconds or less, any chance he stands up and actually says he's sorry, A? And B, to the question of action in the Senate, given that this legislation exists, might this be, after everything we've seen in the years, the moment where some kind of deal could be struck?

GREGORY: I don't think the president has it in him to what Terry is talking about. But he has an ability to direct a national conversation, to talk about the issue of guns; to talk about hate, white supremacy; to really get a focus on what government can do and have that extend into our kind of -- how tribal we've become, how easy we will demonize each other in our media structures today. He's got that potential. He's got the audience. We'll use it.

MCAULIFFE: We're done with talking. Let's do something.

BERMAN: Time for solutions. No more of a search for question or search for answers. It's the time for solutions.

Governor Terry McAuliffe, Mayor Andrew Gillum, David Gregory, I really do appreciate your time this morning.

Up next, what message does one of the president's most vocal supporters have for him hours before the president addresses the nation? Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:23:02] BERMAN: In just hours, President Trump will address the nation from the White House, delivering his response to the two mass shootings over the weekend. A lot of people are taking issue with the explosive rhetoric he has used, rhetoric that mirrors the screed written by the El Paso murderer. This is language the president has used since his campaign began. Listen.


TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people. On both sides.

These are rough, rough people in many cases. And if they're allowed to break through our borders, only larger and bigger, we have emboldened these people. It's not going to happen.

Yes, sir, we have barbed wire going up. Because you know what? We're not letting these people invade our country.


BERMAN: Invade. Invasion. The very language that was in the screed written by this killer in El Paso.

Joining us now is Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director, author of "Trump: The Blue-Collar President."

Anthony, thank you for being with us this morning.

I can tell you've been doing thinking over the weekend about all of this.


BERMAN: These are issues facing the country right now. And again, I know you've been struggling with them, as well. Issues of hate and issues of gun violence.

If we can, I would like to separate the two in our discussion this morning a little bit. First, to the president's speech this morning. We just heard former Governor Terry McAuliffe say the president should apologize to the nation for some of the language he has used and the language that appeared in that killer's screed in El Paso. Is there any chance of that in your mind?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, you know, I don't think the president's going to apologize. He's spent 40 or 50 years with a strategy of never apologizing. He's probably apologized a few times in his life, but this will likely not be one of those times. [07:25:02] But I think what's instructive here and, hopefully, people

around him are telling him this. When you're sending out tweets that can be perceived as racist -- again not saying he's racist, but can be perceived. Or you're saying things that can be perceived as white nationalist, what ends up happening is you get a group of people that are pretty fired up.

Also, go back through history. The presidency is a bully pulpit. Teddy Roosevelt said that you could use it to control the news cycle and you could use it as a gigantic worldwide megaphone to express your ideas and your values.

And so what's happening now is, unfortunately, we have lunatics, and there's mental illness in our society. It's very, very painful to watch that.

And so when a president uses rhetoric that, frankly, he doesn't even need to use. You know, he's got so many good things going on in the economy, there would be no need to use this sort of rhetoric.

So it will be interesting to see what happens in the speech, but you know, John, what I would tell you is that the NRA is basically an emperor without clothing right now. And what Terry McAuliffe said is totally true. The president could use his strength with the Republican Party and get something done on these gun control laws.

BERMAN: And I do want to talk about guns, because you have a different position, frankly, than the president has on guns and the Republican Party has; and you've held that position for a long time. We'll come to that.

But on the language, it was interesting. You were describing the threat that language can pose. There's a phrase for that that has developed over the last few years. Stochastic terror. It's the notion that no, no one ordered this person to go commit the terror attack, but over time, statistically speaking, attacks will happen if people in power, if people who have a megaphone use this language, because these evil people will use it as an excuse.

Do you see that happening here?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, there's definitely -- there's definitely linkage. But I think it would be unfair to blame the president. You can't say that it's the president's fault that there's a mentally ill person that used his language to go out and kill people.

BERMAN: Right, but it's his fault -- you agree that it's his fault he's chosen the words? But he -- it's only his fault that he has chosen the word "invaders," correct?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. But he should not be -- he should not be using those words. He's the leader of the free world. The country stands for these ideas. The first name of the country is "united." It's not "disunited."

It also stands as a beacon of hope for civilization around the world. Lincoln called it the best -- the last best hope for mankind. So he is the successor of Abraham Lincoln.


SCARAMUCCI: He has to handle himself and comport his language in a way that would let people see him in that way.

And so when you're saying stuff like this or you're tweeting stuff about Elijah Cummings's robbery, it's just nonsensical. And if you're saying, "Well, I need to do that, because people are up against me in the media," or "I need to do that because I'm combating things," it's nonsensical. You won the presidency. You've got a great hand and you've got create policies going on around the country.

BERMAN: As a -- as a supporter --

SCARAMUCCI: Knock it off. There's no -- there's no reason to do it.

BERMAN: As a supporter of the president, when you see the language that he uses in this document written by the killer, how does it make you feel, Anthony?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, again, you know -- forget about the killer for a second. Just look at the language itself. You can't attach the killer to the president. That is totally, in my opinion, not fair.

But if you just look at the language itself and if you're sitting around with him putting a speech together, or you're sitting around with him, thinking about a campaign idea or a campaign policy, you've got to say, "Hey, you're the president now. You're not running for office. I mean, this -- you're the president of everybody." This sort of stuff is going to turn off a lot of people.

BERMAN: But Anthony -- Anthony --

SCARAMUCCI: And it's going to strike fear in people.

BERMAN: It's going to -- it's going to and --

SCARAMUCCI: You're -- Let me finish, John. Let me finish.

BERMAN: Let me just ask this now.

SCARAMUCCI: You're making the point --

BERMAN: Why does he do it? Why does he do it?

SCARAMUCCI: You're making the point that it incited the guy.

BERMAN: I didn't. I'm not making that point. I'm saying it's the same language.

SCARAMUCCI: Why does he do it?

BERMAN: And I'm asking you how it makes you feel.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. BERMAN: Why does the president use this language?


BERMAN: Because it's a choice. It's a choice, and it's a choice over a long period of time.

SCARAMUCCI: I think he -- I think he -- you know, look. He would have to answer that question. I can only surmise that he thinks that there's value to creating this sort of combativeness and this sort of combustibility. He thinks it's value to his base, that it's perhaps stoking them up.

I mean, I think one of the fears that they would have, if you look at the polling numbers, that they have to get the base out with the highest level of participation possible.

And so he may be thinking that this sort of stuff is helping his base. I would argue otherwise. I would say that his base is probably with him. He needs to attract moderates and independents and rebuild a coalition to win in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. And I think the way he's going about it, with this sort of rhetoric and this sort of nastiness, doesn't make any sense.

If he makes a speech today and says, "Look, the Republicans, we all know --"