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Mass Shootings Take Place in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio; Authorities State Shooter in El Paso Motivated by White Supremacy to Kill Immigrants; President Trump Calls for Gun Reform Linked to Immigration Reform; Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) Interviewed Regarding Mass Shootings. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me live from El Paso, Texas, the site where 20 people were gunned down because, as they sheriff there said, an Anglo man wanted to drive 10 hours to kill Hispanics.

The nation is at a loss for words this morning. They can't even begin to capture the pain, the horror that comes from a another of hate filled mass shootings. Other words that we have not yet heard, "white supremacist terror." We have not heard those words from the president of the United States. Just a few short hours from now, two hours from now, to be exact, President Trump will address the nation. In what might be a preview of what he will say, the president wrote this just moments ago, he said "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform." He did not say anything in the tweets this morning about white supremacist terror.

We should note, CNN invited dozens of Republican leaders from Texas and Ohio to discuss gun violence with us this morning. None of them agreed to appear. That includes Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, and the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, John, here in El Paso, there are a number of questions this morning, specifically, who are all of these victims. That's because authorities still haven't identified everyone who was shot and killed. That wait of final confirmation is agonizing, as you can imagine, for the families. The gunman is in custody. He surrendered without incident. In fact investigators say he's volunteering information, but he's showing no remorse.

All of that as the memorial behind us continues to grow. People coming here even overnight to bring flowers, to pay their respects. A young mother shopping for school supplies is among those killed. She was shielding her two-month-old son, her third child, from gunfire.

In Dayton, police have released surveillance video of the massacre there, and at this hour, investigators are saying they don't know what inspired the gunman to open fire to kill nine people, John.

BERMAN: Chilling. Erica, we're going to come back to you on the ground in El Paso in just a moment. But as we await the president and his address to the nation, I want to bring in John Kasich, former Republican governor of Ohio and a CNN senior political commentator, Phil Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst. Governor Kasich, I want to ask you this morning, we will hear from the president in two hours. He is the president of the United States. What could he say this morning that could make a difference?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That I'm going to bring a group together and we're going to get on top of this, things that will include red flag law where we're going to go all across America and institute this, where if somebody is not stable that you have an ability through the courts to take their guns. That we are going to have comprehensive and complete background checks. And that we're going to look at other issues, including the multiple ammunition clips.

But you bring everybody together. You say I'm going to be in charge of this. I'm going to make sure that we come out with model legislation. There will be Republicans, there will be Democrats, there will be law enforcement, there will be community activists, there will be people of all types that will be there, and we will hammer something out. And we will not leave that room until we have unanimity. We'll then leave that room, we'll go to the Rose Garden, we'll make an announcement, and this will be the model for America. That would be the best thing. And no more negative, divisive rhetoric.

BERMAN: Do you think he needs to apologize for the language he has used?

KASICH: I don't know about that. I think that he can say -- let's see what he does going forward. Is he going to apologize? I don't know. I don't think that's going to happen. But what I will say is it's important for him to cease that kind of divisive language and to be able to move forward, John. In terms of apology, I don't know. Sure. Apologies are always to say, hey, listen, if I went over the line here with some people, I'm going to try not to do it again.

The other thing I would say is to link, somehow to link immigration reform with the gun control measures that are going to come forward if he does this I don't think makes any sense. This is not an immigration issue. This is an issue that involves violence, division, and this kind of horrific death, including in my state of Ohio. By the way, the people in the state of Ohio, the governor, the legislature should pass a red flag law within the next several weeks. You have a narrow window, because as you know, John, over time the media will change its emphasis, we'll get past this one, and say we'll say what did we do. This is the time to act all across America. The president needs to be the leader.

BERMAN: And again, I know you proposed legislation like that when you were governor in Ohio after the shootings in Las Vegas. And Governor Kasich just brought up a point there just to hammer this in, the president seemed to float the notion of tying new background checks to immigration law. [08:05:00] Phil, if I can, I want to expand to a term that I learned

over the weekend, which is stochastic terror, which is the idea that, no, the president didn't order anyone to commit an act of terror, that's not how it happens. But over time that the language used by a leader, you can make a statistical connection between violent attacks and the rhetoric that is out there. You've been in this. You've been in the field. You've watched this before, Phil. Do you think that's the case?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I wouldn't use that term. I did the business for a quarter century, I never remember hearing that term, but the concept behind it makes a lot of sense to me. Let me give you another term -- validation. That is, you have got 330 million Americans. Those 330 million Americans include people who are angry about immigration. If you take 100th of one percent of them who are looking to be validated, that is, looking for someone to tell them if you're angry about an immigrant you're OK. If that person the perhaps suffers from some sort of mental illness, if they're part of a group of people who believe that violence is OK, that small statistical size means that people will die.

By the way, this isn't unique to terrorism. I saw the same thing is one of the most horrific things I ever saw at the FBI, infant pornography. Because of the Internet if there's one millionth of one percent of the population who believe that infant pornography is something that motivates them, they are going to listen to somebody else on the Internet who says it's OK, and they are going to act. It just means that a certain percentage of the population, John, will take the message and do something with us.

BERMAN: Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist, joins this discussion now. And Maria, I don't know if you heard Governor Kasich say the president this morning should go in front of the American people and say I'm going to get inside a room with Democrats and Republicans and we're going to hammer out some kind of gun legislation. We are going to come up with answers. Now, I have heard Democrats say no matter what the president says, we won't trust him on that. But do you think he should at least try?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely he should at least try, John. And I think Democrats would be open to working with him, especially after three shootings in the last two weeks. We are at a point of crossroads in this country. Something has to be done.

But I think the president needs to do more. You ask Governor Kasich whether the president should apologize. Absolutely he should apologize, but he should do something more. In addition to doing all of the hard legislation that includes background checks, I think it should include a ban on assault weapons. I think it should include him putting a lot of money spot mental health issue, which I think is what, apparently, he believes is the root cause of this but of which his administration has stripped in the last couple of years since he's been in office.

He, in addition to all of that, John, should promise that he's going to cease dividing our country, that he's going to cease using the hatred, that he's going to cease using the divisive, inhumane rhetoric that he does both on Twitter and in his rallies. Because until he does that, those people who have been coddled by him, who have been inspired by him, the white supremacists out there who believed that he is one of them, are going to continue to believe that he is not just giving them a wink and a nod, but he's saying, hey, I'm with you on this. They are going to continue to take action, because you know what, John, he may not have done the actual shooting. He may not have put his hand on the trigger, but what he does do is he stirs the pot of violence, of bigotry, of hatred. And when you have that rancid, putrid potion in that pot, of course it's going to explode in resentment and in violence, which is what we have seen in the past three weeks.

BERMAN: And we've heard a number of Republicans come out over the last day, including Ted Cruz in Texas come out and call this white supremacist terror, call it by its name. The president has not, at least not yet. We'll wait and see if he does that this morning.

Governor Kasich, you know better than most the hold that President Trump has on the Republican Party. If President Trump walks out and says I want universal background checks, what do Republicans in Congress do?

KASICH: Well, listen, I think this is easy for them to get this done. I was for the 94 crime bill where we banned assault weapons, when I ran for governor against an incumbent, the NRA was all in against me, including many gun owners, and I won. This is not about what's my political calculation. You just said here -- Erica just said that people are still waiting to see whether their loved one is alive. Forget the politics here, my friends, forget the politics. This is about humanity. This is about somebody's family. Could be your family, if we don't do something.

[08:10:06] And there's another side of this, John. I'm sort of optimistic this morning that something will be done. And I'll tell you why, because I think it's a bottom-up issue. I think now people are demanding -- including gun owners -- let's do something here that's rational. Let's do something here that can make a difference.

And if the media will remain focused on this and not drift away from this over the period of next seven to 10 days, I think we're going to see things happen. I'm optimistic that at some point something is going to happen in Ohio because I believe that people here are going to say we want you to do something. And if you don't, we're going to put the heat on you. That's what happened in Florida with the Parkland students. When they got engaged, when they got involved, they passed massive gun reform in Florida in a state where you never would have thought it would happen.

The people of this country are in charge and they need to make their voices heard and not move on quickly. Then we can get something significant done. We'll never totally solve this problem in this country, but we can make progress.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd, are you optimistic? Governor Kasich, what he says is true, in Florida it did happen, but not nationally. There was no action taken inside the U.S. Congress.

MUDD: You look at the shooting in Las Vegas, and you would have anticipated after that you could have taken more significant action. It didn't happen. I point in terms of the question not only on action but on language what happened last August, when we had an individual in Florida who started sending what appeared to be explosive devices to people, including journalists. He was motivated, he said he was motivated by the president's language about journalists. What does the president say? He still denigrates journalists know that there are people out there, statistically there's a percentage of people out there who will take his words seriously. I think we might see a little action. I don't anticipate a lot in terms of language. I don't believe the president will apologize because it's going to be fake. I don't believe him either.

BERMAN: Maria, I do want to ask you. I know Democrats want a lot when it comes to guns, including, you mentioned, assault weapons bans, the ban on high capacity magazines. But do you think the Democrats, maybe while they still seek that, should pocket what gains might actually be available. There are these two House bills that already passed the House and are before the Senate right now. One would extend the waiting period to 10 days from three days. I think that's something that Governor Kasich on top of you right now there agrees with, and also expanding background checks, which is something that eight Republicans voted to support in the House. Should Democrats try to pocket those if Mitch McConnell would allow it to get to a vote?

CARDONA: There's no question about that, John. Yes, they should. They should take those gains, because I think that is something clearly Democrats have demonstrated they want. Clearly Democrats have demonstrated that there is national support for this, not just among Democrats, but as you said, among Republicans, among independents. They should absolutely take that. It already passed in the House. I think it would be small gains, but I think it would go a long way towards demonstrating that this is something that we can move together as a nation to fix. And I think it would go a long way towards getting us finally to something that looks like a solution.

But I also want to say something else here, John. We talked a lot about the president's rhetoric. And there's no question that I think a lot of responsibility lays at his feet. But I think we should also remember and make clear that Trump is not the problem in general. He is a metastasized symptom of something the Republican Party has let fester for a very long time. I remember back in 2011 when you had a state senator from Kansas, Virgil Peck, talk about fixing the immigration problem by shooting illegal immigrants like feral hogs from a helicopter. I remember even Ken Cuccinelli talking about immigrants and pest control and how our immigration policy are similar to pest control.

These are things that have gone almost unnoticed, right, because you don't have any repercussions coming from the Republican leadership on this. Look at what Steve King has said in the past. He talks about immigrants in a disgusting manner. So these are things that have to be dealt with as well.

BERMAN: I will note --

KASICH: John, John, let me just say.

BERMAN: Very quickly, governor.

KASICH: Let me tell you, you want people to work together? OK, then get Republicans and Democrats in a room and knock off this -- knock all this name calling and finger pointing right now. We have a bigger problem out here. In addition to that, all the action isn't in Washington. We wish we had a president that would lead on this, but the real actions occur in the states. There's 50 of them. And each one of these legislatures, which each of these governors can take dramatic action, and they can tailor that action to the challenges that they have in the state.

So let's not just say it's up to Washington and nothing else. There can be very significant gains made in my state and very significant gains made across the country. But I've got to say, we've all had our say about Republicans and Democrats. Now it's time for them to work together. We have got to stop beating everybody up.

BERMAN: All right, Governor, Maria, Phil, thanks for being with us.

CARDONA: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Erica.

HILL: John, thank you. Democratic presidential candidate, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan has a stark message for his colleagues in Congress after this weekend's shooting in his home state.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Republicans need to quite frankly get there [bleep] together stop pandering to the NRA because people are getting killed.


HILL: Congressman Ryan joins us next.


HILL: In a few hours, President Trump will speak to the nation about the mass shootings this weekend that left 29 people dead over a span of just 13 hours. The President this morning calling for background checks legislation and that that legislation be married to immigration reform.

He has not yet used the term, "white nationalist terror." Joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. He has suspended his campaign to return to his home state.

[08:20:12] HILL: Congressman, we appreciate you taking some time for us this morning. I know you've heard what the President had to say. Like we've seen that tweet that he put out asking for a coupling of both this backspin in background checks and immigration reform. What's your take on that?

RYAN: That's a joke. That's an absolute freaking joke that he is going to tie this to the most polarizing issue happening in the United States today around immigration reform. This is very clear cut here.

There are people that are getting access to guns that shouldn't be, and the guns are high powered. The magazines hold too many bullets, and they are coming to places like Dayton and El Paso, Walmart's entertainment districts, churches like Mother Emanuel AME in South Carolina, and they're killing American citizens.

Mitch McConnell needs to get off his ass and do something. People are getting killed in the streets in America and nobody is acting -- nobody.

There's a bottleneck in the United States Senate. The House has sent a comprehensive background check bill that is supported by 80 percent to 90 percent of the American people. What the hell are we doing in the United States of America?

I'm telling you people are fed up. We were here in Dayton last night, there were tears and there was rage. And people in Washington, D.C. and the state capitals need to get their act together and pass some legislation that 80 percent to 90 percent of the American people support.

For the President of the United States in the midst of this tragedy, both in the southernmost part of this country and in the northern part of this country, in the last 24 hours lose 29 people and he is going to tie this to immigration reform? That's a joke.

HILL: What are you hearing in terms of response? You have been very clear, since this happened, first expressing your condolences and your anger and how upset you were when it happened in El Paso, hours later in your home state there in Dayton.

I know you've made the call multiple times. You just didn't hear on our air for lawmakers to come back. You want Mitch McConnell to call the Senate back. Are you calling your Republican colleagues across the aisle, folks that, you know, both in the House and in the Senate and saying, "What's going on?" Are you having those conversations privately? Because we're not hearing a lot publicly?

RYAN: Well, there's not a whole lot of conversation happening at all, the President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country. His responsibility is to bring the country together, not just around times of tragedy, but to help us make progress, to make the government work again, and it's so dysfunctional right now.

I'll tell you, I can't even count the number of Republicans I met at the vigil last night who were saying, "Congressman Ryan, please do something. Please get this done. Please talk to your Republican friends to help get this done."

The Republicans on the streets of America want this done. But Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate are in the pocket of the NRA, and Americans need to make it so visibly uncomfortable for them over the course of the next few weeks that they have to do something.

Because quite frankly, they're completely out of step. And this conversation needs to be started by the President. He can't be tying it to immigration reform or any other red herring that he wants to throw into the mix here. He needs to get his act together, too, and help lead this country.

HILL: Do you think there's a chance that the President will say this morning, "I want to see the Senate come back."

RYAN: For the President to say that?

HILL: Do you think he could?

RYAN: I don't know. I don't know if the President will say that. The President is not a leader. He just isn't, he is a divider. And I hope -- I hope he does. But all indications now of just focusing this on mental health, on focusing this on immigration tells me he wants to continue to like slow walk this issue, he wants -- he hopes it goes away.

And I'm telling him directly to you, Donald Trump, this issue is not going away. And I'm telling Mitch McConnell, this issue is not going away. We're going to mobilize the American people around this issue. We're sick of this dysfunctional government not just on gun control, but on healthcare, on education, on debt on income inequality -- across the board.

This government has been a complete failure to the forgotten people in Dayton and Youngstown and Gary, Indiana, and all of these other places across the United States of America. It's time to mobilize against this intractable government that won't do a damn thing for the American people.

The only thing they passed was tax cuts. This guy has been in two years plus, all we got is tax cuts for rich people. I mean, come on.

HILL: Congressman, you tweeted, "White nationalism is the biggest domestic threat to the U.S." We have not heard those words from the President as you know. You told Jake Tapper yesterday that you cannot not tie the President's rhetoric to what happened behind me here in El Paso, to the manifesto, which you read, I read as well. Do you believe the President is responsible?

[08:25:09] RYAN: I think the President has to bear some responsibility for creating a culture in the United States around race baiting, around demonizing people of color, about around demonizing immigrants.

I mean, when you read that manifesto, it looked like it could have been written by a Trump speech writer. I mean, let's be honest with each other, and I look, I'm the most bipartisan guy you ever met.

The guys I drink beer and watch football with, they're all Republicans. I've got a lot of Republican friends. This is so far beyond left and right, it is not even funny. This is about racism. This is about demonizing people of color, and then the lowest common denominator in our society, they get in a car and they drive 10 hours to go kill people of color, to go kill Mexicans in this kid's words.

I mean, this is the environment that the President has created, he has made it okay. And when you have David Duke and white supremacist campaigning for you and saying things like, "This guy's really going to implement our agenda." And then the President literally does things like that, and says things like that, and provides political cover.

Look, more than anything, the President of the United States is a cultural figure, and that cultural figure can either mobilize the country to say, "Hey, let's go to the moon, let's reach for the stars," like President Kennedy did or that cultural figure can say, "Hey, let's tell people of color to go back to the shithole countries that they came from." And that's what you're getting from this President

And so I'm not optimistic that he is going to all of a sudden be able to be a leader in the United States of America. I'm completely concerned that he is not. I think he's going to try to slow walk it.

And I just want every -- just quick -- I just want every American to think about what's happened in America in the last 24 hours -- 36 hours, and the President ties the issue that would help fix that to immigration reform. That's a joke.

HILL: Congressman Tim Ryan, we appreciate you taking the time for us this morning. Thank you.

RYAN: Thank you. Thank you.

HILL: John?

BERMAN: All right, Erica. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, a Democratic senator said the same thing. It is a nonstarter what the President seems to be floating this morning.

Our next guest also calling on Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back from recess to take action. Democratic candidate for President, Amy Klobuchar joins us next.