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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is Interviewed on Gun Legislation; President Trump's American Carnage; Parents of Fallen Parkland Student in El Paso during Shooting. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:20] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In just 90 minutes, President Trump will address the nation. CNN, of course, will bring it to you live. What will his message be? Will he speak the words "white supremacist terror"? He has yet to do so.

Joining us now is a Democratic candidate for president, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator, thank you for being with us this morning. I do appreciate your time.


BERMAN: First, nuts and bolts, Senate action. The president suggesting that he would like to tie gun safety legislation, in this case background check legislation, to immigration legislation. Is that something you would support?

KLOBUCHAR: I support action. And we've long awaited action on background checks. He knows that. I was with him in a meeting right after Parkland, sitting right across from him in the White House, and not once, not twice, but nine times, I kept track of it, he said he wanted to see universal background checks. There were Democrats and Republicans there. Then the next day he meets with the NRA and he folds. We never hear about it again. He doesn't push it with his party. We were ready to go.

So I really don't put a lot of credence to him saying that. I'm ready to go back and get it done, but he would have to convince his political party in the U.S. Senate, when, in fact, this bill has passed in the House, it's been sitting on Mitch McConnell's doorstep. So he would have to convince the Republican leadership in the Senate and Mitch McConnell to push that bill forward.

You know, you can always be hopeful. There are some Republicans that have signaled support for this bill but it's long overdue. So there's that.

And, of course, I've always supported comprehensive immigration reform, but every time we try to move close to anything, including the dreamers, the president has gut-punched us and pulled back and then the Republican senators pull back. So he would really have to be serious about this and I've just not seen that from him in the past.

BERMAN: So you wouldn't trust it if he came out today in 90 minutes and said, I'm for universal background checks?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I use anything to try to get things moving. And if that's what he says and then Mitch McConnell says, yes, let's go, we're opening the Senate tomorrow, let's get to work on it, we've got a good bill that two A-rated NRA senators, Toomey and Manchin, had proposed in the past, let's just bring that up. Or we've got the House bill, better yet, that they just passed, let's bring that up and get it done. Let's see what happens.

BERMAN: Yes, you have two bills. There are two House passed bill that had 240 votes each, including eight Republicans in the House.


BERMAN: One that would extend the waiting period from three to 10 days and one that would make background checks more, not completely, but much more universal.


BERMAN: That's something Mitch McConnell could call the Senate back tomorrow and vote on, correct?

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. That's what I mean. I mean Trump can tweet and say whatever he wants, but it's basically his party and he controls, we all know that, that's why I can't get votes on my Russian interference bills. He controls that party in the U.S. Senate. So it's in his power to get them to come back, to tell Mitch McConnell what he wants, and then we get a vote and get it done. That's what I think we should do.

Now, as president, I would do a lot more. I would move to push the assault weapon ban, which would have made a major difference in these cases. Limits on magazines. Bump stocks. There's many other things that we could do. But at least this would be a good faith start and it would save lives, especially in domestic homicide and suicide cases.

BERMAN: Now, what about the hate in white supremacy. Let me put it this way. The president has yet to call what happened in El Paso -- and, again, I don't want to diminish what happened in Dayton because my heart breaks for the people of Dayton, Ohio, nine people killed there. But in El Paso, the president has yet to call it white supremacist terror. He might this morning. He might call it terrorism. He might call out white supremacy. But what does 48 hours of silence do? What message does that send to white nationalists in this country?

[08:35:19] KLOBUCHAR: That's a very, very well put question, because when he doesn't come out strongly against something that's so evil, like he did after Charlottesville where he said there were two sides. There weren't two sides. There's only one side when the other side is the Ku Klux Klan. The same thing here, 48 hours goes by, doesn't say a word about it, what everyone in America knows it for what it is, which was white supremacism, which is white nationalism, and it is exactly what you have seen in a number of these other shootings. It's the same thing when he doesn't condemn the prince of Saudi Arabia

ordering the killing and dismemberment of a journalist who worked for an American newspaper. It's the same thing when he makes jokes about Vladimir -- with Vladimir Putin about Russian invasion in our election. These are moments of leadership where you have to show leadership.

And so maybe we'll hear it today. But we'll always know that there were 48 hours where he was silent.

And the other piece of it is, always the follow-through. What does he do? He said he wants to do something about bringing prescription drug prices down. He hasn't delivered. He says he wants to build major infrastructure for this country. He hasn't delivered.

And so when you see a tweet in the morning, like we have thousands of times about things, you just look at it and say, well, you know, I wish that was true. I wish he actually did the work to get it done. And that's what we'll wait to see.

BERMAN: What, as president, would you do to battle white supremacy in the United States?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, I would beef up the division in the civil rights department, FBI investigating these cases, working on them. I was just questioning the FBI director, Christopher Wray, about these numbers. And he admitted to us, under oath, that these numbers have been going up in our country. And, of course, it's not just horrendous, tragic mass shootings, it is also assaults and bullying and other forms of hate crimes.

And so he said the numbers were up. I specifically asked him why. He said they weren't certain. He said it could have been because of more reporting going on. And I believe that the president is fostering -- fostering hate in this country.

The first thing, as I said, I would do, beef up those investigations, beef up the prosecutions, make this a major, major effort when this many people are being killed. It has to be a major focus of the Justice Department's work and coordination with local law enforcement. Do that as a former prosecutor knowing that it is the local police and the local prosecutors who are deeply involved in these cases as well.

The second thing I would do -- and this isn't about lawyers or courtrooms or evidence -- it's simply stopping the hate. No more of these hateful tweets. No more of the disrespect. And elevating immigrants in our country. We know they don't diminish America, they are America.

BERMAN: Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, thank you for being with us this morning.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you. It's good to be on.

BERMAN: Look, we're going to have live coverage of the president's speech, which is in less than 90 minutes. You can watch it live right here on CNN.

And then tonight, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not done a great many interviews, he is going to sit down and talk about guns and white nationalists and the president and his role in all of this in an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper. That's tonight at 8:00 only on CNN.

So, do you think the president's words don't matter here? Just ask the white supremacists, the terrorists, the murderers who have heard those words and use them themselves multiple times. A must see "Reality Check" is next.


[08:43:04] BERMAN: It has happened a remarkable and unmistakable number of times, white nationalists terrorists and murderers using the same language as the president of the United States, sometimes down to the exact word.

John Avlon has a "Reality Check."



Twenty-four hours in America, two mass shootings perpetrated by young, white men wielding weapons of war, killing 29 people, from children to senior citizens. Police believe at least one of them, the El Paso suspect, was motivated by white supremacy, what he called a Spanish invasion of Texas. While the Gilroy, California, shooter, one week before, reportedly cited a white supremacist tract in his online postings.

We've reached a horrific tipping point where more Americans have been killed by right wing terrorists than Islamist terrorists in the 18 years since 9/11. And with hate crimes on the rise, this American carnage has only increased since Donald Trump became president.

Instead of clearly confronting this outbreak of hate instead he's often fanned the flames of fanaticism, demonizing undocumented immigrants, trying to cut domestic counter terror budgets while denying that white nationalist violence is a growing problem.

But back in May, CNN's Evan Perez reported that the FBI had seen a significant rise in the number of white supremacist domestic terrorism cases. And FBI Director Chris Wray confirmed that to Congress. The bureau's made roughly 100 domestic terror arrests in the past nine months and most involve white supremacy, calling it a persistent, pervasive threat.

Well, the data backs (ph) that out. Hate crimes rose 17 percent during the first year of Trump's presidency. The ADL found that white supremacist murders in the U.S. more than doubled in 2017. And, get this, "The Washington Post" found that counties that hosted a Trump rally in 2016 saw a stunning 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes. None of this happens in a vacuum. Remember the rally where the president asked how can you stop illegal

immigrants, and someone yelled "shoot them." The crowd laughed and the president smiled. When a gunman killed 51 Muslims in New Zealand after reportedly complaining about invaders, President Trump said this the same day about our southern border. Quote, people hate the word invasion. But that's what it is.

[08:45:08] It's a riff (ph) he said more than a dozen times at rallies and in tweets. And this is strategy, folks. The president's campaign has pushed messages on FaceBook saying, it's critical that we stop the invasion. This rhetoric resonates with white supremacists. We've seen the same language of invasion used before the massacres at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Poway Mass (ph) Synagogue near San Diego, and now a Walmart full of back to school shoppers in El Paso. The victims are Jewish, Muslim, and now Hispanic. Minorities targeted because these white supremacists fear what they call replacement, the very term neo-Nazis chanted at Charlottesville two years ago.

We've also seen too many of these suspects express support for the president's policies, including the one in El Paso, who police believe wrote he was trying to defend my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by invasion. It's insubtle (ph).

It's uncomfortable to confront the idea that the American president has contributed to this climate of hate, but his words and actions helped make that case. or as Congressman Tim Ryan said --


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, white nationalists think he's a white nationalist, and that's the crux of the problem.


AVLON: And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: It is the reality. And the words are absolutely out there. John, thank you for shining a light on it.

Erica, I want to go back to you in El Paso.

HILL: All right, John, thank you.

Just ahead, you'll meet two parents who lost their son in the mass shooting in Parkland. Well, they're also here in El Paso. They are planning to be here long before the tragedy happened at the Walmart behind me. Here to honor their son as the massacre unfolded. Just ahead, you'll hear from them what it was like to see another shooting play out before their eyes and what their message is today.


[08:50:52] HILL: As gun violence struck the city of El Paso this weekend, the parents of a Parkland, Florida, high school shooting victim happened to be here. They were here to honor their late son with a memorial mural. Joaquin Oliver would have celebrated his 19th birthday yesterday.

And his father, Manuel Oliver, is here with me now.

So you were here and this is part of what you've been doing since you lost Joaquin.


HILL: Is you've painted murals in 29 different cities, I believe.

OLIVER: Oh, yes. this was mural number 30. And we wanted to celebrate Joaquin's birthday. And he was very concerned and upset with the treat (ph) that we were giving to immigrants when they came to this country. So El Paso was great to do that. That's why we were here.

HILL: So you were here and all of a sudden you start to learn about what's happened.


HILL: I can't imagine what happens to you in those moments each time you hear about a shooting since you lost your son. What was that? I mean what was the discussion, what was the thought process?

OLIVER: It's not -- let me -- let me be honest with you, I'm not surprised, which is terrible, because I get these calls almost every week of something that just happened. This was very close to where we were, which is a different story. But I'm glad that I'm here. I am glad that I can share my terrible experience. I do know how these families are feeling right now and I kind of know what they want to hear.

HILL: Have you been able to connect with any of them yet?

OLIVER: No, not at all and I haven't been trying to.

HILL: Yes.

OLIVER: I've been sending a few messages to the community. I told the community to say things right now. These cameras are here for a period of time. They won't be here forever. So if you want to demand for something, you should do it right now. This is the right moment to talk about guns. Yes, it is. Right now.

HILL: What do -- what do you want this message to be? I mean you've been doing this for over a year, as you said. And this is now -- you are now a major messenger, not just to help people who are going through what they shouldn't have to go through but also to talk about what should happen next. What should that be?

OLIVER: I think that El Paso could be that community that becomes the before and after. Because now there's a lot of new information that we have. Now we know how this game has been played for years. you don't hear many thoughts and prayers because they all know that's the wrong thing to do. So our politicians, yes, they want those people away from guns. But now we say, no, we want to talk about guns today, we want to talk about hate and those messages that are actually targeting people. In this case, it was totally to the Latino community, which I also represent. So those things need to be somehow discussed and change.

HILL: And you were saying to me in the break, initially when you started going out and you started talking, you didn't want it to be just about one community, because this is a problem, it's an issue for the entire country.

OLIVER: Right.

HILL: But now you say that you're kind of being called to speak out for the Latin community and for the specific threat that is targeting that.

OLIVER: Yes. At the very beginning I -- and I still think this is an American problem. You don't see this happening anywhere else. And I didn't want my family to be the Latino family that suffered the problem. So we started working as a team. This is a problem in America, and we are American citizens.

Now, what happened here is total new story for us. Now you're targeting my community. So there's -- it's only getting worse. And our voices will only get louder. And we're going to really make things happen. We're not going to let this go that easy.

HILL: It was the -- the voices that spoke up so loudly after Parkland, who are largely credited with, to your point, changing the conversation to go beyond thoughts and prayers, and to also pushing for change. That change -- we've seen some of that change at a local level. It is much more difficult at a national level, as you know. There are a lot of calls for lawmakers to come back, for senators to come back and pass these bills that have been passed already by -- with bipartisan support in the House. President Trump is speaking today at 10:00. Is there anything that they can say to you?

[08:55:00] OLIVER: I think that the president should make very clear of what he meant when he was talking about immigrants and the way he describe us. And he should fix that message of hate. That will be my advice because we need this to stop. There's nothing that anyone can say that is going to bring my son back. So we need to think forward. And the good news is that we also have another election next year. And now the voters are doing a big homework. A deep investigation with a search of who is going to be able to represent me. Anyone that is OK and connected to the gun lobby or the NRA I don't think is going to be that popular next year. There's a new America emerging. The kids from Parkland started this and they're not going to stop.

HILL: Wow. And the parents are helping continue it too.

Manuel, it's --

OLIVER: This is the time for the parents to get up there, join the kids and make this happen.

HILL: Manuel, appreciate you coming by and appreciate the work that you're doing, keeping your son's memory alive and helping others as well.

OLIVER: Thank you. Thank you very much.

HILL: Thank you. Really appreciate it.

OLIVER: It's a pleasure.

HILL: President Trump, as we mentioned, will address the nation this morning. That happens in just over an hour. And CNN's live coverage picks up just after this break.