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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Blames Mass Shootings On Mental Health Issues, But Doesn't Propose New Gun Laws Or Address His Own Rhetoric; Texas Officials Update Mass Shooting Investigation; Interview With Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH); Death Toll To 31 In Texas And Ohio Shooting Massacres; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The Texas And Ohio Massacres And Her Policy Stances. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hit list. Classmates say the gunman in the Dayton massacre had a list of people he wanted to kill and rape when he was in high school. We are learning more about his warlike arsenal that allowed him to commit a slaughter in seconds.

Not blaming guns. President Trump claims mental illness and hatred pulled the trigger in the Texas and Ohio shootings. Tonight, he's not offering new gun proposals and he is ignoring his own hate-promoting rhetoric.

And 2020 anger and outrage. Top Democrats are demanding action from the president and his party, arguing Mr. Trump is part of the problem, as gun violence claims more lives.

This hour, new reaction from presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and Tim Ryan.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We are standing by for a news conference by police in El Paso, Texas, as we cover all the breaking news on the back-to-back gun massacres in Texas and Ohio.

The loss of innocent life is even more staggering tonight, as two more victims in El Paso have died, raising the death toll from the two shootings to 31. Police tell CNN the El Paso gunman had a stone-cold look that was nothing short of evil when he was arrested and accused of a domestic terror attack fueled by hatred of immigrants.

In Ohio, authorities still are investigating the Dayton shooter's motives. They say he may have had up to 250 rounds of ammunition when he slaughtered nine people in 30 seconds before he was killed by police.

Tonight, President Trump is trying to blame these horrific mass shootings on mental illness, violent video games, and the culture of the Internet. He isn't proposing any new gun restrictions. And he's refusing to address his own toxic rhetoric, even as he condemns racial hatred and white supremacy.

I will get reaction from two Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Kamala Harris and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. He's standing by, along with our reporters and analysts covering the story, including our correspondents in El Paso, in Dayton and over at the White House.

First, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd in El Paso.

Brian, as we stand by for the start of this police news conference -- and we will have live coverage -- you have been talking to officials there. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.

We got new information tonight on the methodical nature with which this gunman approached the Walmart. In just a few minutes, we hope to have more information on the planning of this attack, maybe how long he took to plan it, why he chose that particular Walmart, and why he chose El Paso.

But what we are getting tonight is new accounts from police about how the shooter has been -- while in custody while talking to investigators.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): El Paso police tell CNN tonight the man who allegedly carried out the slaughter at the Walmart has been unapologetic. Officials say Patrick Crusius, the suspected shooter, has shown no regret, no remorse for killing nearly two dozen innocent people and has been cold emotionally while talking to investigators.

That's consistent with how police are telling us he carried out the attack.

STEVEN LOPEZ, EL PASO POLICE COMMANDER: The reports that we received is that it was a calculated attack and it was well-planned out. And the reports that are coming out is that he showed no emotion.

And it appeared, according to the videos and the eyewitness testimonies, that he had some type of training on how he approached his victims.

TODD (on camera): Training, you said. Can you be more specific?

LOPEZ: No, not specific on the training part, but it looked like he had it pre-planned. He knew exactly what he was doing.

So whether it was weeks or months in planning, he had a mission.

TODD (voice-over): Another police official tells CNN tonight he came face to face with the shooter when he was arrested: "He had a stone cold look. It was nothing short of evil." Police are giving a general description of the weapon they believe he used to gun down his victims.

JULIE INCIRIAGA, EL PASO POLICE COMMANDER: What was reported that it was a model that looked like an AK-47.

TODD: The 21-year-old alleged shooter, who is a white supremacist, is being charged with capital murder, and the shooting is even being called an act of terrorism.

JOHN BASH, U.S. ATTORNEY: We are treating it as a domestic terrorism case in order to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is deliver swift and certain justice.

TODD: Authorities are also investigating a racist anti-immigrant document they believe was posted online by the suspect. That document states it took less than a month to plan the shooting, the four-page document published on the online message board 8chan about 20 minutes before the shooting.

The author says he opposes race-mixing and encouraging immigrants to return to their home countries, speaking of a Hispanic invasion.

Authorities say the shooting began in the parking lot of the Walmart. And the shooter then entered the store. Panicked shoppers slid under tables. Others ran for their lives, and a heart-wrenching story of two young parents who were killed saving their infant child; 24-year- old Jordan Anchondo was carrying her 2-month-old son, Paul, inside the Walmart.

[18:05:11]

Their aunt and uncle tell us Jordan and her husband, Andre, had an instant to react.

JESSE JAMROWSKI, NIECE KILLED IN EL PASO SHOOTING: From what we understood, the shooter came in and pointed a gun at my niece Jordan. And Andre was quick to jump in front of Andre -- or in front of Jordan and Paul, the baby. And from what we understood, a bullet went through Andre and Jordan.

TODD (on camera): They both shielded the child; is that correct? And then the child fell as they fell.

LIZ TERRY, NIECE KILLED IN EL PASO SHOOTING: Yes, under Jordan. That's I think where the broken fingers occurred and the bruising occurred. From what we understand, when they pulled baby Paul out, he was covered in their blood.

TODD (voice-over): Police say the shooter was arrested without incident after getting out of his vehicle and approaching police unarmed as they arrived at the Walmart.

He's currently being held at the El Paso County detention facility. And the new El Paso district attorney said they will seek the death penalty. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's go to El Paso now.

Authorities there, including the mayor, right now are briefing reporters.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAYOR DEE MARGO (R), EL PASO, TEXAS: Eight of the individuals who have lost their lives come from our sister state of Chihuahua, Mexico. While borders may separates us, our grief transcends them.

We're one region. And we will honor every victim like they were a member of our community.

El Paso is a family. And we must continue to stand united as our region heals. I could not be more proud of our city, from the offers for free funeral services to the lines to donate blood to the overwhelming crowd at vigils throughout the city. El Paso has shown that we are much stronger than Saturday's attack.

I have issued a local disaster declaration yesterday, activating all available state recovery efforts. Various state and federal officials have contacted offering resources for our community.

This was an act of domestic terrorism fueled by hate, an evil individual. I will not assist in promoting or emboldening his agenda, nor any movement that he would be associated with.

Our diversity is what makes us special. We are three states, two countries, and one region. And as I have been saying, there is no other city or region like El Paso-Juarez.

Now let me cover one other item that you will ask about.

President Trump called me yesterday. He was very gracious in the call. You all know of my history with the president as I have defended El Paso. He was very gracious, offered to help in any way he could. It was a brief call and nothing overly specific.

I made no requests at that time. I said we're waiting to see what settles.

He's coming out here on Wednesday. And I want to clarify, for the political spin, that this is the office of the mayor of El Paso in an official capacity welcoming the office of the president of the United States, which I consider as my formal duty.

I will ask President Trump to support our efforts with any and all federal resources that are available. Our recovery is no small task. Together, we will rise out of this tragedy. And I'm here to ensure that we receive every state and federal resource that's available to us that we need.

I will continue to challenge any harmful and inaccurate statements made about El Paso. We will not allow anyone to portray El Paso in a manner that is not consistent with our history and values.

Throughout our community, bienvenidos is displayed for all our guests and visitors. It is a message that's defined our community for over 350 years. I will not allow this evil, senseless act of violence to change what our community represents.

I would like to call on Chief Allen.

GREG ALLEN, EL PASO, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Greg Allen, El Paso Police Chief, last name spelling, A-L- L-E-N.

Just had an update from our investigators at the scene. We have lists of the deceased. And we will be providing you with that later.

We have now 22 people confirmed killed, total number of Mexican citizens at eight. We have 15 patients still in the hospital, two of which are critical. Nine have been discharged.

[18:10:14]

The number of total injured was raised by a number of 27, because one self-admitted to the hospital and left on his own.

Two of the 27 injured, one was an infant with broken bones. And another sustained injuries trying to escape the scene.

The breakdown of fatalities as far as the deceased, we have one German, 13 U.S. citizens, one undetermined, and seven Mexican nationals.

With that, I will ask you all to provide me with any questions that you have.

Oh, I'm sorry.

Mario?

MARIO D'AGOSTINO, EL PASO, TEXAS, FIRE CHIEF: Thank you, Greg.

My name is Mario D'Agostino. It's D-'A-G-O-S-T-I-N-O. I'm the fire chief here in El Paso, Texas.

I want to give a brief of how we have been handling the family reunification and notifications.

So, we set up early Saturday a family reunification center. That's been operational since then around the clock. We will be transitioning in the next day to a family assistance center. That center will be open for 10 to 12 days before we do our final transition.

That final transition will take into a long-term recovery. It will be the El Paso Strong Resiliency Center and it will be open as long as we need it open for the community. We encourage any of the public, any of those involved, anyone who

needs any help to call, to get that help they need first. Don't let mental health issues build up on you. Don't let the thoughts, everything that's concerning you, don't let it get to you.

Reach out. We have a number, 779-1800. That will get you the help you need locally. And there is no charge for that service. Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MARGO: Well, I tried to preempt your question with my remarks.

I represent the office of the mayor of El Paso, Texas. This is not a political visit, as he had before, which I did not visit with him. But I was noted from the podium, as I recall.

And he is president of the United States. So, in that capacity, I will fulfill my obligations, as mayor of El Paso, to meet with the president and discuss whatever our needs are in this community and hope that, if we are expressing specifics, that we can get him to come through for us.

I'm already getting the e-mails and the phone calls. And that's why I'm saying what I'm saying now. I would appreciate it if people would save their time and not necessarily have to send them.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

(LAUGHTER)

MARGO: Yes, I understand. But we are not dealing with that right now. We are dealing with a tragedy of 22 people who have perished by an evil, hateful act of a white supremacist that has no bearing or belong in El Paso.

It was not done by an El Pasoan. No El Pasoan would ever do this. And I can't -- I don't know how we deal with evil. I don't have a textbook for dealing with evil, other than the Bible. I'm sorry. We are going to go through this.

But he -- but the president is coming out. I will meet with the president. And I guess for people who have lots of time on their hands, I will deal with their e-mails and their phone calls.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: I can't go into details right now. That would be too revealing of the investigation that's still ongoing.

Right now, we haven't even cleaned -- well, fully cleared the crime scene there. We're still gathering evidence at that particular location.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: It was bought in the nearest hometown in Allen, Texas. I don't have the exact details of that right now. The weapon was purchased legally. It's a 7.62-caliber weapon.

[18:15:05]

That could be two varieties of weapon, 7.62 by 51, which is a NATO round; 7.62 by 39 would be Russian Kalashnikov caliber.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: The what?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: Well, you will have to contact -- well, our PIOs will provide the information. But they will have to clear it with the investigative unit right now to see if that's permissible.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: Right now, he has no bond. He's under a charge of capital murder in general.

That determination is cleared by the district attorney's office. They work with the investigators to come up with the appropriate charge. If that's the case, then it was approved by the district attorney.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: From the police department perspective, we are doing OK. We have employee assistance programs available. EHN is also assisting with that. And I will let the fire department comment on that side.

D'AGOSTINO: Yes, thank you.

The fire department, we have -- we did set up debriefing teams instantly immediately following the scene. We do have EAP assisting them as well. We do have our international firefighters are coming on scene next week. They will be doing debriefing, going station to station talking to them, seeing if there's any effects.

We have had all the positive communications with them and we are monitoring them.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: I can give you in general. He took about 10 to 11 hours traveling from Allen, Texas, to El Paso.

As soon as he got here, he was lost in the neighborhood. After that, he found his way to the Walmart, because we understand he was hungry. And that's about as far as I can go without getting into too much detail.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: Was he cooperating? Yes, he cooperated from the beginning. None of this had to be any way coerced from him or threats or anything like that. He volunteered most of the evidence that we are able to utilize at this time.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: No, he -- I can't make comment on that directly. Again, that's part of the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question, please.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: That's a good question, because I see it's eight on one of my fact list here. But I have got seven on the list we will be providing to you.

So, right now, it looks like seven confirmed from the list with the deceased actually on it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: No, not to the investigators. I asked that question again this morning. Right now, he basically appears to be in a state of shock and confusion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

ALLEN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: We don't know that now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you all.

ALLEN: I'm sorry. Would you mind repeating?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: No, we haven't ascertained that right now.

9QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ALLEN: That's what we suspect he did right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you all.

ALLEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right.

So we just heard from authorities in El Paso, including the Mayor, Dee Margo, confirming what had been expected.

The president will be visiting El Paso on Wednesday, and the mayor saying, as the leader of the office of the mayor of El Paso, he will welcome the office of the presidency, the president of the United States, despite the criticism that has been coming in of the president, including a tweet earlier in the day from Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic presidential candidate, former congressman from El Paso, who tweeted this.

He said: "This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday's tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso. We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here."

Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think? The mayor is in an awkward position. The president wants to come, show his respect for the people of El Paso. What does he do?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think the mayor welcomes the president. This is an institutional responsibility of the mayor.

The president is coming to town. There will be plenty of time to talk about how the president has behaved. And elected officials will do a lot of that. But I don't see that the mayor has any real choice, except to behave professionally for this immediate grieving period.

[18:20:10]

BLITZER: The other thing, we're learning here -- and we are getting confirmation, Evan, from the local police chief there -- that the suspect is fully cooperating. He has volunteered a lot of information. And he's talking.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Wolf, from the beginning after the shooting, he could have gotten away, frankly. He apparently didn't have his firearm with him anymore. But he emerged from his own vehicle unarmed and approached police officers, gave himself up.

From the very beginning, that's been his behavior. And he described him as -- I think he described the suspect as essentially being shocked and confused at this stage.

It's not clear, Wolf, how much planning went into this. But it's clear that he had every intent to kill Mexicans and Hispanic people. He clearly came with the purpose and carried out his gruesome acts exactly as he planned to do it.

BLITZER: Yes, he says that, of the 22 people killed in El Paso, eight are Mexican citizens. We're watching that closely as well.

Stand by, guys.

I want to bring in Democratic presidential candidate Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who is joining us.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I know you're in Dayton, but you have been listening to what we had to say.

Do you think the mayor had any choice but to accept -- make it clear that he was willing to accept the president, who wants to come to El Paso on Wednesday? I assume the president is going to come to Dayton as well.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the way I would have handled it was very quietly tell the president that he's not welcome.

That's just -- it's a tough reality in this world, but I think Congressman O'Rourke was right. The president helped create an environment that's so toxic in the United States where maybe not most people who hear him or go to his rallies do anything anywhere close to what this kid did, but there's always that lowest common denominator.

There's always that person that has been radicalized and gets activated. And when you look at the manifesto, and you see the same words, the same phrases that the president uses in his rallies, it's not that hard to connect the dots on this thing, Wolf.

And, as the mayor, he's free to obviously do what he wants. And I understand that's a tough position to be in. But the reality of it is, I would not want the president of the United States in my town after he contributed to the environment that caused this kid to drive 10 hours into El Paso.

BLITZER: Have you been told, Congressman, that the president will visit Dayton?

RYAN: We have heard nothing. The mayor said -- Mayor Nan Whaley said nothing about him coming here. And she even quipped that maybe he's going to Toledo. He got things mixed up, so maybe he won't be in Dayton.

BLITZER: He made a mistake.

Let's talk about the president's speech this morning over at the White House. He says the country must seek real bipartisan solutions. You heard him say that.

He said -- besides red flag laws, did you hear anything from the president today that could actually gain bipartisan support?

RYAN: Nothing at all.

And, to me, it was a slap in the face, quite frankly, Wolf, of the victims and the families, who have just been in so much pain the last couple of days, to start talking about video games, to start pushing this off somehow on mental health, when we know that four out of five mass murders like this have nothing to do with mental health issues.

And the vast majority of people who are dealing with mental illness are not violent in any way, shape, or form. And so to throw that out there as some red herring that the NRA has used, that this president has used, I think, quite frankly, is disgraceful.

There is one thing that needs to get done here. And we need to address the fact that people are getting weapons of war, bringing them on streets like this street that I'm standing on here in Dayton, and slaughtering Americans. And it keeps happening over and over and over again.

And I think it's insulting, I find it insulting, I believe the people of Ohio find it insulting that he is somehow trying to distract us away. He wants to run the clock on the news cycle. He said the right things today. He put enough stuff out there to talk about.

And the reality is, probably nothing will happen, because he gave that same speech after Parkland in Florida, when all those kids got killed down there.

BLITZER: The president, in a tweet earlier in the morning, before his speech over at the White House, suggested tying background check legislation to immigration reform.

Is that appropriate, when the El Paso shooting suspect was apparently motivated by anti-immigrant hate? And, by the way, in his speech, he never mentioned coming up with any background check legislation.

RYAN: Yes, never talked about any kind of gun control or gun issues that need to be dealt with that we all know, Wolf.

I mean, here's the thing; 70 to 80 percent of the American people recognize what needs to be done here. That's why there is an outrage in the country, especially in communities like this, that see all kinds of gun violence, not just the mass murders that are happening, but the gun violence that is happening all over the United States in communities all over the United States.

[18:25:15]

And he addresses and zero with regard to trying to deal with that. And then to bring in the immigration issue, let's just remember how toxic he's made this issue.

This has been a welcoming country. And we always have our issues. But he made this issue toxic, going back to the birtherism and saying that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. And then it was everyone's a rapist and a drug dealer who comes in here who has brown skin.

And then he continued the rhetoric, and then at his rallies most recently of people screaming and yelling "Send them back," him saying to members of the United States Congress they should go back to the country that they came from, when three of them were born here in the United States, but happen to have more pigmentation in their skin than white people do.

That is ridiculous. And this is what he wants to tie in. He's made the issue toxic. And now he's trying to unite it with the issue around the slaughters that happened in El Paso, in Dayton.

I find it disgusting. I find it disrespectful. It's a slap in the face to the victims, not just the ones here in Dayton, but the ones who have suffered from these kind of acts of violence over the past decade.

And nothing has been done. And you wonder why people have high anxiety levels, why people are afraid to go out. You can't go to a Walmart, you can't go to a church, you can't -- you're worried about sending your kids to school here in the next week or two.

You can't come into the most revitalized area of a city like Dayton because of this kind of violence. It's time for it to stop, Wolf. And it's time for us to come together as a country and put this at the foot of Mitch McConnell, where two bills that passed with many, many votes, many, many votes, sitting on his steps in the Senate.

He needs to act on them. And the president needs to make him act on those.

BLITZER: Well, so far, he's refused to even allow those House-passed measures to come up for any vote in the Senate.

As you know, Congressman, former President Obama put out a very rare statement today. And let me read a portion of that statement. And we will put it up on our screen.

"We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments, leaders who demonize those who don't look like us or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life or refer to other people as subhuman or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people."

Clearly, it seems to me -- and I wonder if you agree -- he seems to be referring to the president of the United States, even though he didn't mention any names.

RYAN: Just, it -- that's what a president acts like, Wolf. That's how a president writes. That's how a president elevates the conversation.

And I have been saying now for two days that the most important job of the president of the United States is to be the cultural leader of the country. And that president can have us reach for the stars and go to the moon, or that president can have crowds chanting, "Send them back."

And that's what the president, current president, has done. It's a very refreshing reminder of how President Obama conducted himself in such a dignified way, and Michelle Obama in such a dignified way. When they go low, we go high. That's what America is longing for. I can tell you, underneath all of

this political discussion that we're having here, America is ready to come together. They're ready to end the violence. They're ready to end the hate. They're tired of the anxiety levels and the insecurity and not feeling safe.

They're ready to come together and start healing the country, which is exactly what we need to do, and then start solving these problems, mobilizing the federal government to be a leader to do great things for us, to lift our sights up, to heal the economy, to heal the health care and all of these other issues.

But we have got to get these weapons of war off the street, so people feel safe again to go shopping at a place like Walmart or go to church or send their kids to school.

BLITZER: Congressman Tim Ryan, thanks so much for joining us.

RYAN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We should note, by the way, that CNN has asked about 60 Republican elected officials to join us to talk about the shootings. Nearly all of them have declined. I hope they change their mind.

Just ahead, we're going to hear from another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris. We will get her reaction to the shootings and her plan of action.

That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: We're back with all the breaking news on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. We just heard from the Mayor of El Paso. He says he will welcome President Trump's plan to visit El Paso on Wednesday.

Let's get the latest on the President's response to the attacks. Our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins joining us.

Kaitlan, the President blamed the shootings on a lot of things, but not necessarily on the weapons or on his own rhetoric.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he also didn't introduce any major new gun laws that he thinks should be passed, any kind of proposals like that. Wolf, he also didn't mention those background checks that he first Tweeted about this morning, something that we're told by sources actually caught several White House aides off guard. And they didn't think it was wise what the President was proposing in that Tweet which was linking those background checks to potential immigration reform.

But as the President addressed the nation just hours later here at the White House, Wolf, he did denounce bigotry and white supremacy and he vowed to do more, he vowed to do something. But now, the question is what is it that the President is going to do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.

[18:35:01]

COLLINS: Tonight, President Trump is condemning white supremacy after two mass shootings in less than 24 hours.

TRUMP: These sinister ideologies must be defeated.

COLLINS: But he's offering few details on what he'll do to stop another from happening. In a solemn address from the White House, the President said he is directing the FBI to examine ways to identify and address domestic terrorism.

But he stopped short of calling for new gun laws, instead, turning his focus to mental health.

TRUMP: Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.

COLLINS: Trump making no mention of his morning Tweet suggesting tying background checks to immigration reform.

The President did reference the El Paso shooting suspect's manifesto that warned of an immigrant invasion and advocating views he said predated the President.

TRUMP: The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate.

COLLINS: Today, Trump ignored how some of its language echoes his own.

TRUMP: I was badly criticized for using the word, invasion. It's an invasion. But how do you stop these people?

AUDIENCE: Shoot them.

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

COLLINS: Democrats aren't brushing off the similarities.

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX): He's been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don't know -- like members of the press, what the (BLEEP). Hold on a second. You know, it's these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he's been doing in this country.

COLLINS: Instead, Trump says other factors are to blame.

TRUMP: We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts.

COLLINS: Today, he repeated a talking point from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that video games play a part in increased violence in America.

TRUMP: This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.

COLLINS: An old claim not substantiated by any research and was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011.

For the most part, republicans are staying silent. And those who are speaking are struggling to propose new solutions.

REP. TED YOHO (R-FL): Bad people are going to do bad things if they are hell bent on doing it.

COLLINS: Democrats are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the Senate on stalled gun legislation they argue could prevent the next shooting, a step sources say he's unlikely to take.

The question now is what happens next. Trump has called for gun restrictions in the past.

TRUMP: I think it's something you have to think about.

COLLINS: But later backed off of them after sitting down with NRA leadership.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Wolf, the Mayor of El Paso just announced the President is going to visit on Wednesday. That's a visit that Beto O'Rourke who, of course, is from El Paso and used to represent Texas in Congress has said should not happen because, in his words, quote, the President has helped create what we saw in El Paso on Saturday.

Now, wolf, I was in El Paso back in February the last time that both President Trump and Beto O'Rourke were there when they both staged these counter-rallies, going after each other, criticizing each other. Beto O'Rourke criticizing the President over wanting to build that border wall. The President going after Beto O'Rourke saying he didn't think that presidential bid that he's pursuing was going to last.

But, of course, now, with what happened on Saturday over the weekend with all of these people dead, so many injured, it is going to be a very different contrast when both of them are there in Texas on Wednesday.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins over at the White House, thanks for that report.

Joining us now, a leading democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Sure, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: So you say President Trump, in your words, has emboldened white nationalism. So what went through your mind, Senator, when you heard him say today that the nation must condemn white supremacy?

HARRIS: You know, Wolf, I just -- he does not speak as a leader. He rarely does. And on this occasion, America needs a leader to actually speak truth and do it in a way that acknowledges fact. And we just can't get that from Donald Trump.

It is his words, yes, and I said that. His words and his conduct have coddled this kind of behavior, and in terms of the white nationalism. And the reality is that his words also today were empty and, frankly, meaningless on the issue of gun violence.

What we have seen in El Paso, a mother was a human body shield to save the life of her infant child.

[18:40:03]

We have seen police officers run into danger to save innocent lives. We have seen the worst kind of tragedies we can imagine and this president will not call it what it is, gun violence that is out of control and that we as a nation are in need of reasonable gun safety laws.

I feel very strongly that America needs real leadership and this president is not able to provide it.

BLITZER: You think there is going to be a chance that some significant gun legislation could even come up for a vote in the Senate? It passes the House where there is a democratic majority, but the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, doesn't even let this kind of legislation come up for a vote.

HARRIS: It's highly irresponsible. But this is not the first time. I'm a part of leadership on a bipartisan bill to improve America's elections infrastructure because we all know that the Russians interfered in the election with the President of the United States. Bipartisan support, I served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. There are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republicans, who support this. And he will not put that on the floor for a vote.

So it is -- I call on him to step up. And I frankly believe very strongly that the members of the United States Congress must lead and stop cowering to the special interests and must lead in terms of fighting for the well-being of the American people and the safety and well-being of the American people. It is time to act. We are not going to wait. And we can't wait for another tragedy.

You know, people say, oh, well, maybe we're waiting for a good idea. Nope. All the good ideas have been had. Many of my friends and I have proposed great ideas. But you know what? We don't need new ideas. We've got them. We need Congress to act, and in this case, the United States Senate. And Mitch McConnell should put the vote on the floor. And I believe everybody should have to stand and speak on this issue and be held accountable by their constituents. Because, Wolf, here is the other thing about this. Those bullets are not distinguishing between a republican and a democrat. And those children going to school every day in fear of some gunman roaming the halls of their school could care less if you are a democrat or a republican.

The American people have a right to expect that on certain issues, we not act in a way that is about partisanship, but we act in a way that is about the best interest of the health and well-being and safety of the American people.

BLITZER: Senator, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, just put out a statement. Let me read part of that to you.

He said the Senate Republicans are prepared to do their part. He's asked committees to reflect on the President's policy proposals that were spelled out today. What are the chances that any of this though leads to new legislation that potentially could be signed into law?

HARRIS: Look, you know, frankly, Wolf, you know Washington, D.C. This is actually, literally in the hands of one person in terms of this -- the legislative action, and it's Mitch McConnell. And I would hope and pray that he understands that he actually has the power to do the right thing here and that he will do the right thing. But it doesn't sound like he's prepared to do that and that's irresponsible.

BLITZER: And President Obama, as you know, he rarely, since leaving office, weighs in on these kinds issues publicly. He put out a very powerful statement today. And let me read once again a little piece of that.

He said, we should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments, leaders who demonize those who don't look like us or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life or refer to other people as sub-human or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people. That's a part of the statement from President Obama.

It is clear he's referring to the current president. I assume you agree.

HARRIS: Of course I agree. And, again, you just contrast the words and you don't even need to know who they are coming from to know that one are the words of a leader and the other are the words of someone who does not understand and is not actually a leader. President Obama is absolutely spot-on and has a history of being spot-on on these issues.

And, listen, Donald Trump is -- he does not understand, I think, the importance and the responsibility of being President of the United States when it comes to speaking to our better angels, when it comes speaking to our better selves, when it comes to elevating discourse and engaging all Americans to think of ourselves as all being in this together. [18:45:07]

[18:45:09] And he, on this issue in particular, was playing golf for most of the day. Are you kidding me? Blood is streaming. Babies are being orphaned. And he's playing golf.

So, just across the board when you look at the behavior, the action, and the words of this current president America deserves better.

BLITZER: It appears, as you know, that the El Paso shooter specifically targeted the Hispanic community and several Mexican citizens --

HARRIS: Right.

BLITZER: -- who happen to have been visiting El Paso and were killed in the process.

You are right now at the UnidosUS Conference.

HARRIS: Yes.

BLITZER: What are you hearing from the people there?

HARRIS: I'm hearing what I've been hearing, frankly, for the last two years. But in a heightened volume, you know, today as we all mourn what has happened in our country.

And I'm hearing a combination of things. I'm hearing fear. I'm hearing outrage. And I'm hearing also a recommitment to fight and to fight for the best of who we are.

You know, Wolf, I have been meeting people along the way ever since this president started campaigning about, you know, rapists and murderers and, you know, mass deportations and a wall that, by the way, will never get built, and vilifying immigrants.

I've been hearing the stories from the day after the election in November of 2016 from pediatricians, because families were cancelling appointments for their children to come in for fear that those families would have contact with an institution that might deport them. I've been hearing from teachers from day who are one noticing that children are not coming to school out of fear that when they go home after school, their parents might not be there.

I'm hearing the fear that comes from family members and parents who are concerned that if they're -- if they're -- they're going shopping for school supplies on a Saturday, weekends before school starts, that they might be slaughtered because of a white supremacist.

These are the things I'm hearing. And we need a president of the United States who says, I will work in every way possible so that the people of our country will not live in fear, so that the children of our country will not live in fear.

But we don't get this from that -- this president. From this president, what we get is hate-mongering. We get speech that's clearly intended to sow hate and division among us.

And so, I applaud President Obama for speaking up at this moment in the way that he did.

BLITZER: Under a hypothetical Kamala Harris presidency, Senator, you say you are prepared to take executive action if Congress can't pass gun control legislation within your first 100 days. You want obviously universal background checks. You want an assault weapons ban.

HARRIS: Uh-huh.

BLITZER: Is there any other action you're considering when you look at these -- for example, two most recent mass shootings and unfortunately tragically, sadly there have been so many of them in recent years?

HARRIS: Right. So, under the Harris administration, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together on this and put a bill on my desk for signature. And if they do not, I will take executive action, as you mentioned, and in particular put in place a comprehensive background check requirement.

I'll also make sure that we give the ATF the resources that it needs to take the licenses of gun dealers who violate the law. Wolf, you should know, 90 percent of the guns associated with crime are sold by just 5 percent of the gun dealers. So, we need to take those licenses.

And then the third piece is that I'm prepared to take executive action to ban the importation of assault weapons into our country.

Why am I prepared to do all of this? Because it is time to take action.

Words are not enough. Beautiful speeches are not enough. Great ideas are not enough. Grand gestures are not enough.

We need to take action. Our -- the people of our country deserve it.

BLITZER: Senator Kamala Harris, thanks so much for joining us.

HARRIS: Thanks, Wolf. Take care.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get back to our analysts and assess what we have just heard.

Susan Hennessey, what do you think? Is anything really going to happen? Because we hear the outrage after every one of these horrible attacks and very often, nothing happens.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: It is sort of hard to imagine that after the United States sort of shrugged when first graders were slaughtered in their classrooms. If that wasn't a moment of sort of national change, maybe this one will be it. [18:50:03] It does feel as though we're starting to sort of reach a

crescendo here, or a breaking point. People are afraid. If they weren't motivated in the past by just grief and fury and anger at this point, I do think we are starting to see Americans who are afraid to sort of take their kids out, afraid to send their kids to school, and you think that is sort of an opportunity for possible change.

TOOBIN: But wait a second, the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association. They are not going to do anything that the NRA doesn't want them to do. That's why Mitch McConnell isn't acting on the bill. It's because the NRA which has an enormous amount of support among Republican voters is -- they are in control of the process.

The president is not going to do anything that the NRA doesn't want. So, I mean, it's not like there is some mystery here. This is the gun lobby is in charge of the Republican Party, and they are not going to do anything that the gun lobby doesn't want to do.

BLITZER: You know, Evan, you heard the president say in a speech today he had some serious conversations about all of this with the Attorney General Bill Barr. What are you hearing from your sources at the Justice Department? What are they thinking? What are they planning on doing, if anything?

PEREZ: Yes, you know, they spent the weekend, Bill Barr, the attorney general, spoke to the president, the vice president, he spoke to the FBI and Justice Department officials. And one of the things they spent the time looking at is possible legislation.

One of the things that they're talking about, one idea is the idea of passing a new law that specifically makes mass shootings or mass shooters essentially eligible for the death penalty under federal law. The irony is that if one of the shooters had simply planted a bomb, there is a weapons of mass destruction law that would apply on the federal law because he used the gun, there is no such law, right? So, that's one of the things that they are looking at this point.

BLITZER: You know, Anthony Ferrante, you're a former FBI special agent. The FBI is always on the front line in dealing with these kinds of massacres. What would your former colleagues over at the FBI, the rank and file FBI special agents, what would they like to see?

ANTHONY FERRANTE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think they would like to see some action here. We have been talking about this issue for years. It continues to get worse.

I think it starts at the top. Words have meaning. And I think the reality is that when those words are repeated at the podium, during a speech, that we have to appreciate that those words are received by certain individuals, and then those individuals get online. And they interact with like-minded individuals. And then their actions become inflamed and then there is a mass shooting like we're seeing.

PEREZ: Politicians playing with fire essentially. FERRANTE: Exactly. And it's just -- FBI agents, you know, I saw the

article in "The Washington Post" about how FBI agents are reluctant to investigate these matters. It's not the case at all, right? FBI agents are eager to investigate this sort of ideology because that's what they do. And they just need legislation to help them combat.

TOOBIN: But FBI agents, as good as they are, aren't fortune tellers. And you can't go through people and decide who is going to be a killer. You just -- there is just no way of doing it.

And this nonsense about violent video games, you know, in Japan and Korea, they play more violent video games than we do. And they don't have anything like this because they don't have the availability of guns.

FERRANTE: Video games is a distraction from the issue, right?

BLITZER: Yes.

FERRANTE: As an investigator, look at what just occurred twice in 24 hours. And the common theme is hate. This ideology, that's the way we need to look --

BLITZER: It's just not the hate. It's the availability of assault weapons that kill that -- can kill 10 -- nine, 10 people in 30 seconds.

FERRANTE: Absolutely.

PEREZ: And, look, we just spent the last couple of years talking about ISIS and radicalization. I mean, it's the same type of thing that's happening here. I think that's why. It is one of those things that can inflame people who are on the cusp, or who might be inclined to do it.

BLITZER: Let's bring in Bianna Golodryga.

Bianna, the president did say, he did condemn and he did use the words white supremacy in his speech today. White House officials, though, say we shouldn't expect any major changes in the president's day to day rhetoric. What do you think?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, calling a fact a fact, Wolf, is not an act of valor. I think going back to what Senator Harris said, even if we had seen emotionally well-addressed speech from the president, it would be too late.

We've been here so many times. Unfortunately, we in the media are so used to covering these mass shootings. There is like a textbook for what the proper procedures are for news networks and what have you to cover them and descramble. We've had 250 thus far this year alone.

So, there needs to be some more action taken.

[18:55:02] Obviously, words are important. Actions speak louder than words. We have not seen any sort of gun legislation in this country for a quarter century. There clearly are a lot of Americans who would like to come together one way, shape or form and respond to this. We respond to all other emergencies.

And that's why it is so baffling for people around the world to see this literal self-inflicted wound, the country shooting itself in the foot constantly covering the stories knowing that the next few weeks we'll be on to something else and, obviously, the number of these mass shootings will continue to go up. Rhetoric is important however and I'm not sure we heard that from the president today, saying that white nationalism is a bad thing, is something that everybody should know.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in Texas. We are a very lucky country to have Mexico as a border country and as a neighbor. And so, all of the rhetoric we have been hearing clearly escalates the tension in this country. But the access to guns is an issue that people need to address head on once and first of all. Video games and mental illness, these are all issues that countries around the world have. What they don't have is a staggering number of casualties from mass shootings here in the U.S.

BLITZER: You know, David Swerdlick, in a tweet earlier this morning before the president's speech, he said, Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks perhaps, marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. That's what he tweeted early in the day. He didn't mention any of that, though, in his 10-minute address.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, Wolf, I think he didn't mention that because he wanted to stay as far away from legislation as possible in that speech. The speech was designed to inoculate him from the responsibility that he bears for the climate that we have in the country right now.

But when you talk about twinning legislation like gun control and immigration reform together, you have two problems. One is that normally when you twin immigration -- excuse me, you twin legislation together, you put something easy with something hard so that the easy to pass issue will pull the hard to pass issue over the finish line in Congress. But in this case, you have two things that are hard to pass that he wants to put together. That tells me he doesn't want anything to pass.

The other way to look at it is that the president essentially today in that tweet took a legislative hostage by saying to Democrats, signaling to the House that if you don't give me what I want on immigration, you're really not going to get what you want on gun control.

But as others have said, Anthony and Bianna have said, Jeffrey as well -- look, the Republicans do not want to do the things that are sitting there on the table, background checks, waiting periods. You know, you got stuff like gun show loophole and Senator Booker pushed this idea of a licensing gun ownership. They don't want to do any of those things. The Senate majority leader does it. So, I think it's going to be a hard slog in Congress to get this done.

BLITZER: Susan, there clearly is a rise in domestic terrorism right now and something needs to be done.

HENNESSEY: Yes, there to be -- something does need to be done. There is bipartisan support for some common sense gun measures. There is some bipartisan support for things like red flag laws, universal background checks. The person who is preventing this is essentially Mitch McConnell. It's Mitch McConnell and the president individually who aren't allowing these bills to sort of come to the floor.

PEREZ: One thing I would mention --

BLITZER: All right. Hold on that thought because we're quickly running out of time. And I quickly want to alert our viewers to a personal final thought tonight.

We want to look beyond the breaking news headlines on shooting massacres to consider how much all of us have lost, the people of El Paso, of Dayton, certainly every person who lives in this country and loves this country. We have all lost a lot. And it's been on the air of the past three days.

I have been covering it, a story that is sadly all too familiar, weapons of war unleashed on men, women and children going about their every day lives, shopping at Walmart, enjoying the night out. This time, 31 people are dead. Here are their names. Their families are grieving, feeling the same pain, shock and horror as all of the families of all of the shooting victims who have come before them. And there have been so many.

Study their names. And look at their faces. They are gone. And there are dozens of others who are injured, some still fighting for their lives. Still hard to believe that here in the United States of America, we are not safe. We are not safe at shopping centers, night clubs, schools, movie theaters, churches, mosques, synagogues.

Who would have thought that we would have to go through metal detectors to pray? It's up to our leaders to finally take decisive and bold action to end this epidemic of gun violence in our country. So far, despite so many massacres, they have failed.

And we are left once again to mourn the victims and honor their legacy. May they rest in peace. And may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.