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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump to Visit El Paso and Dayton; Interview With Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 6, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Are continuing to criticize Republicans for blocking gun control legislation, some of which enjoys bipartisan support.

And, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, this time, the person Democrats are focused on is not just President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the political fallout over how to prevent mass shootings, President Trump is headed to the scenes of the last two.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, the president and the first lady will travel to Dayton and El Paso.

COLLINS: But not everyone will be happy to see him.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the most racist president we have had since perhaps Andrew Johnson.

COLLINS: Trump is facing pushback from some current and local officials in El Paso and Dayton, including two Democratic presidential candidates urging him not to come.

O'ROURKE: And he is responsible for the hatred and the violence that we're seeing right now.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he's a polarizing figure, I think especially in El Paso.

COLLINS: El Paso's Republican Mayor Dee Margo says he has received e- mails from angry Texans, but will welcome Trump over the objections.

DEE MARGO (R), MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: 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.

COLLINS: Dayton's Democrat Mayor Nan Whaley says she will also welcome the president, as well as anyone protesting his visit.

NAN WHALEY, MAYOR OF DAYTON, OHIO: He's made this bed. He has got to lie in it. He hasn't -- his rhetoric has been painful for many in our community. And I think that people should stand up and say they're not happy, if they're not happy that he's coming.

COLLINS: Today, White House officials are firing back at former President Barack Obama after he issued a statement calling on the country to reject language from leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Nobody blames him for Newtown, Connecticut.

COLLINS: This amid growing calls in Washington for action on gun control.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It is a piece of paper. But it is a piece of paper that could save lives.

COLLINS: Democrats want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring back lawmakers from their five-week summer recess for a vote on stalled gun legislation.

RYAN: Mitch McConnell needs to get off his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and do something.

COLLINS: That sentiment heard outside McConnell's Kentucky home, where protests gathered on Monday night. Despite the inaction, a source close to McConnell says he's serious about considering gun legislation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, we're being told by sources right now that Republican leadership is not considering ending their recess and coming back to Capitol Hill because Mitch McConnell still feels that that universal background checks bill that Democrats have been calling for still does not have the support of the president or most Republicans in the Senate.

Instead, they say they want to stay in touch with the White House about potential legislation they could get passed when they do return in the fall. And our sources here at the White House are telling us the president has expressed some openness to expanding those background checks in the last few days.

But right now the question is whether or not that is something he does still support and in the coming days or if it is something that he will back off of in the end.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Republican Senator Pat Toomey from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who yesterday announced a bipartisan proposal for expanding background checks, along with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you just heard Kaitlan Collins report there, a source telling CNN that the majority leader, McConnell, has no interest in moving that House bill that expands background checks, since it lacks support from the president and sufficient Republicans in the Senate.

How is the Manchin-Toomey -- or, should I say, Toomey-Manchin bill, on expanding background checks, how is that different from the House version?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): Well, Jake, one of the main differences is that we're going after commercial gun sales.

So we think that there should be a background check for all commercial gun sales. But a private transaction between family members or friends, we would not require a background check for those kinds of transactions. The House bill is much broader, and it's virtually universal, with very few exceptions, is my understanding.

TAPPER: You and Senator Manchin were on this show pushing a similar bill on the floor of the Senate back in 2013 after the tragedy of Newtown. It did not pass.

You and Senator Susan Collins I believe are the only Republicans who voted for it back in 2013 who are still in the U.S. Senate. Do you think it can pass now? Do you think you can get more Republicans?

TOOMEY: Jake, I hope we can. And I hope it can pass.

You know, it's true Susan and I are the only two Republican senators remaining who voted for it. But I think that the sentiment has changed somewhat. And maybe it is just the accumulation of pain from all of these horrific experiences.

The president is open to this conversation. I have spoken with him several times in the last 24 hours. I have spoken to Leader McConnell. As usual, Mitch McConnell wants an actual outcome, not political grandstanding.

[16:35:04]

And to get an actual outcome, there needs to be bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. And that is what Joe Manchin and I are focused on. That is what I discussed with the president today and yesterday.

And that's what I'm hoping we can get to.

TAPPER: Did the president say that if your legislation passes the Senate that he will sign it?

TOOMEY: No, he didn't say that. And I didn't ask him that.

And I think he's still asking questions about the substance and how we get there, what other things might be included. For instance, I think there is broad support for red flags legislation. Senator Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I believe, intends to bring up such legislation.

You know, Jake, this is the legislation that would allow family and law enforcement when they discover somebody who is exhibiting dangerous and violent proclivities to bring that to the attention of a court and, if the court agrees, then to take the firearms and prevent that person from buying other firearms. That has broad support.

I think that is likely to move out of Judiciary and be able to pass on the full Senate floor. I also think my bill with Chris Coons, which would require the FBI to notify states when someone attempts to buy a firearm who is not legally entitled to by virtue of past criminal record, that is legislation that could pass.

And my hope is that we can include in that broadening the background checks, because I think we should have background checks for commercial sales.

TAPPER: Why do you think so many of your Republican Senate colleagues are so reluctant to support even a modest measure like this who -- that is supported by two people who -- before you supported this bill in 2013, you and Senator Manchin enjoyed -- I think you both had A's from the NRA.

TOOMEY: Yes, we did.

TAPPER: Is it because they're -- is it because you're afraid of losing -- not you, but are they afraid of losing an election? Are they afraid of the heat?

You and Manchin have shown you can support something like this and get reelected. What is holding them back?

TOOMEY: Yes, you can get reelected. There is a lot of heat, I assure you, as well.

There are a lot of folks who are concerned about a slippery slope, whereby first it is extending background checks and later maybe something else that -- so for me as a Second Amendment supporter, a gun owner, someone who believes in the Second Amendment, I don't think a background check is an infringement on the Second Amendment rights of a law-abiding citizen. I don't think it is.

I wouldn't support legislation that does infringe on that right because I think it is an important constitutional right. Some of my colleagues I think might be concerned that there is a slippery slope argument. I don't agree with that.

But we haven't had a vote in a number of years, and I'm hoping that we will be able to persuade some folks. There are a lot of new senators who weren't here the last time we voted on Manchin-Toomey. So we are going to have another chance, I think, and I hope soon.

TAPPER: All right, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, thank you so much, sir. Always good to see you. Please come back.

As this battle heats up, we want to hear from you and Senator Manchin. TOOMEY: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: New details just emerged about what else Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not plan to do about gun legislation.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:05]

TAPPER: In our politics lead, two communities grappling with grief and now also grappling with how to receive President Trump tomorrow amid his past divisive rhetoric.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says, while she will meet with President Trump, members of her city may not be as warm. Protests are expected.

Let's chat about this.

Jen Psaki, both the mayor of Dayton and the mayor of El Paso -- the mayor of El Paso is a Republican, mayor of Dayton, a Democrat -- going to meet with President Trump.

These types of meetings are usually about healing. President Trump in the past has shown that he is capable of it, he's able to do it.

But people in El Paso in particular seem very upset. Do you think it is possible that these trips can be what the nation needs right now?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is no evidence to suggest that.

And I say that because, having been a part of a number of the trips in the past, typically, what you do is you reach out to the mayor and you say to the mayor, what do you need?

And the mayors of countries -- of cities around the country, they're like momma grizzlies or papa grizzlies. They're worried about their communities. That's what they're most focused on.

When any president comes in, it takes up a lot of resources and time and energy. So they factor that in. But President Trump hasn't really exhibited an ability to publicly heal or publicly bring people together. The mayors are thinking about that, in addition to the fact that some of his rhetoric seems to have possibly led to one of these -- the motivation of one of these shooters, or that seems to be what the reporting is suggesting.

So they're focused on their communities and what they're hearing from their communities. A lot of these conversations are private, they're emotional, and they're looking at, is this person going to make people feel better or not?

It's a very human decision that these mayors are making.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And not only that.

And when it comes to El Paso in particular, the president hasn't really said nice things about it. He said it was crime-riddled when he went there initially. It's not. It was very safe.

Some of his rhetoric toward -- in part because of Beto O'Rourke and to the Latino community there. So it's not only the president's rhetoric writ large.

[16:45:00] It's how he's actually spoken about El Paso that is problematic.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What are you hoping for tomorrow, Patrick?

PATRICK GRIFFIN, GOP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I'm hoping that the people of El Paso and Dayton have an opportunity to hear from the president, speak to the president. If they are frustrated with President Trump, Jake, they have the opportunity to say that. If there are protests, there are protests.

I think right now though, the official capacity of the president is much been shared by the mayor of El Paso which is I'm not necessarily in agreement with him on a lot of issues. He's been very public about that, but I will welcome him in my official capacity as mayor and I will welcome him as president.

I think we're going to be very, very careful here. The politics on this are terrible and it's a terrible, terrible thing. And right now while we look at legislation, while we look at fixing this problem, we damn well better look at helping the nation to heal. Whether you like Donald Trump or you don't like him, he's the President of the United States, he should be accepted and he should hear what people have to say.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The problem I have with this is that it's not about the president. It's always about the president and himself. He thinks that. But when these communities are reeling, they are not worried about Donald Trump's feelings or what's appropriate as president, they're worried about their communities, and you know, I think that's what they're looking at.

They're looking at his rhetoric and how he's approached these issues, and they're thinking how will people digest and receive this here. It's not about his agenda or what's appropriate for him as president.

GRIFFIN: But you're supposing, Jen, that the President doesn't care about these communities. The political rhetoric aside, and Donald Trump has had plenty of it about El Paso and other crime-infested cities, we've heard about one not far from here recently.

KUCINICH: This is not crime-infested --

GRIFFIN: But I'm just saying, that was the president's rhetoric.

KUCINICH: Right.

GRIFFIN: The bottom line is I think he should have an opportunity to go, see for himself and hear for himself.

TAPPER: Laura, what are you expecting tomorrow in El Paso? Because obviously there's a large Latino community there, many members of the Latino community is -- I don't need to tell you -- feel demonized by President Trump ever since he came down that escalator in 2015.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Look, I'm not really sure how Trump is going to be received. I mean, we do know that El Paso is as Jackie said a very safe city. It's a border city with Juarez. I've been there multiple times. I've been across into Juarez. And so the question really is -- and a lot of Latino leaders are very frustrated, the ones on the ground like Veronica Escobar who represents that district as well as others across other states, and they're very concerned.

And they want to -- they are expecting to in the next day or so to be calling on Trump to try to suspend the deportations and to take more action in his words and saying that he is not going to be talking this way about Mexican immigrants or immigrants from South America.

TAPPER: Using the word invasion.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Using the word invasion, trying to dehumanize immigrants in a way that he has in the past.

TAPPER: And we have some breaking news right now. We just got the first reaction from the family of the accused El Paso domestic terrorist who killed 22 people. The family released a statement saying in part "Patrick's actions were apparently influenced and informed by people we do not know and from ideas and beliefs that we do not accept or condone in any way. He was raised in a family that taught love, kindness, respect, and tolerance, rejecting all forms of racism, prejudice, hatred, and violence. There will never be a moment for the rest of our lives when we will forget each and every victim of this senseless tragedy."

And this is -- this is something that you hear after a lot of these events is that family members are shocked to discover at this murderous person, often racist -- not always, but often a racist was racist and it's odd to me I think.

KUCINICH: And you know, this is -- I think that the fact that it's become part of this routine that we are all forced to go through now that you're waiting for -- oh, when is the family of the accused killer going to come out with their statement. OK, where's the others.

The fact that we have to go through this routine over and over again I think is why you are seeing some members of Congress come -- Republican members of Congress say enough is enough. I'm going to change my stance on it like we saw with Congressman Mike Turner.

Today the Dayton congressmen say that you know, he thinks that maybe some military-style assault weapons shouldn't be in the hands of civilians. Perhaps more background checks, red flag laws. I think that's -- it's not obviously a -- we haven't seen a turning point yet in terms of you know, many Republican members of Congress, but I think particularly in the suburbs, you're seeing people get sick of this McCobb routine that we are forced to go through every couple months.

BARRON-LOPEZ: That statement I think speaks to the very subtle way that racism permeates you know, through society which is that you may not think that someone you know is racist but they may use certain terms or phrases that are very subtle and that sends signals.

And that's also the question about the language that Trump has used himself which is invasion, which is infestation, not just about Latinos but also about black lawmakers in the communities that they represent, and how on various that language like that can be.

TAPPER: OK, everyone, thanks so much. The ex-girlfriend of the Dayton killer just spoke with CNN. You're going to hear from her next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: Breaking news right now. Hearing from someone who said she knew the Dayton killer well as the FBI now says there is hard evidence that he had a real interest, obsession even, in violent ideologies. I want to go now to CNN's Drew Griffin who's in Dayton, Ohio. And Drew, you just spoke with the gunman's ex-girlfriend moments ago, what did she have to say?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Adelia Johnson, 24 years old. She dated Connor Betts from January until May, broke off that relationship this May because of a stalking incident that she recalled on another ex-girlfriends of the shooters.

She told me that Connor had shared with her suicidal thoughts, Jake, that he admitted putting a gun in his mouth in the past, and on their very first date, shared with her video of a mass shooting.

[16:55:18] ADELIA JOHNSON, FORMER GIRLFRIEND OF DAYTON GUNMAN: He was interested in what makes terrible people do terrible things.

GRIFFIN: Mass shooting?

JOHNSON: Yes. And he knew that they were bad, he knew that they were horrific, and he wanted to know what might a person to do those things.

GRIFFIN: Jake, despite all that, she considered them yellow flags, not red flags, wishes now that she had got him the mental health that he says he told her he was looking for but did not get. The FBI has interviewed Adelia Johnson. She says they asked her all about the relationship, also about his music and about his video game use, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Drew Griffin in Dayton, Ohio, thanks so much. Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke left the campaign trail to go back to his hometown and mourn with his community. His visceral responses to President Trump and to reporters have gone viral, putting the 2020 hopeful back in the spotlight as CNN's Ryan Nobles reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Beto O'Rourke out of the public eye today. For the first time since learning of the mass shooting in his hometown --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next, Beto O'Rourke.

NOBLES: Just minutes before taking the stage at a candidate forum in Las Vegas, the gravity of the moment appearing to sink in as he addressed the crowd.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Keep that (BLEEP) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities.

NOBLES: It would be the first hint into the politicians raw reaction to the tragedy, a decision to not hold back. His public responses since that moment have been a raw mix of sadness, offering comfort, and most prominently anger specifically directed at President Trump.

O'ROURKE: Let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open avowed racist.

NOBLES: In the days since the shooting, the former city councilman, congressman, and now presidential candidate has visited victims and hospitals, encourage the community to give blood, and channel the community's outrage through his visible platform, at times his frustration boiling over.

O'ROURKE: 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.

NOBLES: And that approach has led to attacks from the Trump administration.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Beto O'Rourke from the Vanity Fair magazine cover, to the vanity project candidacy out there screaming and cursing about President Trump. That doesn't heal a single soul. That doesn't help prevent another mass shooting. They're raising their profile --

NOBLES: But O'Rourke is making it clear he stands by what he says. Since launching his presidential campaign, O'Rourke has struggled to recapture the energy surrounding his 2018 Senate run, consistently down in the polls since, and falling behind in the money race. And as of today, his campaign has no clear indication of what comes next.

And while he's not interested in talking about the campaign, it is clear O'Rourke has no plans to back down from this fight.

O'ROURKE: We have to show that that is the exception, not the rule, but that will become the new normal if we allow it to be, if we don't stand up --

(END VIDEOTAPE) NOBLES: And O'Rourke took a step back from that public platform today instead meeting behind the scenes with victims and families of the tragedy here in El Paso. Jake, there is no indication when he plans to return to the campaign trail.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Nobles in El Paso for us, thank you so much. Today we're learning more about the 31 men and women parents and children killed in these two horrific mass shootings over the weekend. For instance, 36-year-old Beatrice Warren-Curtis, she was killed in the Dayton attack.

A co-worker tells CNN the Beatrice was bright and vibrant and fondly recalled the birthday parties and girls nights that they shared. She also says Beatrice was very close to her mother and had nieces and nephews who adored her.

We also learned about 15-year-old Javier Rodriguez. He was the youngest victim killed in the El Paso shooting. During a tearful vigil last night, his friends and classmates remembered Javier as a one-of-a-kind person, someone who brightened everyone else's day.

We also learned about 63-year old David Johnson. He died -- he was killed protecting his wife and their nine-year-old granddaughter during the El Paso Walmart slaughter. His daughters tell CNN they want everyone to know that he died a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE MELENDEZ, DAUGHTER OF EL PASO VICTIME DAVID JOHNSON: My mom is still here and -- if it wasn't for him. Sure his legacy would be forever, forever with us and I want -- he was just a hero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He is indeed. His daughters say that one of David's favorite things to do was to set up science experiments in his kitchen and make potions with his grandchildren. That's just three. 28 other innocent lives were stolen in those two tragedies and our hearts are with their families and their friends. May their memories be a blessing.