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Trump To Visit El Paso, Dayton After Deadly Mass Shootings; El Paso Gunman Warned Of Immigrant Invasion, So Has Trump. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired August 6, 2019 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow is off today.

I'm here in El Paso, a community reeling from the deaths of 22 people. Two more died in the last 24 hours. And now, the city is preparing for what is becoming a polarizing visit here locally from President Trump. The wounds are still fresh, emotional and physical here.

The White House says the focus of the President's trip tomorrow is condolences and resources, getting resources to this community, to hear from mayors and survivors of the shooting as well.

But it threatens to divide this border city along political lines, just as people here to trying to heal those wounds. Local democrats in Texas, they're demanding the President cancel the trip. They say now is not the time.

President Trump, we should mention, will also visit Dayton, Ohio tomorrow. That's where nine people were killed in a second weekend shooting, just 13 hours after the first one here in El Paso. We're just yards from the crime scene, in fact.

For more, let's go straight to the White House with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the President and the White House is certainly aware of the divisiveness that this is causing in some of these locales, certainly here on the ground, many people protesting his coming visit. What is his aim is visiting both El Paso and Dayton tomorrow?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, officials are pushing back on that criticism back here at the White House, because they say the President will be similarly criticized if he didn't make a visit to where these mass shootings have occurred.

And, of course, the President is not going to be receiving this across the board welcome that you would typically expect a president to receive, especially when he's visiting somewhere after a mass shooting, mass shootings, like the ones that we saw happened over the weekend. But he is going to be leaving Washington tomorrow, going to El Paso and then going on to Dayton.

But that comes, as you've seen several of those local officials and former officials from the area pushed back and urged the President not to come, including Beto O'Rourke, who says that the President's rhetoric has contributed to what we saw happen in El Paso at that Walmart on Saturday, drawing a direct line between the two of them.

But still, despite that pushback from those local officials and from the democratic presidential candidate, the El Paso Mayor says the President is going to come and he is going to meet with him, despite the criticism.


MAYOR DEE MARGO (D-TX): This is not a political visit, as he had before. The President is coming out and I will meet with the President and I guess for people who have lots of time on their hands, I'll deal with their emails and their phone calls.


COLLINS: So he's saying in his official capacity, he is going to meet with the President. But, Jim, he did push back, saying that if the President tries to make any kind of inaccurate statements or statements that's disparaging the area that he will push back on those. That's what Dee Margo said yesterday during that press conference. Because, of course, if you all remember, the last time the President was in El Paso was back in February when he and Beto O'Rourke had those essentially dueling rallies as Beto O'Rourke was pushing against what the President was describing El Paso was, talking about crime, talking about the need for a border wall.

So it will be a very different visit tomorrow, but you're still going to see that similar contrast between the two of them.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks very much.

Joining me now is David Stout. He is the Head of the El Paso County, as the El Paso County Commissioner Democrat here.

You have been public in your opposition to the President's visit here tomorrow. Tell us why.

DAVID STOUT, EL PASO COUNTY COMMISSIONER: You know, we still have a gaping wound in this community, and I believe that this would just be throwing salt into that wound.

You know, as we've heard, our president has many times disparaged, vilified, demonized the type of people that live in this community. And he has Tweeted more than 2,000 times about this so-called invasion. He has questioned the credibility of a Mexican judge because of the fact that he is Mexican and he has laughed at -- thinking that it's a joke when people are talking about shooting immigrants.

Regardless of what happened here on Saturday, I don't know why we would want President Trump to be here when this is a type of community that he obviously doesn't care for.

SCIUTTO: Kaitlan mentioned the last visit here when he echoed some of those comments about this frontier, which as folks realize, Juarez, Mexico is about a mile away. And what has struck me since being here is that these communities are very much intertwined.


There's not a sense of this being a Berlin Wall between Mexico and the U.S. People move back and forth, families are split on both sides of the border.

Do you believe that the President's rhetoric has fueled this kind of violence?

STOUT: I do. I do believe that. You know, you can see many reflections, especially within the manifesto, that the suspect in this crime wrote that are very, very similar to a lot of the rhetoric that the President has utilized.

SCIUTTO: Did it make a difference though when you heard the President in the wake of this say, call out white supremacy by name, call out domestic terrorism by name? Did you see that as a positive step?

STOUT: It's about time that that happens. But paying lip service doesn't do us any good, okay? You know, what the President can do, I think, is stay in Washington. We at the county had an emergency meeting yesterday and we are planning on applying for a number of grants. He should make those grants available to us immediately. That's what he and his administration can do.

SCIUTTO: Grants for what?

STOUT: To help us to pay for all of the police overtime, to help pay for the crime scene cleanup, to even help with victims and their health care bills. Mental health of this whole community has suffered.

SCIUTTO: I think folks at home don't realize what a cost it is for the communities. Beyond the emotional cost, of course, that is lasting, but all the resources necessary.

I want to ask you about guns in particular. This was a high-powered long rifle, again, that allowed the killer to kill so many in a short span of time, similar weapon used in Dayton, similar weapon used in Gilroy, California.

You're already hearing from this President backing off the idea of universal background checks. I spoke to republican lawmakers yesterday who were, again, repeating talking points about how gun legislation won't make a difference. No one law will prevent all shootings. Of course, that's true of law we passed. Are you frustrated to see the debate turning back to where it was before, even after this horrible spade (ph) crime?

STOUT: I mean, we've been having this debate for way too long. This is, I believe, number 250 this year when we're talking about mass shootings in this country. I think that, you know, we need to take it seriously.

And, you know, we had Senator John Cornyn here. We had Governor Greg Abbott here. And they talked about, you know, wanting to support this community, wanting to help us out. The way that they can help us out, Governor Abbott, call a special session and pass some of these bills at our own delegation, members in our own delegation have proposed and have been completely ignored.

SCIUTTO: Tell us about conversations here. Because Texas is a -- gun loving is too strong. But it's a state that values the right to bear arms or right to own guns. But we also know that national polling shows that even republican support background checks and opened ideas like banning high capacity and yet they go nowhere in Congress.

When you speak to residents here, particularly in the wake of the shooting, residents who are gun owners, are they willing to allow for changes like that? I mean, look at the weapons used. I spent a lot of time in Iraq and Afghanistan and I didn't even see some of that stuff there. Are people in Texas willing to have that conversation?

STOUT: I think people really understand that those of us who are advocating for this are not out to take away their constitutional right. But there are certain types of weapons that don't need to be in communities and don't need to be on the streets. And I think that people in El Paso understand that, yes.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see if the dynamic changes. So far, the signs don't seem to point in that direction, but we know you're working hard. David Stout, we wish you and the community the best.

STOUT: Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Also this morning, we're learning more details about the Dayton, Ohio shooter's interactions on social media prior to this attack. And some businesses begin to reopen a gun show there in Dayton has been canceled. small steps.

CNN's Polo Sandoval, he is in Dayton with more. Polo, what are we learning this morning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we now know obviously of a Twitter account that was suspended by that social media platform on Sunday. This would have been obviously after the shooting here. And that particular account does contain both anti-police and for antifa posts (ph), as well as extreme left-wing posts or re-Tweets.

However, we should point out that police have not acknowledged that at this point. They have said that they're considering everything right now as part of this investigation.

But we also are hearing from multiple former high school students that went to school with the gunman and they say that this killer kept both a kill list and a rape list.


However, police there are also saying that at this point, investigators are really reluctant to assume that anything from at least ten years ago would have played a role potentially in this investigation here or at least played a role as a possible motive here.

And then back to that Twitter account, it's really important to point out as well that police here on the ground have not specifically said that they are considering this as -- or at least they haven't found anything that would point to this as being either racially or politically motivated, which would be a very significant difference from what's happening right now about 1,500 miles away from where you are in El Paso.

SCIUTTO: Polo, that's right. Two communities now joined by this kind of violence, a sad connection. I know that no one in either town wanted.

Still to come this hour, why isn't the President of the United States, why isn't he leading the charge on gun reform, if the vast majority of even republicans are willing to support measures, such as universal background checks, even banning high-capacity magazines?

The Director of Strategic Communications for Trump's 2020 campaign, he joins us ahead. We're going to ask him the hard questions.

Also, how will Congress act? I'm speaking live with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff about his party's next steps. What can they do to make a difference? That's coming up.

Plus, a grieving family offering forgiveness to the gunman accused of killing their loved ones. Coming up, their message of faith, hope and love. It's a remarkable one in the wake of this.



SCIUTTO: Police say that 22 people killed here in El Paso just a few yards behind me here at the Walmart were shot by a man who posted his motivations prior to the attack online. He's believed to have warned against a Hispanic invasion, note that word, saying democrats were using open borders, again, note that phrase, to attract new voters into the country.

Now, according to Facebook's own archive of advertisements on its site, we can see how many times that very same language was used in ads for President Trump.

Joining me now from Washington, CNN Technology Reporter Brian Fung. He follows this kind of thing.

So, Brian, tell us how often that kind of language, those words, key words like invasion, have turned up in the President's rhetoric and campaign ads. BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Well, Jim, according to Facebook's political advertising tool, President Trump has used the term, invasion, in roughly 2,200 Facebook political ads. And this all began kind of in January and February when, as you may recall, there was a big debate about whether or not to fund President Trump's border wall proposal and there was a government shutdown. And it appears that many of these ads seem to have come on Facebook around that time when a lot of folks were trying to fight a big political battle over whether or not to fund the wall.

Now, it's not just President Trump who has engaged in this rhetoric on Facebook, a number of other republicans as well, you know, candidates or Senate in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama have also used this similar language, which raises questions about just how much President Trump's own rhetoric may be filtering down and influencing the rhetoric and behavior of other Americans.

SCIUTTO: Brian Fung, it's good to have you following this story. That data is important.

Joining me now is Marc Lotter. He is a spokesman for the Trump 2020 campaign. Marc, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So you saw that data there. The President using repeatedly, not just in his public comments, but in campaign ads, words that are repeated by, that are in common with white supremacists, white nationalists, including the shooter who carried out this attack behind me. Why is your campaign repeating that kind of rhetoric?

LOTTER: I think it's important to call out the problem we have with illegal immigration for what it is. And that's what the President has been doing so in fighting the battle against illegal immigration. People by the hundreds of thousands coming into our country illegally with very little that we can do to get them out of the country.

The President is in favor of legal immigration, he has said that very often and repeatedly. But when it comes to illegal immigration, we have to be able to control our borders.

SCIUTTO: But why does he have to speak about human beings in those terms, you know? And this goes back to the campaign ,rapists and murders. He laughed at a Florida rally in May of this year when people talked about shooting people coming across the border.

You can deal with the legal immigration. Why do you have to speak -- Marc, why do you have to speak -- I'll play the clip again for you, Marc. He laughed when someone in the crowd -- he laughed when someone in the crowd --

LOTTER: Let's play the whole clip. Not just the edited clip.

SCIUTTO: It's not a falsely edited clip. In fact, I'll ask my team to call it up while we're on the air. We'll see if they can call it up.

The President laughed when the crowd talked about shooting them. And he made a sort of offhand comment saying you can only get away with that in the Panhandle.


But I'm talking about the broad sweep of his language talking about these people. Does that help -- in the simplest terms, does that help or hurt the growing problem of domestic terrorism and white nationalism in this country? Does it help or hurt?

LOTTER: I think what the President is doing is identifying an issue that is a challenge for our country. It is also an issue that has confronted our country for many decades. We are now trying to ascribe the motives of a political candidate or an office holder on someone who conducted an outrageous act of terror.

We're also not talking about the extreme leftist who was the shooter in the Dayton shooting. And so we've got to get to the point and what the President is talking about yesterday --

SCIUTTO: We led our broad cast with the motivations of the Dayton shooter. In fact, we spent several minutes on that. But the fact is if you look at the crime, the DOJ's statistics, the anti-defamation league's statistics, of the 50 acts of domestic terrorism in the last couple of years, 39 of them driven by white nationalism. Those are the facts collected by the President's own Justice Department.

Will you grant on this air that white nationalism is a growing threat in this country?

LOTTER: And the President condemned it yesterday. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Justice also have a task force and people who are trained in looking into this. In fact, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security this morning talked about in his very first week in office, he asked Congress in an out of cycle budget request to increase the resources for those actions.

So this is something that the administration takes very seriously. But we should also not just try to overstep with these tragedies to just make it about politics. We're not blaming the political motives of the Dayton shooter on any specific candidate, nor did we blame Bernie Sanders for the congressional shooting. And to just always come back and make this about President Trump does

a disrespect to the victims and I think the issue that we need to confront.

SCIUTTO: I asked you a simple question. I asked you a question whether the President's rhetoric helps or hurts the issue. But I want to play because you accused us of falsely editing the clip. I'm going to play you the clip from the May 2019 rally and then let's come back for a reaction. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: How do you stop these people?

AUDIENCE: You shoot them.

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


SCIUTTO: That's the President. And I know that before that, the President said you can't do that, acknowledging it's illegal to illegally shoot people.

The President of the United States there on a bully pulpit laughing when the crowd shouts out, shoot them. Is that an appropriate response from a sitting president?

LOTTER: I think when you show the entire context, which you just mentioned, Jim, when the President said, we're not a country that uses weapons against people who are coming across our border illegally, and he's also dismissing that comment being shouted out by that person.

SCIUTTO: He laughed. The President laughed. The President laughed.

LOTTER: He was dismissive of it. He was dismissive of it.

SCIUTTO: He was laughing.

LOTTER: He was very dismissive of it.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you another question. The vast -- let's get to -- he laughed at it.

Let's get gun control at this point, and we'll show the statistics up on the screen. The vast majority of republicans in this country support a number of potential gun control measures. They support preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns, background checks for private sales and gun shows, closing the loophole, as you know, banning -- even a majority there, banning high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons.

Privately, republicans on the Hill will say, if we had presidential leadership on this publicly, we could get behind some of these measures. Why isn't the President acting now on any of these potential things beyond -- I know he's expressed his support for red flag laws, but why not for closing background check loopholes or banning high-capacity magazines? Why isn't he doing that now?

LOTTER: Well, the first thing I'd point out is that the President signed a law in 2018 to fix the background check system and he's also expressed a willingness to include more information.

SCIUTTO: But not (INAUDIBLE) the step of universal background checks. That's the different here, as you well know. And the President Tweeted yesterday about the possibility of background checks, but joining that to immigration legislation, but in his public comments, he backed off that and I wonder why that is. LOTTER: Well, and what I would also point out though, as one of the reports on CNN had indicated, the background checks or universal background checks would not have stopped the two shooters in these two weekend episodes. We've got to fix the problems.

SCIUTTO: Marc, no one law -- no one law stops any crime.


Laws against theft don't stop every act of theft. Laws against domestic violence don't stop every act of domestic violence. Laws against insider trading don't. I mean, the talking point that is repeated after every one of these things as well, that one law wouldn't have stopped this.

The question is big picture. If a majority of republicans support these measures, why won't the President get behind them?

LOTTER: And I think the President has expressed a willingness to talk to Congress, work with Congress on these issues. But we also have to be honest in this discussion, in that we have to fix the background check problem. We need to make sure that information, like we saw in the background of the Dayton shooter, which should have been the red flag, that that kind of information can get into consideration. That way we know we have the ability to stop these kinds of things before they happen.

So there is no single fix. The President is talking about doing things in the big picture that can give us the best opportunity at stopping something like this in the future.

SCIUTTO: And you're right to note that the President has put his backing behind red flag laws. And now, we're seeing an effort between, I believe, Senator Blumenthal, democrat and republicans. We'll see if that moves forward.

Marc Lotter, Director of Strategic Communications for Trump 2020, we appreciate you taking the time and the hard questions.

LOTTER: Absolutely. Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: There are, as we noted, growing calls for Congress to act on guns on some of these measures. Will lawmakers cancel their current summer break, take immediate action, at least consider immediate action, find agreement among the parties? We'll see.

Congressman Adam Schiff, a prominent democrat, he's going to join me live next.