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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Family of El Paso Victim Forgives Shooter; Interview With Nicole Hockley, Mother of Sandy Hook Victim. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 6, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:31:22] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back to El Paso, some 2,000 miles from Capitol Hill, where, right now, several halls are empty for the summer break. But will that soon change amid growing calls for action on guns in the wakes -- in the wake of these horrible crimes?

With me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Of course, California suffered its own mass shooting just last week in Gilroy.

Congressman Schiff, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So here we are, again, frankly, three shootings in the span of eight days, two in the span of 12 hours. We were asking the question, "Would this be different?" Would you see movement on the Hill on gun legislation?

It does not appear to be that way. The president raised and backed off background checks. I just spoke to the chairman, the director of communications for his 2020 campaign, repeating those same talking points about no one law would prevent these shootings. Is anything going to move this time, in the simplest terms?

SCHIFF: Well, Jim, it has to. And we just can't put up with this anymore. People need to vote those people out of office that are part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

And you know, we're hearing the same thing, as you point out, from the Trump campaign spokesman. You know, the same tired argument that because no single law would stop all shootings, therefore we should do nothing. That is just not an answer. We are seeing this dramatic rise in white supremist violence, these terrible mass shootings.

We've had this epidemic for years and years of young, angry men going out with assault weapons, with high-capacity ammunition clips, and killing people in short order.

And even when police respond with great alacrity, it's still not enough when you're using that kind of a weapon. And we're not powerless to do something about this. We can do

something about it. Indeed, the House of Representatives sent a universal background check to the Senate, and it has languished there. Mitch McConnell, proud of his status as the Grim Reaper of legislation like that.

They ought to go back in immediately and pass that legislation. And you know, I'll tell you one thing, though, Jim, that does give me encouragement. And that is in the midterm elections in these purplish districts, Democrats ran towards the gun issue and they won on it, rather than running away from it. And that is a big change historically, so I do think we're getting to a tipping point and it can't come soon enough.

SCIUTTO: You know, "Politico" had a piece today that said that in private, Republican lawmakers, your colleagues on the other side of the aisle, will say that, "Listen, we're open to some of these gun control measures, but we need presidential leadership."

I wonder, do you have private conversations with your Republican colleagues to say, "Hey, we can get on the same page on universal background checks or banning high-capacity magazines." Do they say that to you in private?

SCHIFF: Well, in private, they -- you know, they express their deep misgivings about the president generally, not necessarily on this issue. But I'm tired of people's private misgivings.

And if they're going to wait until Donald Trump shows leadership on guns or anything else, they're going to be waiting until the cows come home. They need to show some leadership themselves. And that's the only way we're going to get something done on this.

We've seen this pattern before with the president, where he will make these forced statements -- he looks like a hostage when he's reading these statements, expressing condolence or condemning white nationalists -- and then he'll go back to the same racist tweets and taunts at his rallies.

[10:35:04] And, you know, for my GOP colleagues to expect anything different at this point is preposterous. They need to show some leadership. There's a perfectly good universal background bill that has passed the House, that is simply waiting to be taken up in the Senate. It would do a lot of good.

You know, bans on high-capacity ammunition clips, a ban on assault weapons. It's not going to stop all these shootings, but it's going to make them far less lethal and it's going to save lives.

SCIUTTO: Is there a give-and-take on this issue? The president very briefly, in his tweet yesterday, raised the possibility of trading immigration reform for universal background checks. He didn't follow through on that in his public comments.

But is there, when you have these discussions, is there something that you can give to the Republican side to get action, for instance on universal background checks?

SCHIFF: There have been long negotiations over universal background checks. But frankly, for the president to bring up immigration reform in the context of this shooting in El Paso, I just find terribly offensive and counterproductive. It's as if he's saying that the cause of this shooting is the failure to enact immigration reform, that somehow this justifies this horrendous act of violence.

You know, that's the implication, that if we don't pass immigration reform, more people are going to go out and do these mass shootings. That's not how you condemn this horrific racist motivation of the shooter.

Similarly, when the president blames the press in a tweet and if the press doesn't change how it --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SCHIFF: -- reports these things, we're going to see more of these shootings as if, you know, the fact that you're reporting the president's words and his actions, and how they parallel the words of the manifesto of this El Paso shooter, somehow makes the press responsible.

You know, this, I think, is where you really see the president, not in the canned statement written for him, but in his own words and his own tweets. And so, again, if my colleagues are going to wait for him to show leadership here, then we're going to just continue to see these kind of terrible tragedies.

SCIUTTO: Another opportunity during his visits to Dayton and El Paso tomorrow. We'll see what he says. Congressman Adam Schiff, we appreciate you coming on this morning.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: This next moment may amaze you: forgiveness in the face of the tragedy that happened here in El Paso, a remarkable, remarkable moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MISTI JAMROWSKI, MOTHER OF VICTIM: We forgive him. We honestly forgive him. We pray for him. We hope that he finds God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, that's a remarkable sentiment after that mother there, losing both her daughter and her son-in-law, parents to three children. How they're able to move forward after such an unthinkable act.

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[10:42:38] SCIUTTO: Here in El Paso, Texas, of course, we're heard heartbreaking stories of grief, but there are also stories of resilience, even forgiveness, truly remarkable forgiveness. Sara Sidner joins me now.

So, Sara, you spoke with a family -- really, the one that's stuck in my mind most. They lost this protecting their two-month-old baby boy, a mother and father of three, they died in this. The family, though, offering this olive branch to the shooter.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now only the shooter. But the family, the Jamrowskis, offering the olive branch to the shooter's family, basically saying, "We forgive him and we don't want the family to face any kind of harassment by anyone." It is remarkable to see this family, who has not yet buried their two children, watch this, watch what unfolded, dealing with all the sorrow. And here they are, saying, "I forgive you."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): The Jamrowski family can't hold back their tears as they recount the loss they're experiencing.

Misti and Paul Jamrowski's son-in-law, Andre Anchondo, and their daughter, Jordan, were two of 22 people, killed by a suspected terrorist at an El Paso Walmart.

M. JAMROWSKI: We pray a lot. And we have a lot of family and friends. But you're just broken. Like you go to call her, you forget that she's not there.

SIDNER (voice-over): Leta and Ashley lost their sister and brother- in-law.

ASHLEY, JAMROWSKI, SISTER OF VICTIM: It's like her and Andre were, like, my heart. It's like I lost part of me.

SIDNER (voice-over): Liz (ph) Terry and Jesse Jamrowski lost a niece and nephew. Five-year-old Skylin lost her mother and stepfather.

SKYLIN ANCHONDO: I love my mom and dad.

SIDNER (voice-over): Her brother, 2-month-old Paul Gilbert, was in his mother's arms when she crashed to the ground after being shot.

M. JAMROWSKI: The shooter had aimed at Jordan, and Andre jumped in front of Jordan. And the shooter shot Andre, and the bullets went through Andre and his Jordan.

SIDNER (voice-over): Both were killed, leaving Paul Gilbert orphaned and injured.

[10:45:00] PAUL JAMROWSKI, FATHER OF VICTIM: The sad thing is, is that even with all of us, it's Mom and Dad. We can't replace Mom and Dad. That's just something you can't replace.

SIDNER (voice-over): This is the devastating ripple effect of murder, the pain slicing across generations. After all the hate spewed by the suspected gunman, the Jamrowskis say they're sticking to something else to get through the hurt: love, faith and forgiveness. Before they have even had a chance to bury the dead, they had a

message for the killer.

M. JAMROWSKI: We forgive him. We honestly forgive him. We pray for him. We hope that he finds God, because God teaches you to be loving.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: I'm dumbfounded. Within hours of losing so much, how do they manage?

SIDNER: They really said, "Look, we believe in forgiveness because of our faith. And that is what we have to hang onto because anger is only going to hurt us.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SIDNER: And so their thought is, "Look, we can do this early enough and send that message of love, that there will be more love that is out there than there is hate."

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SIDNER: And they repeatedly said that. But there is one other thing that will never leave my mind. Their daughter, Skylin, said to them, when she found out that her mother had died, "Is my daddy dead?" And for hours, they didn't know.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: They did not know whether or not her father had passed away, her stepfather. When they did find out -- and she found out, she said, "Is he going to kill me too?"

SCIUTTO: Jesus.

SIDNER: This is a 5-year-old --

SCIUTTO: That's the fear.

SIDNER: -- who was worried about being killed, from what she called "the bad man." And this family is going to have to deal with that, and try to help her understand and feel safe in a world that, really, they don't even feel safe.

SCIUTTO: Listen, if you think the suffering is confined to the people who lost their lives there --

SIDNER: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- of course, we're wrong. It extends throughout the community.

SIDNER: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Sara Sidner, so good to have you on this story. And at least a positive message there. Goodness. If those people can

forgive so much in so short an amount of time, you've got to say, there's hope for something.

But in the push to try to prevent the next shooting, many say that stronger background checks are one answer. Next, we're going to speak to the mother of a Sandy Hook victim, what she learned after the last congressional push for background checks. Of course, that one failed as well.

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[10:52:32] SCIUTTO: Gun violence, of course, has torn so many -- too many families apart, here in the U.S. But my next guest turned that pain into action by advocating for gun reform. Six-year-old Dylan Hockley was one of 20 children and six adults, killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Joining me now is Dylan's mother, Nicole Hockley. She is the managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, which aims to make a difference in the wake of this kind of violence.

Nicole, thanks so much for coming on today. I have to say that as a parent myself, when I speak to people like you, my heart goes out. And I just wonder, when you see this violence repeated again and again, what's your reaction?

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: it saddens and infuriates me, that this just continues to happen. You would think by now, we would have learned our lessons and found ways to come together to provide real solutions to make changes and save lives.

SCIUTTO: Yes. So already, I've sensed that this moment likely will not be different -- a question we asked after Sandy Hook and so many other attacks -- because you hear the president, you hear Republicans repeating the same talking points on why this gun measure or that gun control measure won't make a difference.

What's your reaction when you hear that as well? And what do you think would change that political dynamic, if anything, today?

HOCKLEY: That's a hard question to answer, but I think the problem is that we're getting to a future point quite quickly, where everyone in America will be touched by gun violence at some point, or know someone who's been touched by gun violence. And, sadly, it seems to be one of those issues that you only want to fight for change and come together to discuss change, once it has affected you.

So people need to put their policies aside and think about the lives that we need to save. I mean, and preventing gun violence is so much more than just policy around access to guns, but there are real bipartisan solutions sitting, stalled, in Congress right now.

And you know, and I urge the president and Congress to live by their promises and take action. Because we can't just keep having the same conversation, day after day, week after week and year after year. SCIUTTO: It's frustrating, it's aggravating. You've met with the

president. The president, in the wake of this, has raised the possibility of red flag laws, as they're known. This appears to have some bipartisan support.

[10:55:10] Your organization focuses on giving communities the ability, the resources to identify potential attackers before it happened. Do you think that a red flag law would make a significant difference?

HOCKLEY: Absolutely. At Sandy Hook Promise, we've been fighting for red flag laws, or extremist protection orders, in states and federally for years now. It's an incredibly important and life-saving law. And when I met with the president last year and vice president, on two occasions, spoke to them specifically about the importance of these laws.

And there is -- there are bipartisan proposals in Congress right now, for extremist protection orders. This would be a simple and quick act to put in place, and save lives immediately.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, for your sake, for our sake, I hope we do see change this time. Nicole Hockley, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

And I'm Jim Sciutto in El Paso, where we continue to cover this tragedy. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" will start right after the break.

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