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Joe Biden Leans On Faith Amid Tragedy, Saying "There Is Hope"; President Trump Endorses Red Flag Laws, Stops Short Of Other Gun Laws; Obama: Reject Language From Leaders Who Demonize Others. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired August 6, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he asked his wife and his -- to take the kids upstairs. And my wife had gone home to change before she came back -- we got right off the train.

And he said, "Dad, look at me, dad." He said, "I'm going to be OK no matter what happens." He knew he only had months to go.

And he said, "But promise me, dad -- promise me you'll be OK." And I said, "Beau, I'll be OK."

And I know people make fun of it but we have a thing in our family. He said, "Dad, promise me as a Biden. Give me your word as a Biden you'll be OK" because that's a sacred thing we do. And I said, "I will, Beau."

But I knew what he meant. He meant, dad, don't do what you want to do. You want to turn inward. You want to just wall yourself off. You don't want to be part of it all.

He just wanted me to make sure that the things that made it my life -- my whole life, I didn't walk away from. He knew I'd take care of the kids. He knew I would be there for the family.

But it's the thing -- the other thing I would strongly urge people -- and they can't do it now. They just can't even think through the fog right now.

But eventually, what will take you through is purpose. Find a purpose -- something that matters, particularly if it's something connected to the loss you just had.

And so -- I'm being too personal. I get up in the morning and I think to myself every morning is he proud of me? Am I doing what he wants? And I'm sure that that's the same way with you and a whole lot of other people.

And -- but at a moment -- there will come a time when you think of the person you lost -- and it takes a long while -- but you get a smile before you get a tear. And that's when you know you're going to make it.

And so many people have gone through what I've been through without the help I had. Think of all the heroes out there walking the streets today. They get up every single morning and put one foot in front of the other and they move -- they move.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": My mom used to say this saying -- it's from Scottish philosopher. And the saying is, "Be kind because everybody you meet is fighting a great battle."

BIDEN: Exactly right.

COOPER: And that's a very important thing.

BIDEN: You know -- and, you know, Kierkegaard also said, "Faith sees best in the dark." Sometimes it's really dark but there is hope. And think about what it means for those family members you have left. They need you -- they need you.

And look, folks, that's why I think that it matters -- the stories of these people -- for the public to understand that this is not just a statistic. This is -- this is -- this is who we are -- who they are.

I mean, it's -- and it really is about, you know, sort of reweaving that social fabric that holds a society together. Honesty, decency, hope, leaving nobody behind, giving hate no safe harbor. We don't always -- that's who we are. That's who we are and it's the thing that holds us together.

And I don't see much of it coming from the far-right and the Breitbarts of the world, and the -- and this administration. It's the uniqueness of America.

COOPER: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much.

BIDEN: Sorry, I didn't mean to get so personal.

COOPER: No, I appreciate it -- no.

BIDEN: Well --

COOPER: It helps.

BIDEN: You know, it's -- I just -- it's just amazing how it's -- and everybody knows who Donald Trump is.


BIDEN: We've got to let him know who we are. Even his supporters know who he is. They have no illusions about the basic fundamental character traits.

I mean, it's -- and I think -- I think sometimes he thinks that when we talk about this thing that we talk about other people like we're being suckers. You know, like we're not thinking of yourself.

I mean, I don't know. I don't -- we need to let him know that we choose hope over fear, you know?


BIDEN: Unity over division. And maybe most importantly, truth over lies.

It's -- but, we've got to make sure that -- not because I'm running -- we've got to make sure that the American people understand however you're trying to lead that you mean what you say. There's some authenticity to it --

[07:35:02] COOPER: Yes.

BIDEN: -- and it matters. And you know as well as I do, it really matters.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was something and I think it went in directions that Anderson wasn't expecting.

Put politics aside for a moment. This isn't about politics or elections here. But, Joe Biden has a gift and it's a gift no one would ask for, and that's an understanding of grief and how to talk to people about grief. That was remarkable to hear.

All right. While everyone was sleeping, there was a development on the gun discussion I think everyone missed, and it's a reason to think maybe -- maybe there might be significant ground for agreement.

We're going to speak to the person I think might be one of the most important people in America this morning. That's next.


BERMAN: We just heard from former Vice President Joe Biden weighing in on the discussion about what to do about guns in this country. And not to diminish his role or even President Trump's role or Congress' role, but now we're going to speak to one person that I think might have said the most important thing about the gun discussion in America over the last 24 hours.

Joining us now is Scott Jennings, a CNN political commentator and columnist for "USA Today" and importantly, someone who has been a big part of his career working for and advising Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Also joining us is Tiffany Cross, co-founder and managing editor of "The Beat DC". And, Nia-Malika Henderson, a CNN senior political reporter.

You're all important in my book but, Scott -- and I'm actually not being hyperbolic, to quote Joe Biden here at all -- you wrote an op-ed last night that when I read it -- and I read it in bed -- I sat up straight.

[07:40:02] Why? Because I know that what you say Mitch McConnell hears and sometimes Mitch McConnell speaks.

So, Scott, what you wrote last night was, "You cannot legislate the crazy and evil out of humanity. But you damn sure can let the American people know that political leaders of goodwill exist in our polarized world and that they will set out all of the scar tissue aside to reassure a nation asking itself: 'What is wrong with us?'"

And then you wrote that you would be in favor of universal background checks of some kind and perhaps, a ban on high-capacity magazines like the 100-round drums used in the shootings in Dayton.

So my question to you is do you see movement now? Can I read what you wrote last night as movement in this discussion? Will Republicans and the majority leader perhaps be willing to pass legislation on universal background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines?


And yes, I do think there's going to be movement. I think the majority leader put out a statement late yesterday afternoon indicating that he directed his committee chairs to try to come up with something that could pass both chambers in a bipartisan way.

By the way, I also wrote that I would be in favor of a red flag law.

Which then, after McConnell made his statement, Lindsey Graham made a statement that he and Connecticut Sen. Blumenthal seemed to have some kind of an agreement on coming up with a red flag law that a lot of conservatives believe are a key issue here in moving this debate forward.

So, yes, I see -- look, I'm a glass-half-full kind of political pundit and I have optimism here that out of the shadow of this tragedy -- these multiple tragedies -- something good can happen.

I just don't think that it's feasible to do nothing nor do I think it's feasible to do the most extreme thing that a lot of folks on the political left want to do. And nor do I think it's feasible for all of us to throw up our hands. I think we all have to look at this situation and say what is within the realm of the possible, what is politically palatable, and what could actually solve some problems?

I do also think, John, that it's important that people realize I don't think there's any law -- and I wrote this in my piece --


JENNINGS: -- that can legislate all of the evil out of this world. And there will be people who exploit any law we pass.

But that doesn't mean we can't try to give the American people some comfort. That we're looking into this -- that we're trying to do anything we can do, understanding that there are always going to be bad people in this world.

BERMAN: Is it a reasonable reading this morning, Scott, of what you are writing, that Mitch McConnell will be open to universal background checks?

JENNINGS: I think he has stated that he is open to a process here to find things that can achieve bipartisan and bicameral support. That's what he always is trying to do -- get the things to the floor that actually have a chance to pass.

I mean, look, I told him yesterday I thought background checks were a 90-10 issue in this country and that people in both parties find it eminently reasonable that folks would undergo a background check. So, yes, I think that we're headed towards a process here.

Now, are the extremes of both parties going to try to derail this process with things that can't pass or ideas that would derail the whole thing? I hope not --

BERMAN: But -- go ahead.

JENNINGS: -- because I think most people are aware -- the polling says they are -- which is yes, a background check is eminently reasonable.

BERMAN: So -- and I want to bring the others into the discussion right now -- but the House has passed two measures. One of them is a more universal background check. Then, there's Manchin-Toomey, which was before the Senate a few years ago.

So one of those types of things -- and this has to be a yes or no -- you think has some kind of a chance of getting through the Senate -- the Republicans, specifically, in the Senate?

JENNINGS: Yes, I think there is a path forward here to get a background check process on the floor. Now, when you put things on the floor of the Senate --


JENNINGS: -- a lot of folks offer amendments and a lot of things --


JENNINGS: -- are said. And I think people should keep that in mind.

But, yes, I think -- I think these tragedies have opened everybody's eyes --


JENNINGS: -- to the need to move this debate forward.

And by the way, Congress has done things. They did the Fix NICS bill last year --


JENNINGS: -- which fixed the criminal background check system that was put in place by a bipartisan effort of Bush and the Democrats in Congress after the Virginia Tech shooting. So things have happened --

BERMAN: Right.

JENNINGS: -- of an incremental nature. But here's a chance to do something bigger as the process goes.

BERMAN: So, Mia and Tiffany, thank you for your patience.

Nia, let me start with you. Am I crazy or is this, in fact, a big deal? I mean, Scott is telling us, I think, that Mitch McConnell is open -- and he hasn't done it yet -- but open to the idea of bringing universal background checks to the floor. That's a big movement.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and we'll see if it sort of pays off in the end. We'll see if the president judges sort if the political moment is right for him to put together the kind of package that Scott wrote about. Maybe the House bill -- maybe the Manchin-Toomey bill.

I mean, that is -- in some ways, we've been here before where the president, himself, seems open to some of these ideas -- open to all sorts of ideas that even the left would like. And then, folks get in his ear, whether it's the NRA or whoever it might be -- folk on Fox News -- and then there is some backpedaling.

[07:45:04] I think it is obviously up to Mitch McConnell but it's also up to the president --

BERMAN: Right.

HENDERSON: -- as well to sort of signal what he's open for.

And I think -- you know, I think coming into this process -- coming into the presidency, the president did seem to be positioned to be someone who could be open to some of these bipartisan ideas. But since then, sort of the politics of the NRA, the politics of folks on the extremes of both parties kind of take -- took over.

BERMAN: Right.

HENDERSON: So we'll see. I mean, maybe it's the cumulative effect of all of these shootings we've had.

You go back to Sandy Hook. Folks thought something was going to happen there.

Parkland -- folks thought that federally, something would happen there. We have seen movement on the state level but so far, the politics at the federal level with Congress have been --


HENDERSON: -- just too difficult.

BERMAN: Although McConnell came out and tried to move it along. And if the president did it -- and that's a whole other thing -- I think it would be in a different position.

Tiffany, the skeptics would say this. They would say Mitch McConnell has a universal background check sitting on his desk if he wants it. The House passed it in February.

So if he wants to do this, this could be done tomorrow. Yes, Tiffany?


I certainly don't share Scott's description of Mitch McConnell that he's always seeking a bipartisan solution to things. That's ridiculous. It's demonstrably false based on his previous actions -- certainly, not his actions during the Obama administration.

I don't know if you guys remember when -- of course, when Obama put Merrick Garland up for the Supreme Court and Mitch McConnell actually said why would I ever consider a Supreme Court justice that the NRA doesn't approve?

The NRA has so much control over McConnell. They've given him over $1 million in contributions.

So I am of the mindset that I'll wait and see what actually happens. I'll wait to see if there's any actual movement because like you said, it's sitting on his desk. He blocked two bills from even being put on the floor in the Senate, so I just don't know.

And I know this is really -- you know, for all of us who cover the minutia of these things inside the Beltway, when you get into the politics of this it can -- you can lose the American people because they don't follow the minutia of this.

And when you -- and when you look at it, it's -- when you look at this from a humane perspective, I think people really just want to have some sort of resolution to the killing -- when you see dead kids. People want to have some sort of resolution, and I think that's the voice of the people that has to reach McConnell's desk.

BERMAN: All right, friends, if you will, stand by for a moment because the president, just moments ago, is responding pretty directly to what former President Obama wrote yesterday. You'll want to hear how he is weighing in on that.

First, though, let's go back to Chris in El Paso.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, two quick things. You know, red flag laws only work in states where they pass them.


CUOMO: So on the federal level it's not as effective a fix as it sounds in the rhetoric.

And also, less than 24 hours, J.B. -- it took this president less than 24 hours to go off the script of unifying and going right back and blaming Obama, and what about Obama, and nobody ever did this with Obama. Less than 24 hours.

And that's one of the things that's fueling the frustration and the concern about what happens if this president comes to visit here, which now seems like a certainty.

And another certainty is that this community is going to show its strength. They're coming together to mourn. You'll see behind us people are coming to relight the candles after a rain cell passed overhead. Even here -- look how early it is in the morning -- people are still here showing El Paso strong.

Also, we're going to speak with Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg.

We're going to talk with the head of the Democratic Party, who is here and asking the president to cancel his trip.

All ahead. Stay with CNN.


[07:52:48] BERMAN: All right.

We have a new development you're going to want to hear about. President Obama, of course, is speaking out in the aftermath of this weekend's shootings, issuing a very carefully worded statement criticizing leaders who demonize immigrants.

Well, this morning, just moments ago, President Trump responded, insisting these types of shootings happened long before he was president, including when Obama was president.

More specifically, it's sort of the politics of grievance, which he does. He's speaking through Fox News, speaking through him, asking, "Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook?"

Back with us, Tiffany Cross, Nia-Malika Henderson, and Scott Jennings.

Nia, there might be a little bit of an apples and oranges problem here --

HENDERSON: You think?

BERMAN: -- because largely speaking, no one ever said President Obama was a racist or accused him of fueling anti-immigrant rhetoric, correct?

HENDERSON: Right, because he didn't do it and that was the meat of Obama's criticism. And this is a president -- former president who has been loathed to get in the mix here with this president because he knows sort of the blowback. And you saw it there from President Trump singling out Obama as he's want to do.

So, yes -- I mean, the criticism -- and this comes from some Republicans, too -- is about the president's language. His racially divisive strategy that we've seen from the very beginning, whether it was when he was running for president or whether it was when he's president now.

And we saw that in terms of how he talks about Baltimore. We've seen that in terms of how he talks about --


HENDERSON: -- Mexicans and immigrants as well.

So that is the criticism here and it's a valid one. And, Obama, in that statement, calls on good people all across the country to call out leaders who do engage in the kind of talk that we've seen from this president.

BERMAN: Tiffany, President Obama didn't even use President Trump's name specifically. Do you think he should have?

CROSS: Yes. You know, I think there is this faction among some people on the left who want the president to do more.

And I think, you know, the Obamas -- famously, as Michelle Obama, says, when they go low, we go high. But I think there are some people who are of the mindset when they go low, go lower. You need to directly punch back at some of these folks.

And, look, I think Donald Trump talked about the Democrats criticizing Obama. He spends more time criticizing Obama than he does learning how to navigate his first job in government, which is as President of the United States. So it's really a problem.

[07:55:05] And I think for Obama to come out after the immigration debate, people do look for him. He's still the most popular political figure on the global stage, so I think people are looking to him for his advice on how to navigate this space.

And people want more. They want some sort of guidance on how to deal with the post-Trump America. I think we all do.

BERMAN: All right, Scott. I don't know if you heard Chris coming into the break say less than 24 hours after the president's speech from the White House, it took for him to go to Twitter and express the type of feelings that he often does that get him into trouble.

What is your assessment? Is this something that he should be saying this morning?

JENNINGS: Well, I think the president's speech in the White House yesterday was good. Those are -- that's the kind of language he needs to stay with here in the aftermath of this shooting.

Now, I would say George W. Bush, my old boss, never commented on anything Barack Obama was doing during his eight years. Now you have Obama commenting now, and in other cases, on what Donald Trump is doing. So what he is doing is a departure from previous precedent from ex-presidents.

I don't know if it helps move the debate along to try to antagonize Donald Trump, and I don't know if it helps move the debate along for Trump to respond and to take the bait on it.

So my hope is that all of the rhetoric cools down enough for the members of Congress, who can actually enact legislation to work a process that's necessary to get a policy outcome. I do think there are a lot of people, John, that want a virtue signal in moments like this but I'm sort of a policy outcome kind of person and it's hard to get there when you do have people in both parties firing at each other on Twitter and in other venues.

BERMAN: All right.

CROSS: John, can I just say, though, this is not a "both sides" thing. This is not the same thing.

If anybody has a departure on what the presidency is like, it's Donald Trump. So to say that you wish the rhetoric would cool on both sides -- Barack Obama never laughed at an audience member suggesting that someone shoot immigrants, which we've seen has manifested in reality and the loss of life the past week. So I don't think we can equate these two things.

BERMAN: All right. Tiffany, Scott, Nia, thank you for being with us this morning.

HENDERSON: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Mayor Pete Buttigieg running for president. He has a new proposal he is announcing just this morning to respond to these hate- filled attacks and also to respond to the gun violence in the country.

We're going to speak to Mayor Pete Buttigieg after the break.