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El Paso Dems Ask Trump to Cancel Visit; Rep. Rodney Davis (R- IL) is Interviewed About Trump Endorsing "Red Flag" Laws, Stops Short of Other Gun Laws; President Trump to Visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in Wake of Mass Shootings; Democratic Presidential Candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg Interviewed on Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 6, 2019 - 08:00   ET




[08:00:08] DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is responsible for the hatred and the violence that we're seeing. We cannot allow him to get off scot-free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I deserve to live.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's just not fair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitch McConnell won't let these bills come up for a vote. It's time for him to get it done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they can stop even one shooting from happening, we ought to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just grab onto my dad until someone can pull me off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he died in your arms. What did you say to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just kept saying I love you, get up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, August 6th, 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Chris Cuomo, we're lucky to have him in El Paso, Texas, this morning.

Less than 24 hours after the address the nation in the wake of the two mass shootings, the president of the United States is back on Twitter. He is lashing out at former President Barack Obama after Obama criticized leaders who demonized immigrants. Also, we learned overnight that President Trump will visit El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, this week. The White House isn't releasing the president's exact travel plans. The mayor of El Paso says he will meet with the president, tomorrow. Not everyone, though, Chris, and I know you've heard this, ready to welcome him with open arms.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: No. Look, and the tweets this morning are reason why. This place is hurt. Even the mayor here said he doesn't want this to be a political trip. President Obama was probably referring to this president, J.B., but he didn't name him. And that doesn't matter. This president will not rise above any situation that he thinks can be played to personal advantage.

And they'll say he's not fighting, but he is fomenting. And that's why you're hearing people like Joe Biden and Beto O'Rourke, weighing in and telling CNN that they believe President Trump helped create the hatred that led to Saturday's bloodshed.

BERMAN: Joining me now is another one of the Democratic candidates, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who I know has a plan out this morning. And mayor, I want to talk about that. But first, I want to get your reaction as a mayor. You're a mayor of South Bend. The mayors of Dayton, Ohio, and the mayor El Paso, Texas, now have to contend with the fact that President Trump is going to visit those communities. How would you react in a similar situation if a tragedy like this struck in South Bend to the idea of a visit from President Trump?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, when you're a mayor and something like this happens in your community, your focus is on bringing people together and on taking care of those who have been impacted. Ordinarily, with almost any other president I can think of, you would automatically welcome a visit from the president of either party because you would know they were there to help you do those things, to help bring people together, to help take care of those who were hurting, and to reassure that we were being kept safe.

The problem is we've got a president right now who is part of the problem and is incapable of bringing people together. This morning he's on Twitter doing the exact opposite. The whole idea of the symbolic of value of the presidency, which is just as important as the policy role, is that it is an office that can bring people together in this country in a tough time. And now sadly, we are lacking that critical function of the presidency because when he shows up you know that the politics and the divisiveness is going to be part of what he brings to your town.

BERMAN: So what the president's supporters would say about this is, what then could he do? Because he would be criticized for not visiting El Paso and Dayton, and he's going to be criticized for visiting them. So what should he do?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's too late for him to not be a white nationalist and to not bear some responsibility for what's happened here. But what he could do is refrain from divisive and politicizing rhetoric and focus on making something happen. How about some action?

I remember his inaugural speech where he said American carnage stops now. I remember back when he actually said he was going to do something about guns before the NRA put him in his place and reminded him that he's not allowed to say that. He could, I don't have high expectations, but he could take a turn and actually do something about this problem.

I'm not waiting on this president. It's why we have put out an action plan, because I think there are a lot of Americans who are tired of the hand wringing, tired of the mourning, tired of saying never again, want to know what they can do. And there are policy actions, political actions, civic actions that we can be taking right now. The president and this country should be leading and effort on countering violent extremism.

They actually cut in this administration the function within Homeland Security that's supposed to deal with domestic violent extremism and heading it off before it happens. We need $1 billion to go into resources to deal with domestic terrorists and violent extremism. We know that there needs to be commonsense gun safety reform in this country.

[08:05:04] And we know that there are a lot of things we can do at the civic level to knit back together the social fabric that is so frayed in this country. It's why I would propose that we have more resources going to mayors, going to states in order to get ahead of these issues. And it's why I think in the long run things like the National Service Program that I proposed that bring Americans together can help us have the ability as a people to respond in moments of tragedy rather than being right back in this divisive pattern because of a president who is tweeting up a storm this morning to pit us against each other politically just one day after trying, at least pretending to be above the fray and do what for an ordinary president would be table stakes, which is rise above politics and try bring us together.

BERMAN: And you have a plan out this morning to battle domestic terrorism. Can you give me some of the specifics of that plan?

BUTTIGIEG: We know that the Department of Homeland Security needs more resources to combat domestic terrorism. We need to add field staff to the FBI's capabilities for handling domestic terrorism.

Right now, when it comes to international terrorism, the majority of arrests happen before there's an attack. There's a prevention mentality. When it comes to domestic terrorism, the reverse is true. Unfortunately, most of the actions happen after it's too late, after an attack has taken place. It's why we need to fund the countering violent extremism program that has been slashed almost to zero under this administration.

We also of course have to enact these common sense gun reforms, the things that we talk about all day but Washington hasn't delivered. And we need political reforms to make it happen. Look, when most of the American people want to at least see background checks and red flag laws, and that hasn't happened, you've got to ask why and how. Part of my political action plan is for us to mount an effort to end the Senate filibuster, because if it weren't for the filibuster we would have enacted some of the these reforms back in 2013 after Sandy Hook. The former president, President Obama, was blocked in trying to lead this country to a safer place. We can't let that happen again.

BERMAN: It had 55 votes. Toomey-Manchin had 55 votes in the Senate which would have called for more universal background checks.

Mayor, I want to put up on the screen the picture of the 100-round drum magazine that was attached to the AR pistol that was used in the shootings in Dayton, Ohio.


BERMAN: It was a modified AR pistol, it turns out, to make it much more like a rifle. It acted like a sawed-off rifle, a short barrel rifle, but it was a pistol. But that's not the point. The point is it's a drum with a hundred-round magazine there, a hundred rounds. You're a combat veteran, or veteran of the battles in the war in Afghanistan. When you look at this, what do you think?

BUTTIGIEG: I think the weapons of war can do no good in American neighborhoods. Look, I trained on weapons that are similar to these, and they have one purpose, which is to destroy as much as possible as quickly as possible. They have tactical uses in war zones. Since when are American cities and neighborhoods supposed to be war zones?

Look, common sense has to kick in at some point here. And I know there are some people with an extreme ideology that says you cannot have any restriction on any weaponry in this country under the Constitution, but that's just not true.

Think about this. Anyone can have a slingshot. Nobody can have a nuclear weapon. We have decided all along that there's a line to be drawn somewhere. Clearly, we need to draw that line tighter. How else can you explain that the Dayton shooter in less than a minute was able to kill that many people? This access to weaponry matters, and while no law can prevent every single tragedy, that is not an argument to do nothing at all.

BERMAN: Can I give you some either-ors here? And I know that you want to go very far to prevent gun violence, but would you take a ban on high capacity magazines but not a ban on assault rifles?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it would be a step forward. What we have right now is total inaction. We can argue about exactly where to draw the line or how far we can go, but what we see right now is nothing whatsoever. A ban on high capacity magazines would absolutely help. I think a ban on these kinds of weapons would save more lives. I guess the question, a grim one, is how many lives are we going to save and how many are we going to allow to die?

BERMAN: Again, critics would say universal background checks wouldn't have necessarily changed the outcome in Dayton or El Paso, but it may have made a difference in other cases. It may have made a different in Charleston, for instance. It may have made a difference if there was a waiting period in Silver Springs or Texas. So again, just a yes or no on this question, would you take more universal background checks but not, for instance, a national gun registry?

BUTTIGIEG: It would be a start. We clearly need universal background check. And again, it reveals something that the vast majority of Republicans and of gun owners believe we ought to do this. The NRA position has become an extreme minority position.

[08:10:03] The question we've got to ask, and part of what's in my action plan on the political side, is to deal with the fact that an organization that is in disagreement with most of the American people is able to wield such power in Washington.

BERMAN: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the reason I was asking that is because maybe there is ground for agreement. Maybe there are areas where the parties can come together in the near future and work on those areas. We thank you for being with us this morning.

BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you, thank you.

Chris, I want to go back to you in El Paso. And look, in Congress they're going to have to figure out a way to get something done. If they want to get something done, they're going to have to meet and they're going to have to find things they agree on.

CUOMO: A hundred percent. I feel like the opportunity that is birthed here with the Walmart massacre is that the easy pickings here is to treat terror like terror. Start here, and let's see if cooperation could be contagious. Treat these white nationalists and anybody who's part of a political extremism group that uses violence to forward their agenda as terrorists under law with the resources. Maybe then the cooperation becomes contagious and you go on to see what kinds of limitations you could put on access to weapons.

We'll see J.B., but as you know, the separation isn't just about policy. It's about politics. And the message to the president here is very mixed in El Paso. Some people are saying he should come, show his respects. Others are saying please don't. We're going to talk with the chairwoman of the Democratic Party. She wrote an open letter to the president asking him to cancel his trip. Her case, next.


[08:15:47] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How do we move forward together? That is a very vexing question here in El Paso.

The Democrats here are pleading for President Trump to cancel his planned visit to the city tomorrow, writing in an open letter the following: A visit from you will only result in our community's inability to begin a long journey of healing and prolong the heart break and anger that all of us are feeling right now. I hope that you will announce the cancellation of your trip as soon as possible so that our community can continue to grieve and heal in peace.

Joining me now, the author of that letter, chairwoman of the El Paso County Democratic Party, Iliana Holguin. It's nice to meet you.


CUOMO: Now, I will say last night after the show, we were flooded with people, two messages. One was thank you for being here, thank you for caring about us, which was actually painful to hear because there was a palpable sense of feeling less than. And the second one was we don't want him here, he hates us or he will make it worse or fear of him coming.


CUOMO: But as a leader, as a Democratic Party leader, how do you expect to move forward together with a message like this of stay away?

HOLGUIN: Well, I think the biggest problem is that the president himself is refusing to acknowledge that the very language that he uses almost on a daily basis when he's talking about immigrants and immigrant communities is exactly what leads to the demonization of communities like ours here in El Paso.

CUOMO: And you don't think if he shows up here and shows respect and says I'm sorry for this, we're going to try to do something about this, that there will be comfort in that, or do you believe it's hollow?

HOLGUIN: It would be wonderful if he showed up and did apologize for the language he's used in the way he's talked about immigrants, for the pain he's caused communities like ours. It would be wonderful if he did and we would certainly welcome that. The problem is, I don't think he's capable of doing that.

CUOMO: His counter is this. I'm not talking about -- I'm only talking about the bad people and I'm talking about the bad conditions when I talk about places. I'm not talking about all Hispanics, I love Hispanics, nobody loves Latinos more than I do.

HOLGUIN: But that's just not true. We've all read his tweets. We've all heard his statements in his rallies. We know that's not true. We know he doesn't care about communities like ours.

El Paso has been ground zero for the all the cruel inhumane immigration policies he's sought to enact during his administration. So El Paso more than anywhere else has seen that cruelty.

So we know for a fact he doesn't care. And if he were to come and sincerely apologize and he were to sincerely commit to finding a solution then things would be very different. But the problem is that most people here in El Paso don't think that's what's going to happen tomorrow.

CUOMO: There's also an acute sensitivity to who did this and why they did it. An outsider coming in, a white nationalist. Now, respond to this, the push back was almost immediate. Oh, you're

only talking about white nationalism, you're not talking about the left that's just as bad with Antifa and everything there. So don't blame for the president of this. Even this was politicized in the moment.

Do you believe there's an equation between the man who came here and did this and extremists on the left, that they're equal threats to you?

HOLGUIN: The man who came here to our communities specifically to cause people like us harm was very clear in the essay that he wrote, the reasons for him coming here. And he used many of the same words and phrases that we hear coming from the president.

CUOMO: The invasion?

HOLGUIN: Yes. So we know the reason why he came here. We know the reason that he targeted El Paso, and I think anyone who's paying attention and connects the dots and those dots lead right back to President Trump.

CUOMO: Here's the problem for you. Let's say the president comes, because the calculation if he doesn't come he's capitulating to people telling him to stay away, that plays his weakness, he can't be seen as weak.

[08:20:05] You now have a tricky situation of making sure that when he does come here, people really emotionally on edge and in pain, nothing happens that anybody will regret. How do you deal with that responsibility? HOLGUIN: I know my community. We were targeted specifically because

we are a warm, kind, generous, welcoming community. And that's what we'll always be. This will not change who El Paso is.

So, even though we are angry at everything that's happened and at the president's response to it and at his insistence to come even though that's only going to hurt our community even more, we are not going to respond to his hate. We're not going to match hate with hate. We want to show the country exactly the community that El Paso is.

CUOMO: The outpouring of emotion, I've been showing this all last night. I'll show the audience this morning. This woman here to mourn the loss of her friend, she saw or coverage, she felt we needed support, she took a rock from her home, painted it with Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of Mercy and brought it here to bring us strength.

And I believe it was a metaphor for what the people are here.

HOLGUIN: I can't think of anything more El Paso than that story that is told.

CUOMO: I mean, literally, it is on my heart. And I hope tomorrow if the president is here, he is at his best and everybody is at their best so we can find a way forward. HOLGUIN: I hope so too.

CUOMO: Thank you. And I'm sorry to meet you under these circumstances.

HOLGUIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Be well. Thank you, Representative.

So we heard from the president a speech where he said he wants to defeat the culture of hate in this country. A lot of people said it rang hollow. They weren't his words.

Well, what did we see next? He's back on Twitter. He's attacking President Obama for what he sees as a perceived slight. How does that move us forward?

We're going to talk to a Republican, next.


[08:25:50] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump voiced support of implementing red flag laws in the aftermath of this weekend's shooting, but he made no mention of limiting or no mention of creating universal background checks as he suggested on Twitter before the speech.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois. He -- I should say for him gun violence is no abstraction. He was at bat two years ago when a gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball team practicing for annual congressional game.

Congressman Davis, thank you very much for being with us this morning. We do appreciate your input.

I know you said that mass shootings are not just about guns. My question is, what role do you see guns playing in mass shootings?

REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R-IL): Well, they play a very important role as I witnessed myself when I and my colleagues had to run away from bullets on a baseball field from a crazed gunman who traveled halfway across the country and decided the way to affect his political grievance was to try and kill Republican members of Congress.

But we also have to take a look at the root causes of what led that gentleman to leave Belleville, Illinois, come out to Washington, D.C. and decide to utilize firearms to institute the terror we all witnessed that day. It comes from the pure evil that someone who decides to fix their grievances by trying to kill others actually comes about doing.

BERMAN: Yes, but how do you fix pure evil?

DAVIS: You know, that's a question that I think we have to all answer and it's a question that we as members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats have to take a step back and say, are we going to focus only on one part of the equation, the firearm side? If that's the case, then we're not going to be able to talk about some of the positive things we've done to already address what I would consider that pure evil.

Many don't -- many didn't know before the Parkland shooting that before I even got to congress, the Cop Secure Our Schools program was defunded. I helped to lead the efforts in a bipartisan way to refund that program. And now in school districts throughout the nation and in my district and the 13th district of Illinois, we have mental health professionals roaming the halls to help our students deal with some of the mental issues they may be dealing with their schools and their homes and what-have-you.

We also improved the Fix NICS program to help better background checks get taken place with federal firearm licenses. These are things that we're doing right now, but we can certainly do more. I agree with the president, we ought to institute more red flag laws.

BERMAN: Red flag laws and the federal role in that only matters if the states have them. The federal government, some of the legislation now is for promoting or rewarding states that have them. But I know you're on that legislation, that's something you would support.

You voted against in February the Democratic proposal, and eight Republicans voted for it to expand background checks, near universal background checks. In the wake of these two shootings this weekend, would you consider changing that vote?

DAVIS: Well, I would not consider changing the vote that I made because that bill was nothing but a partisan show bill, the bill wouldn't have addressed the problems that we see with fixing what Democrats even call a loophole. In that bill, what we have to get to the point of is, in this country, federal firearms dealers have to provide a background check for anybody who's purchasing a gun. You cannot go online and purchase a firearm without having that gun shipped through a federal firearms licensee, and they will run a background check.

Now what many Democrats call the gun show loophole is actually a loophole that allows private sales. Now, to fix, they would require -- it would require a full gun registry. If I were to sell a 12-gauge shotgun to my nephew, that wouldn't be registered through a federal firearms licensee. It would take a full registry.

Democrats aren't being serious. They didn't propose that in their bill.

BERMAN: OK. But could you see supporting some kind of universal background check, and just on the gun show loophole and on the another Internet sales, yes. You know, above the board, Internet sales has to go through a dealer with a background check. But if you go on the Internet, sometimes you can find --