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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump To Visit El Paso And Dayton; Interview With Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT); FBI Reports Dayton Gunman Was Exploring Violent Ideologies, Feds Now Taking A Central Role In The Investigation; Democrats Urging Trump To Cancel Planned Visit To El Paso After One Of Worst Attacks On Latinos In U.S. History. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 6, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Witnesses describe the gunman's cold-blooded stare, and police reveal new details of his surrender. What more might he be telling investigators tonight?
Unwelcome visit? The president is defying Democrats who oppose his trip to El Paso tomorrow, amid concerns the shooter was influenced by Mr. Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. What message will he send to grieving Latino families?
And target list. New information tonight about the gunman in last week's shooting at a California food festival. We will tell you who was on his chilling list of potential targets.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: The FBI just revealed that the Dayton gunman had a history of exploring very specific violent ideologies. That's why the bureau is now taking a central role in the investigation.
Authorities say they haven't found any evidence that the gunman had a racial motivation or that he was influenced by the El Paso shooting massacre just hours before he opened fire.
Also breaking, new details on how the El Paso shooting suspect surrendered. A police sergeant telling CNN that the gunman turned himself in to a motorcycle police officer, putting his hands up and identifying himself as the shooter.
After one of the worst attacks on Latinos in U.S. history, some El Paso Democrats are asking President Trump to cancel his visit tomorrow. But he's sticking with his plans to travel to Texas and Ohio.
I will get reaction from El Paso Council member Cassandra Hernandez. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. We have teams on the ground in Dayton, El Paso, and over at the White
First, let's go to CNN's Randi Kaye in Dayton for us.
Randi, authorities gave us an update on the shooting investigation just a little while ago. Update our viewers.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it seems the more information that is coming out in these press conferences, the more questions people have, especially as we hear more about these red flags that people who knew this gunman have been pointing out.
We have also learned today, Wolf, that this Dayton, Ohio, gunman was not on the FBI's radar prior to this shooting.
KAYE (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI is taking a central role in the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, revealing moments ago new insight into the gunman.
TODD WICKERHAM, FBI AGENT: We have uncovered evidence throughout the course of our investigation that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies. One piece of evidence does not necessarily constitute a motive.
KAYE: Police aren't giving details of what they found, not linking his crime with any racial motivations or other mass shootings.
WICKERHAM: We have not seen any evidence that the events in El Paso influenced him at this point.
KAYE: A dark picture of Connor Betts, who killed his own sister and eight others, is emerging. Police have uncovered violent writings from Betts' home and membership in a metal band with extremely graphic, sexually violent lyrics.
The gunman's ex-girlfriend says she was worried about his mental health.
ADELIA JOHNSON, GUNMAN'S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: He was jealous of the support system that I had of myself and he was jealous of how much I loved my therapist. He wanted that for himself. He wanted help.
KAYE: New terrifying cell phone video from inside Ned Peppers Bar the moment the Dayton shooter opened fire. These surveillance images show how crowded the Ohio bar was from the outside. They're grainy, but you can see 24-year-old suspect Connor Betts, a hunched-over figure moving between two umbrellas.
As the gunfire erupts, one man crawls on the ground outside the bar, using his body to shield his girlfriend from bullets.
Dion Green was at the bar wit his father that night and says he saw a man wearing a mask, but didn't immediately notice anything else out of place.
DION GREEN, SON OF VICTIM: It wasn't showing no type of body language. He just walked normally. Came around the corner, heard two shots, pop, pop.
KAYE: After those shots, Dion expected his dad to get up from the ground. Instead, he took his last breath in his son's arms.
GREEN: I just laid across his body and just laid on him, because it was just unreal. I just kept saying: "I love you. Get up. Get up. Just get up." I don't know what else to keep saying.
KAYE: And just one more note about that man, Dion Green, whose father died in his arms, Wolf.
He believes that he spoke to the shooter's sister that night. She was also killed, as you know. But before she died, he says that she said to him: "I have been shot. Call 911."
It wasn't until he was interviewed by police the next day. They were questioning him about the woman that he was speaking to at the scene who died there. It wasn't until then that he put it together and then saw her photo in the news and realized that that indeed was the shooter's sister he was speaking to, so a remarkable connection, Wolf.
Randi Kaye, thank you very much for that report.
Now to the shooting massacre in El Paso.
CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us where police say the gunman gave himself up.
Brian, what are you learning about that surrender?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.
We have new information that suggests this killer could have conceivably gotten away. And here is what we're talking about. If you see that sign way down there in the distance, that's the Walmart sign.
Our photojournalist Taka Yokoyama is going to focus on that. That's about a half-a-mile away from where I'm standing. Our information tonight from police suggests that the gunman was able to get in his car, drive almost a half-mile to this intersection here, Sunmount Drive and Viscount Boulevard, where he was then apprehended.
We have new details tonight on his capture and on the chaos inside the store.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, dramatic new information on the apprehension of the suspected Walmart killer.
El Paso police tell CNN Patrick Crusius drove up to a nearby corner where a police motorcycle officer was securing the perimeter. He got out of a Honda Civic, put his hands up and told that officer he was the shooter, according to police.
The officer, having no time to call for backup, immediately handcuffed the suspect. Then Texas Rangers contained the scene.
Tonight, witnesses to the shooting are giving new accounts to CNN of the chaos inside the store moments earlier.
KIANNA LONG, WITNESS: People were running inside just screaming, and I was just -- I just -- I was running towards the back because the police were holding open the doors.
And they told us to leave the building, go into the containers in the back, and hide in there just in case the gunman came outside, that he wouldn't know we were back there.
TODD: Daniel Flores, an employee of the store, got a horrifying glimpse of the killer as he eyed his victims.
DANIEL FLORES, WITNESS: He was there just to kill. Like, whoever crossed his path, he was going to kill. There was no remorse. There was nothing. There was nothing. Like, there was just pure hate.
TODD: A veteran FBI SWAT team leader says the shooter had the advantage over police because of the layout of the Walmart.
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI CHIEF OF STAFF: Each row, the rows cascade against each other. They go perpendicular to each other. You have got different sections. You have got plants on one side and electronics on the other. And some of the super Walmarts have a grocery store. People could hide in there if they're bad guys or aggressors. They could hide there.
TODD: We are also learning how the alleged shooter made his way to the Walmart, where he killed 22 people, soon after allegedly posting an anti-Hispanic hate-filled screen online.
RICHARD BIEHL, DAYTON, OHIO, POLICE CHIEF: He took about 10 to 11 hours traveling from Allen, Texas, to El Paso. As soon as he got here, he was lost in a neighborhood. After that, he found his way to the Walmart because we understand he was hungry.
TODD: The shooter, who is in custody and being held without bail, has been unemployed for five months. He also bought his high-powered rifle legally.
BIEHL: Yes, he cooperated from the beginning. None of this had to be any way coerced from him or threats or anything like that. He volunteered most of the evidence that we are able to utilize at this time.
TODD: Daniel Flores, who's devoted his career to serving those Walmart customers, still can't get his mind around the killer's apparent motive to target Latinos.
FLORES: He was looking for someone that looks like me. That's like the biggest issue. It's like he was targeting me.
TODD: And just a short time ago, the family of the alleged shooter, Patrick Crusius, issued a statement.
It reads 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."
The alleged shooter's family, Wolf, trying to distance themselves from him in just about every way tonight.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you, Brian Todd on the scene for us in El Paso.
Over at the White House tonight, President Trump is ignoring complaints about his plans to visit Dayton and El Paso tomorrow.
Let's go to our Chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, I take it the president's trip is still very much on.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
President Trump is laying low today and steering clear of the cameras as he prepares to head to Ohio and Texas tomorrow to check on those communities devastated by last weekend's massacres.
Aides to Mr. Trump say he will make the trip despite some lawmakers in those states saying the president and his offensive rhetoric are not welcome.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With the president staying out of sight, his aides are responding to leaders in the shell-shocked cities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, who question whether Mr. Trump should just remain at the White House.
QUESTION: What's your reaction to lawmakers in Dayton and El Paso who say President Trump is not welcome because of his rhetoric?
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Right. The president's the president of all the people. ACOSTA: Dayton's mayor is encouraging her residents to speak out against the president.
NAN WHALEY, MAYOR OF DAYTON, OHIO: Look, I know that 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.
ACOSTA: While former El Paso Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is telling Mr. Trump, don't come.
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the most racist president we have had since perhaps Andrew Johnson in another age and another century, and he is responsible for the hatred and the violence that we're seeing right now.
ACOSTA: The president was glued to supportive segments on FOX News, tweeting: "I am the least racist person."
But the president is facing plenty of new questions about the connections between his slurs against migrants and the El Paso gunman's manifesto adopting Mr. Trump's use of the term invasion.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an invasion. This is an invasion. We have a country that's being invaded.
ACOSTA: Something his campaign did as well on Facebook, as noted by "The New York Times."
The White House is rejecting any notion the president is to blame for the violence.
GIDLEY: It's not the politician's fault when someone acts out their evil intention. You have to blame the people here who pulled the trigger.
ACOSTA: The president jumped into the debate on Twitter, asking: "Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after the Sandy Hook school shooting?"
That was in response to a statement tweeted out by former President Barack Obama, who said: "We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred."
The Department of Homeland Security is calling for more funding to guard against white supremacist violence.
QUESTION: Is it now our top domestic terrorist threat?
KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, I think that's the information we have from the FBI over the last two years, that a number of their investigations are racially motivated. And within that category, the majority are white supremacist-, extremist- motivated.
ACOSTA: Democrats are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring lawmakers back to Washington to vote on new gun control measures, after protesters gathered outside his home this week.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know what he's waiting for. And I don't know what Republicans in the Senate are waiting for. They should be calling on Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back to vote on this legislation today.
ACOSTA: And getting back to those elected leaders who don't want the president to come to their communities, Veronica Escobar, a Democratic congresswoman from El Paso, Texas, she was invited by the White House earlier today to join the president for his trip to El Paso tomorrow.
She has declined that invitation, Wolf. And the White House says the president was in meetings with aides today preparing for tomorrow's trip to Ohio and Texas and looking at a wide range of policies aimed at preventing mass shootings.
Those officials maintain the president understands the gravity of the moment. We will find out tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will.
Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you.
Joining us now, El Paso City Council Member, Cassandra Hernandez.
Cassandra, thank you so much for joining us.
I know you were born and raised in El Paso. First of all, how is your community feeling, in light of this targeted attack on the Latino community?
CASSANDRA HERNANDEZ, EL PASO COUNCIL MEMBER: Thank you, Wolf. And thank you for your words. It means so much to El Paso and to me.
What has happened in our city is unimaginable. We are mourning. We are saddened. We have been bruised and battered, but we are unbroken.
El Paso, in this time of adversity, I have never been so proud of. We are stepping up. We're giving love. We are being generous. We are praying. And we are El Paso strong. And I'm so proud of this city, but my heart hurts for the families who have been shattered and to those who have lost their lives.
And we will continue to move forward and not let fear control our community.
BLITZER: What are you hearing, Cassandra, from the survivors and the families who are grieving right now? HERNANDEZ: The families who have been shattered are heartbroken. They're asking, why? Why is this happening in our city? Why did this happen to the ones that they love?
And El Pasoans and families have come together to pray and to give strength and love to them and to let them know that. There's a reason why this is happening in our city. It's become commonplace in our nation.
And it's unfortunate. And we're tired. We're angry. And we want to see change, so that this does not happen again in our city and across the nation anymore.
BLITZER: Just a little while ago, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar -- I assume you know her -- she represents El Paso here in Washington in the U.S. House of Representatives.
She tweeted out an update on President Trump's scheduled visit tomorrow to El Paso. She wrote that the White House invited her to join the president, but she requested a phone call with the president today to share the impact of his rhetoric on the El Paso community.
She says she was told the president was simply too busy to have that conversation.
What's your reaction to what she is now saying?
HERNANDEZ: Well, my reaction is kind of the reaction of what I have heard from the city.
In the past 19 hours, there has been a petition circulating. And the Border Network for Human Rights has reported that over 20,000 El Pasoans have signed a petition not to welcome President Trump.
And so I think Congresswoman Escobar is right. We are at a time of healing and mourning. And I don't believe that the general population of El Paso is welcoming to President Trump.
Others want to welcome a President Trump and show us our generosity and compassion and let him know that his words and hate-filled rhetoric would not define our city.
But, for the most part, people are not happy with his visit.
BLITZER: She wrote, Congresswoman Escobar: "I decline the invitation because I refuse to be an accessory to his visit. I refuse to join without a dialogue about the pain his racist and hateful words and actions have caused our community and country."
Will you be receiving the president tomorrow?
HERNANDEZ: No, I will not be meeting with the president. I would not entertain a conversation with him because he has spoke loud and clear at his press conference to send his condolences, which we accept and we appreciate.
And it's not just enough to denounce white supremacy. We want to see action today, not tomorrow. And he has made clear that he's not willing to take action and has diverted blame to mental health illnesses and to video game industry.
And it's not enough for our city. And so, for those reasons, I have decided to stand behind my city, and to not welcome President Trump.
BLITZER: What action do you and your constituents want to see from the U.S. Congress right now?
HERNANDEZ: My understanding is that U.S. Congress has brought forth bipartisanship of gun reform policies that make sense, that can be easily implemented today.
And so what we demand as a city and what others have said across the nation is that we need to call upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass that legislation now, to let it be heard.
And then, at the state level, this state has easy access for guns in our community, in our schools, in our universities. And we need to strengthen those laws more, have universal background checks, to have a ban on assault rifles, of weapons of war, and just the things that we have heard over and over again, so that we can prevent this tragedy from happening.
We are tired. And people in my community, Hispanic Latinos, we are afraid, but we are unbroken. And we will just spread the love of -- spread the message of love and fight forward and hope that this never happens again.
BLITZER: Cassandra Hernandez, thanks so much for joining us.
And please send our love to everyone in El Paso right now. Hearts go out to all of you. Thanks so much for joining us.
HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will have much more on the breaking news coming up, as the FBI reveals the Dayton gunman was exploring what the FBI is now describing as violent ideologies. What more will the feds uncover?
BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news on the back-to-back shooting massacres in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.
The FBI revealing just a little while ago that the Dayton gunman had a history of what the FBI is now saying exploring violent ideologies. The bureau is now taking a central role in the case.
We're joined by Congressman Jim Himes. He's a Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
And let's get right to the specifics. Officials now say the Dayton gunman was obsessed with mass shootings. And the shooting in Gilroy, California, last weekend is also now being investigated as another incident of domestic terrorism.
Do you believe this is a turning point in how the country thinks about these attacks?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, that's a good question, Wolf.
And I will and I will answer that question by saying no and yes, and no, in as much as, once again, we see an American doing a uniquely American thing, which is ending the lives of lots of other Americans with a firearm.
And I don't -- I want to start with that, because it was just enraging to see the president yesterday blame the media and then in his talk to the nation blame the Internet.
Other countries have a fractious media. Other countries have the Internet. Other countries have mental illness. No other country makes it a piece of cake for somebody to buy a weapon that should be in the hands largely of law enforcement and the military.
And, no, sadly, as you know, Wolf, we have had this conversation before. It is going to -- this is going to be a sadly predictable thing, where Mitch McConnell is not going to act on the House bills. And we will have this conversation again a week or two weeks from now.
Yes, however, on the question you asked, which is, I sense a little bit of a sea change, where people are waking up to the fact that domestic terrorism, that terrorism committed by alienated, often far- right anti-immigrant -- and this is not just a U.S. thing, this is an international thing -- people is more of a risk to all of us in our country than the terrorism that we have been fighting since 9/11.
More Americans by far have been killed by extreme nationalist, white nationalist terrorists in this country since 9/11 than have been killed by the kind of Islamic extremism that we have reconfigured our government to fight.
And so I do think that, in Washington, people are starting to say, hey, this is a very serious problem, and we better start thinking about it systematically.
BLITZER: We did see, Congressman your Republican colleague Mike Turner, who represents Dayton, by the way, now says he supports what he -- what he describes as preventing military-style weapons sales to civilians, magazine limits, and red flag legislation.
And another one of your Republican colleagues, Peter King of New York, supports HR-8. That's the background check bill that you passed in the House, has just been sitting in the Senate right now.
So do you see any real opportunity here for change?
HIMES: Well, Wolf, if I can sort of amend what I was saying earlier, in the years I have been doing this, we have made very real progress. So we have actually even made some tangible progress.
The federal budget for the first time in decades is providing funds to the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence as a public health issue. That's pretty small beer up against the massacres that we see almost every day in this country.
So -- and, politically, look, it used to be that the Democratic Party was divided on these issues. That is no longer true. It used to be that nobody in the Republican Party would support something even if it had 90 percent support, like universal background check.
As you point out, there are a few out there doing it. What's enraging about this is that it is moving so, so slowly, at a time when every day or every other day there is yet another massacre.
And, Wolf, look, one of the things we need to dispense with right off the top here is that, yes, universal background checks, supported by 90 percent-plus of Americans, red flag laws, and limiting the kinds of military hardware that people have access to, that's not going to fix the whole problem.
Oftentimes, people say, well, this shooter wouldn't have been caught in a background check.
It's -- none of these things are going to fix the whole problem. But when children are being mowed down in the streets, the objective has got to be not to come up with the perfect solution that fixes the whole problem, but to save a few children's lives.
And that's why we need to keep the pressure up on Mitch McConnell and on others to begin to move this legislation, consistent with Second Amendment rights, that will keep Americans alive.
BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, thanks so much for joining us.
HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're going to dig deeper into the violent ideologies that the Dayton gunman was exploring, according to the FBI.
Is there any pattern to the recent series of shooting massacres?
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news. The FBI is now taking a central role in the Dayton mass shooting investigation after recovering evidence that the gunman was exploring what the FBI is describing as violent ideologies. Let's bring in our team of experts.
Not only the FBI, the Dayton Police Chief, Anthony, also said this just a little while ago. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF RICHARD BIEHL, DAYTON POLICE: The materials reviewed thus far revealed that the individual had a history of obsession with violent ideations, to include mass shootings and had expressed the desire to commit a mass shooting.
Subsequent material has revealed an orientation toward violent ideologies which elevate this case to one of federal interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're a former FBI Special Agent. What does that tell you?
ANTHONY FERRANTE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So a couple of things, Wolf, it says it rises to federal interest. So what that means right now is there is a room in the FBI building, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, where agents are working around the clock analyzing evidence from all of these scenes, Gilroy, Dayton and El Paso.
And what they're doing is they're linking different pieces of evidence and they're actually identifying additional actors and additional groups that may be involved. Making it a federal effort brings the full resources of the federal government to bear and allows the U.S. government to work across state lines.
A couple other things to note here, we talk about this extremist ideology. These are signs. Now, was this done in the privacy of his own home? Did you talk to his friends? Regardless, they're clues, right? And what does that tell us? It tells us that we all need to come together. We need to work together to help prevent something like this from happening again.
The FBI can't do it alone. The FBI doesn't spy on people. That's a myth, right? The FBI doesn't have the resources. What people need to do is talk to their children, talk to their friends. If they're seeing these red flags, these clues, they need to call the FBI. They need to call their local law enforcement so the FBI can help.
BLITZER: See something, say something, as we say. You know, Susan, when you combine this information with some of the details we're getting from the gunman's female friends, what kind of profile is that establishing?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: So we're seeing someone who was part of a band that sort of was engaged in misogynistic lyrics, someone who in high school was disciplined for having a rape and kill list, somebody who female acquaintances said had actually threatened them when he turned them down for dates.
You know, we've seen this link again and again and again, the link between mass shootings and individuals who engage in domestic violence or violence or threats against women. That was the case in the Sutherland Springs Massacre in Texas. The Pulse nightclub shooting, the perpetrator there was also a domestic abuser, same thing for the congressional softball game in, which a congressman was shot.
So we've seen this link over and over. More than half of mass shootings in the past decade have been committed by somebody with links to domestic violence.
And so the President is focused on mental illness here. That really is a distraction to try and get the conversation away from guns. This is about guns and it's specifically about guns in the hands of individuals who threaten and harm women. And so to the extent that there's going to be a serious conversation on gun control in this country certainly closing things like the girlfriend loophole, making sure that domestic abusers do not have access to weapons is really a common sense place to start.
BLITZER: You know, interesting, Shimon Prokupecz, because the FBI is also launching this new domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy, California festival shooting that occurred a weekend before this past weekend. What are authorities learning that is so disturbing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's actually very disturbing, Wolf, you're absolutely right. And what they've learned as they're gathering the evidence in Gilroy is that that shooter there, his potential targets, he wanted to target, they say, religious institutions, government institution. You know, he had violent ideologies too, like we're hearing in the Dayton -- from authorities in Dayton about that shooter.
The difference here though in Gilroy is that they're saying that he actually wanted to potentially target different institutions, religion and government institutions. And that's why they're opening a domestic terrorism investigation. That's why they're calling it a domestic terrorism.
And I also just think, Wolf, I think we need to keep in mind that El Paso, I think, has changed the game in many ways for the FBI now. I think we're going to see them looking at more of these now, taking the lead on a lot of these investigations. They are playing a more central role in Dayton than they usually do in these kinds of cases, in these kinds of investigations, you know, working together with Dayton.
But they're taking almost a lead role in this. We've seen other mass shootings where they come in and they offer assistance. But I think given what happened in El Paso, I think they now realize that -- and they have been saying there's problem, but there is a major problem in this country and they are very concerned about it. And that is why we're seeing them talk more about what's going on, we're seeing them take front and center in all of this now and they're going to put a lot more resources into all of this now, Wolf. BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more that we're following. We'll resume our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, democrats are warning President Trump that his visit to El Paso and Dayton tomorrow will only add to the communities' pain. Our political experts are here to discuss.
So, David Chalian, a very strong statement from Representative Veronica Escobar. She represents El Paso. And she says she was invited by the White House to join the President when he comes to El Paso tomorrow. I refuse to be an accessory to his visit, she writes.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I think this is part of a pattern that we're seeing where democrats are aggressively pushing back, not just against the President, against the press. I think there's been a change in the atmosphere that these events have caused a different level of response from democratic officeholders on the Hill to the 2020 presidential candidates, where there is no caution, whatsoever, about dealing this. There is an aggressive plea for action.
There's no -- even for Donald Trump, who they clearly disagree with on everything, there's no moment of deference because he's president. It is attacking him because his rhetoric is cited here as one of the reasons or at least comfort and ideology from the person that committed these horrible acts.
So I do think we are seeing a lack of patience anymore, whatsoever, from these democrats and they are responding in a new way to this kind of --
BLITZER: What do you expect, David, from the President's visit tomorrow to these two communities?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So one quick thing, on that point of patience that David just mentioned, I think that's right. Two years ago, you can imagine that there might be some uproar if a councilmember of a big city like El Paso didn't meet the President of the United States even if they disagreed fundamentally on issues. Now though, after three years of the President's rhetoric, I think you're seeing democrats essentially say, we have enough data, we can't co-sign this anymore.
In terms of what I think the President is going to do, he's in a position where he basically has to go or else he cedes even the very little moral authority that he has left. I'm sure he'll say the right things with kind of like his speech last night. If he goes with the basic teleprompter formula speech, it will be the right things to say for a president but probably not a lot of people will take him sincerely, because he is known for the divisive, racist rhetoric, not for the soothing consoler in chief role. BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty, you've covered Congress for us. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is under enormous pressure to do something on gun legislation right now. A lot of democrats want him to reconvene the Senate. They're off until almost mid-September. What's he going to do?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would like to think that he is feeling some of this pressure right now. You know, democrats have made him essentially the boogeyman number one in this scenario, saying he's the one that's leading to the inaction on this in the Congress. And certainly, you know, the nation is still reeling from this horrible tragedy.
[18:45:01] And I think that's why we saw, in part, McConnell's office emphasizing the last 24 hours, yes, he's taking this seriously. His statement seemed to indicate more than he typically does that the Senate is going to act in some way on this, saying that the Senate stands prepared to act.
We've certainly seen this pressure before. We've seen it swell up. We've seen it intensify specifically on him. We've seen this putter out (ph) before.
So, I don't think anyone o some way saying the Senate stands n some way saying the Senate stands prepared to act. We have seen this pressure before, intensify on him. We've seen this putter out before.
So, I don't think anyone on the Hill is holding their breath and certainly, McConnell has given no indication he's going to come back.
BLITZER: He needs some -- David, he needs some cover from the president. If the president were to tell him to do something, he would do it.
CHALIAN: Well, I'm not so convinced that the president told him to do it. But he certainly won't do anything without the president's commitment. So, there's no doubt you are right.
BLITZER: But if the president took the initiative and said, you know what? We need some more background checks.
CHALIAN: I don't know because, remember, the president said that before, right?
BLITZER: And then he quickly backed away.
CHALIAN: But there was no -- Mitch McConnell didn't go running to the Senate floor to all of a sudden get background checks passed in the intervening hours before the president pulled it back. There is no doubt, though, that Mitch McConnell, whether it is the smallest possible measure, no matter what it is, he's not going to do it until he has the president's complete commitment to supporting it, that he would sign it, because Mitch McConnell would need that to get the votes he needs. BLITZER: Certainly.
All right. Everybody, stick around. We're going to have much more coming up right after this.
[18:56:00] BLITZER: The attacks in El Paso and Dayton certainly horrified the nation, but what's the impact on how the rest of the world sees the United States?
Let's bring in two of our correspondents. Clarissa Ward is joining us from London. Leyla Santiago is joining us from New York.
Leyla, at least eight Mexican citizens died in the attack in El Paso. How's the Mexican government, first of all, responding?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, already, the president has said he wants justice, wants to see what the legal options are in all of this, given that -- that some of this -- his own citizens were victims of this. The foreign minister who is in El Paso called in a terrorist attack with the intent to target Latinos from Guatemala. The consulates when they heard about the shooting and they were concerned that some of their citizens could be involved, they opened a hotline to reach out to anyone who needed questions answered about this.
And then you have places like Venezuela and Uruguay that had actually issued warning, sort of a caution to its citizens that may be traveling into the U.S. to be aware and vigilant of hate crimes and U.S. government's inability to take control of them.
So, I think just with the response from those countries, you can really sort of sense the fear that the governments are feeling. And I guarantee you that the citizens of those governments and those in the Hispanic and Latino community here in the U.S. are also feeling today.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Clarissa, President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice just wrote an article in "The New York Times" among other things. She says that the consequences of Mr. Trump's raw racism are not contained within America's shores. They ricochet around the world, as far away as New Zealand, poison the international climate and undermine America's ability to secure our global interests.
You reported on hate crimes around the world. What are the global implications of all the rhetoric we are hearing?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think here in Europe, Wolf, there is a huge amount of concern. There has absolutely been an uptick in white supremacy activity, in far right activity, particularly in Eastern Europe. But it's not limited to Europe as you saw, as Susan Rice mentioned in that editorial. New Zealand, 51 Muslim worshippers killed in a mosque by a white supremacist. So, there is a very real sense that this is a growing problem, and
when I was working last year, Wolf, on my anti-Semitism series, I interviewed the chief rabbi of Poland. He's American born.
And he said, listen, anti-Semitism or racism or white supremacy, xenophobia, these things always existed. They always were simmering beneath the surface. But only now are we in a moment in a political climate he said where people feel emboldened to give voice to these ideas, that previously would have been considered taboo that previously would have been considered unacceptable.
And I think when you look through the manifestos, whether it's the New Zealand killer, whether it's the El Paso killer, and you see the buzz words like "invasion" that are being echoed in some mainstream political vernacular that causes great concern, particularly for leaders in Europe as I said, Wolf, where there is a significantly growing problem.
BLITZER: Yes. And as I've pointed out, when I travel around the world, people always come up to me. They say they admire the United States but any wonder why guns are so available and why there are so many mass shootings in the United States.
Clarissa and Leyla, guys, thank you very much.
We're going to have more news right after this.
[18:59:15] BLITZER: As we all grapple with the attack on Latinos in El Paso, a powerful voice on race in America has died. The author of Toni Morrison was the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize. Her novels, including beloved and Song of Solomon explore the stark realities of what it means to be a person of color here in the United States.
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. The former president is remembering Morrison's writings as a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination.
Toni Morrison was 88 years old. May she rest in peace. May her memory be a blessing.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN's coverage of the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".