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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX); Interview With Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH); Biden And Booker Accuse Trump Of Inciting Racism, Violence; Trump Arrives At University Medical Center In El Paso. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 7, 2019 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And we're back with our national LEAD.

President Trump just landed in El Paso, Texas, moments ago, after stopping to and visiting first in Dayton, Ohio, in the aftermath of two mass shootings in those cities.

I'm joined now by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. He's a Republican who was with President Trump today during his visit to Dayton.

Governor DeWine, thanks so much for joining us.

So, what did you have to say to President Trump when you were with him earlier?

[16:30:03]

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Well, this trip was really focused on the victims.

And my wife, Fran, and I went with the president and the first lady. And he was -- spent a lot of time with the victims, went from room to room at the hospital, also wanted to meet the first-responders, and also wanted to really thank the hospital employees, the people who had worked in the emergency room that night, that early morning.

So, it was really a trip focused on those people.

TAPPER: Did you talk at all with him about potential ways through legislation to try to curtail this -- these alarming mass shootings in this country?

DEWINE: Well, we talked mostly about -- he wanted to know what I had what I had proposed yesterday. And I explained to him some of the things that we wanted to do and we believe that we can do in Ohio.

I mean, we talked about the fact that we do have a huge mental health crisis among young people today. And so we have -- the budget that we have that the General Assembly has approved puts a lot of significant money into our schools to help identify kids who are having problems and trying to get them help as early as we can.

We also talked about the problem when we have when there are people in communities who either have a mental health problem, or an addiction problem, or alcohol problem, and they're dangerous to themselves, dangerous to others, and they have guns.

And I told him what we were planning on doing in Ohio, and that we thought that this was constitutional. We felt it respected the Second Amendment because it has due process, but also that it's going to make a difference.

TAPPER: The proposals that you outlined yesterday include mandatory background checks and also safety protection orders, which could mean the removal of guns from potentially dangerous individuals.

But your proposals do not mention banning or restricting any specific firearms.

I want to ask you. The shooter in Dayton was able to fire 41 rounds in 30 seconds. He had a double drum magazine -- I know you have seen it -- capable of firing 100 rounds. Thank God for the Dayton police that stopped him.

But why...

DEWINE: They did a phenomenal job.

TAPPER: But why is that gun with those -- that capacity for ammunition, why is that something that anyone in Ohio should be able to buy?

DEWINE: Look, this is something that is going to have to be dealt with on the national level.

When I was in Congress, we had different votes on that. But this is something that's going to have to be dealt with nationally.

To try to do it in the state, I don't think makes a whole lot of sense, frankly. What I am presenting are things that I know we can get done, I believe that we can get the legislature to pass, and that we can make a difference as quickly as we can get these things passed.

TAPPER: Your fellow Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Turner, who represents the Dayton area, and his daughter was across the street -- thank God she's OK -- he has -- he has changed his mind and said he is open to trying to ban some of these semiautomatic guns that can shoot lots of bullets in a short amount of time.

Is your mind opening at all on that subject?

DEWINE: Look, I think this is something that is going to be part of the national debate. It's already part of the national debate.

Congress is going to -- going to have to look at a number of different things.

TAPPER: Yes, but what do you think?

DEWINE: Look, I -- I think you could do that, again, if we -- if the votes are there in Congress. Congress certainly could do that. Again, you have to pass something, though that does -- it is, in fact,

constitutional. And that's when we get back to what some people call this red flag law. We prefer a different name. We were very careful to work that out so, in fact, that it is constitutional, that constitutional rights are protected.

So, again, that's going to be the question that Congress has to face is, how do you do this and still protect people's -- people's rights to have guns and to own guns and to use guns?

TAPPER: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, thank you for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

DEWINE: Thank you.

TAPPER: President Trump just landed in El Paso, Texas.

We're going to talk to one member of Congress who turned down a meeting with the president there.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:38:42]

TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead.

President Trump now landing in El Paso, Texas. You see Air Force One there on the tarmac.

Joining me now to talk about the president's visit, Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar. She represents El Paso and turned down a meeting with the president there.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us on such a horrible week.

You said you would only meet with the president if you could talk to him about his rhetoric beforehand. The White House turned you down.

But I wonder. By not being part of the delegation, by not meeting with them, did you miss a chance to talk to him about his rhetoric?

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Here's what -- the challenge that I faced, Jake.

If I didn't have an opportunity to really have a one-on-one conversation with him in advance, and if I had been part of the motorcade, I don't know that I would have been in the car with him to speak.

And then, once he went to the hospital, if that's where he went -- I don't know what his schedule was -- then there just is no opportunity.

And that's why I felt, when we got the invitation -- and I appreciate that they reached out to us to invite us to be part of the motorcade -- I thought this is an opportunity, this could be a possible opening to really use this moment, this moment of pain and this moment of severe suffering, to use it as a moment of opportunity for the whole country and for this community, an opportunity to heal.

[16:40:02]

But in order to heal, there really needs to be an acknowledgement of the words and the power of the words and the hate and the racism in the words that he's used to describe my community and to Spanish and immigrants.

And if we can't have that dialogue, my feeling was, I refuse to be a prop. I'm not going to stand next to him as he pretends to care about what's happening in this community.

I hope he truly does care. But these are really difficult and important conversations that need to be had. They can't be had in moments of passing.

TAPPER: We're looking right now at the pictures of the president and first lady Melania Trump. They're meeting with Governor Abbott, Senators Cornyn and Cruz.

The Mayor of El Paso, Mayor Margo, is there as well. Now, the Mayor of El Paso says he's meeting with the president because he says this visit should not be about politics. What's your response to that?

ESCOBAR: Humanity should not be about politics either.

Respecting the dignity and the grace of every human being should not be a Republican or Democratic value. It should be a human value, right?

And the words that the president has used have dehumanized us, Jake. That's why a terrorist can walk into a shopping center and gun down people in such cold blood, because he doesn't see us as human.

The words that the president has used also dehumanized us. We should -- there should be no division this issue.

There should be only unity and calling for accountability on those words, the power of those words, the damage done by those words, and calling on the president to say every human being, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of who you love, who you are, or regardless of whether you were born on this side of that river or the other side of that river, every human being deserves dignity and respect.

That shouldn't be a partisan issue.

TAPPER: I remember President George W. Bush saying family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River.

Let me ask you, Congresswoman, if you could, whether you're speaking on behalf of yourself or your constituents. I have heard from a number of Latino and Latina friends who are scared, who are afraid in their own country, who have never felt more afraid.

And I'm wondering if you could speak to that.

ESCOBAR: Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you represent.

But this is -- this is why it's so important, Jake, for the president to this. He can have a country that is living in fear, living in division, divided by hate, divided by racism, or he can rise to the occasion of embracing every human being with the dignity that we all deserve, the dignity and the grace.

It is up to him, really. And we're going to see in the days ahead whether the person reading the lines from the teleprompter is the same person as the person on Twitter and the same person on rallies.

This community is resilient and strong and beautiful. And we are united in love. And we are determined, determined to make sure that every person is treated with that dignity that they deserve.

TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of the beautiful city of El Paso and the surrounding area, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. We know it has been a really awful week.

ESCOBAR: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: As President Trump arrives in El Paso, some of the Democrats hoping to challenge him in 2020 are, well, unleashing.

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] TAPPER: In our "2020 LEAD" now. In the aftermath of two horrific attacks, two Democratic presidential candidates unleashed today some of their most aggressive criticisms to date of President Trump on the matter of race.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker accused the president of weaponizing hate for political gain as former Vice President Joe Biden claims President Trump has fanned the flames of white supremacy. CNN's Jessica Dean picks up our coverage now from the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our president has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In his strongest rebuke of President Trump yet, former Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd in Iowa today Trump has fanned the flames of white supremacy in America and lacks the leadership of presidents before him.

BIDEN: George H.W. Bush renouncing his membership in the NRA, President Clinton after Oklahoma City, George W. Bush going to a mosque after 9/11, President Obama after Charleston.

DEAN: Biden also laying out what he would do as president on gun control and reminding people of his support for the Brady Bill in 1993 which mandated background checks, and his work to pass the assault weapons ban in the 1994 crime bill.

BIDEN: Is the guy who along with Senator Dianne Feinstein got the assault weapons ban in the high-capacity magazines banned in this country for ten years? As the elected president, we will do it again. We will do it again.

DEAN: In another early voting state South Carolina, Senator Cory Booker today with a similar message.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hate crimes in America are increasing.

DEAN: Railing against the rise of white supremacy from the pulpit at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The place where an avowed white supremacist shot and killed nine African Americans during a Bible study in 2015.

[16:50:07] BOOKER: Generations of politicians have used fear of the other for political gain. And that is certainly the case today.

DEAN: Booker said America is at a crossroads and must decide if it will act to protect against mass shootings and crimes fueled by hate.

BOOKER: We must require federal licensing for guns in America, and we've got to go further. We must require that the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the FBI conduct assessments of the domestic terrorist threats that are posed by white supremacists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: Back here in Iowa when asked to respond to President Trump's tweet criticizing him, Joe Biden looked directly at the cameras, and Jake, he simply said he should get a life.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean in Iowa, thank you so much. Let's chew over all this with our panel. Seung Min, let me start with you. There are a lot of gun restriction proposals being put out there by Democrats and in some Republicans as well. Do any of them you think have a chance of getting through the Senate? I assume most of them can go through the Democratic-controlled House, but what about the Republican-controlled Senate?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is so difficult right now. What we're discussing right now in the Republican Senate are what we call these so-called red flag laws where you can have a law enforcement official or a family member basically petition a judge to try to get weapons out of someone who could harm themselves or others.

But I've started to hear some grumbling a little bit about that effort because anything that is seen as restricting access to guns is going to run into concern from Conservatives on Capitol Hill. So I think that is what people like Senator Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal, Marco Rubio, what they're proposing is kind of the most anodyne of versions of these red flag laws you could get because it only really incentivizes States to create their own red flag laws, but I wouldn't expect that to be easy anytime soon.

And what you're listening to what a lot of these Democratic candidates talk about are very expansive measures such as an assault weapons ban. And that is something that has not even been on Congress's main agenda since 2004 when the federal assault weapons ban expired. You've heard a lot of Democratic candidates talk about using executive action on gun violence --

TAPPER: Kamala Harris.

KIM: Kamala Harris is the most prominent one doing that, but you can almost guarantee it'll be challenged in the court.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the other angle of this obviously which is the President's rhetoric and the notion of this rising threat of white supremacists. Joe Biden said today President Trump has "fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation, not quite as far as Beto O'Rourke who said that he thinks President Trump he is a white supremacist.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Beto has said that. Biden is doing a very good job on this today. I thought that he read a very good speech and he really gave a full-throated critique of this which is something it's necessary but it's not sufficient in the Democratic primary, right.

So -- people want to hear this. They want to know that this is where candidates stand. And then candidates will go out and talk about what they want to do as president. That would be different. It's just interesting you mentioned the red flag laws.

One thing that's very interesting to me is people are for the red flag laws like Mike DeWine proposed it in Ohio, but then other people are against background checks. So you get on a list, you get your gun taken away from when you get on a red flag list, but you know, nobody can check the list to find out whether or not they can sell you a gun. It's amazing to me.

TAPPER: You said Beto O'Rourke was exploiting this issue by calling the president of white supremacist.

ADOLFO FRANCO, FORMER ADVISER, JOHN MCCAIN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Yes, I absolutely -- I absolutely do. I think this is a grotesque statement. I think Joe Biden knows better and that's why he's been far more careful. I actually think this is political exploitation of a tragedy by the Democrats. I think the president has been extraordinarily disciplined. I do think when this --

TAPPER: Disciplined how?

FRANCO: Disciplined in keeping the focus on healing the country in his statement. TAPPER: Since when?

FRANCO: Well, since these incidents happen and he spoke to them and made these visits which are completely appropriate and the right thing to do. I think this will be seen as overreaching by the American people in short order, these attacks on the president and this exaggeration that somehow his passion for policy issues regarding illegal immigration constitute racism or white supremacy.

He is not a white supremacist. He denounced. It's very clear that the president is committed to a point of view that Democrats are now trying desperately to turn into a race issue. And I think that it's extraordinarily unfortunate.

TAPPER: So, Maggie, I don't know if it will be seen this overreach or not. The last poll I saw said -- indicated that 51 percent of the American people actually think President Trump is a racist. So I don't -- I mean, maybe you're right. Maybe it will be seen as overreach, but I don't know that these Democrats are insincere.

I mean, maybe they are, but I think a lot of them actually believe that the president is a white supremacist.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think a number of them believe what they are saying. I don't think that this is strictly political theater for many of any of them. I think Joe Biden is running a different kind of campaign and I think to Jamal's views, we'll see if it works in the Democratic primary in this moment in time which is he is making a bet that the general electorate -- general election electorate is going to be more concerned about making that explicit statement. We're going to find out.

[16:55:16] TAPPER: All right, thanks, everyone. Coming up, one 2020 presidential candidate who has changed his position on gun legislation. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back, right now President Trump and the First Lady are arriving at University Medical Center in El Paso where he's expected to meet with some of the victims of horrific racist El Paso shooting.