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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Visited Victims in El Paso and Texas; Politics Showdown Amid Crisis; Americans are Afraid All Over the Country; Donald Trump Visiting with Victims of the Mass Shootings; Donald Trump Called for Unity But Did Not Last Long. Aired 10:21-11p ET

Aired August 7, 2019 - 22:21   ET

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


(CUOMO PRIME TIME TOWN HALL)

[22:21:30]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Learned a lot. I agree with you on most things that you said in your closing statement, except I do think that this is all about the president. And I'll tell you why.

Eighty -- this president has 89 percent approval among Republicans. The people who are keeping sensible gun legislation from happening in America are Republicans. You mentioned Senate majority leader. You mentioned Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell won't even take the vote.

If President Trump said to Mitch McConnell, do the vote. If president Trump said to Republicans, vote on it. Pass it. It would happen. So, I do think this, I'm not willing to let President Trump off the hook right now when it comes to that. Because I think that it is in his hands right now.

It is obvious that politicians are not going to do it. They're afraid of him. They're afraid of being primaried and they're afraid of the Twitter backlash. That they'll get from this president.

So, I think, yes, if you can say take the politics out, out of it. This is all about politics. Politics are what is keeping this from happening. Americans have spoken out loudly and clearly for decades that they want sensible gun legislation. And none of the politicians are listening right now.

CUOMO: I hear you. But the last fact is, you're folly when it comes to the president because you're right. The country has seen through a basic consensus the need to do different things for a long time. Long before this president.

Long -- so long before that it was when Trump was still saying that he wasn't in favor of guns when he was here in New York. So, it can't just be about him. I want to know why he talked to Wayne LaPierre. I want to know what they talked about. I want to know if it's like the last time where he came out and he said he wanted to do all these things and then all of a sudden, he speaks to LaPierre and then he doesn't. So, what I'm saying is somebody is pulling -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's my point. That's my point.

CUOMO: Somebody is pulling the -- but your point is --

LEMON: That's my point.

CUOMO: -- somebody else is pulling the strings then. You think it ends with the president. I think it doesn't. I --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If the president can stand up to Wayne LaPierre --

CUOMO: Because I think it's better than politics.

LEMON: -- if the president can stand up to Wayne LaPierre and the gun lobby. There's no other president in recent history that has had the support of his own party as this president. Not even Barack Obama had the support of Democrats as this president. Not even Ronald Reagan. Not even George Bush have the support of his party than this president.

The Senate there has been a bill that has already been passed that is already made it through the House. Mitch McConnell who is the leader of Republicans, the leader of the Senate won't even send it to the floor. All the president has to do is say do it. And he would do it.

So, I'm not willing to let this president off the hook. I think it is all about him. And if there's going to be any change made in this moment, it's not going to be in the normal way that it is where you think that well, lawmakers have to listen to me. It's going to be from this president. By the way, who put out a video today as soon as he left one hospital.

So, I think it is all upon this president. The tone that has been created in this country and what can happen next when it comes to sensible gun legislation. And I think we all need to put pressure at the top because that's where it matters. And that is where it's going to trickle down from.

CUOMO: All I'm saying is if you put it all on him it's not going to go in here --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Not all of it.

CUOMO: -- because he will take on the fight and he loves the fight. And we will cover the fight and we will forget what the fight was about.

LEMON: Yes. Not all on him.

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: And if you -- if you remind those people --

LEMON: I'm not saying it's all on him. I'm saying that he is the linchpin.

LEMON: We got an election coming up. And there's a lot more people on the ballot than just him.

LEMON: I agree.

CUOMO: You're right. You're right. We have to put it to him. We do it every damn day.

[22:25:01] LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: He knows that. He did a smart move. Keeping himself out of public visibility today. He went to the hospitals. He's right to do that, it's respectful. But he avoided people because he knew he wasn't in his own backyard.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: In these places. And he makes a decision not to address the pain. That's on him. But there are a lot of other people who are going to have the vote this happened a long time before him, and if it doesn't change because the people demand it, it will continue long after.

LEMON: Well, I learned a lot. And I'm very grateful for the people in that room who showed up and the people who watched. And as usual, you did a fantastic job. I'll see you soon. Thank you, Chris.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

And you know, I guess it should surprise none of us at this point that the feelings of the consoler in chief appeared most concerned with while visiting victims of mass shootings were his own.

It's all about President Trump who went to hospitals in Dayton and El Paso to meet and comfort the victims. And the plane had barely taken off from the first grieving city when a top aide along for the ride tweeted out that the president was treated like a rock star inside the hospital in Dayton.

A rock star? How can you boast about that in this context? It would be hard to be more tone deaf than that. More insensitive. Right? Right? Wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As you know we left Ohio. And the love, the respect for the Office of the Presidency, it was, I wish you could have been in there to see it. I wish you could have been in there. It was no different here.

We went to the hospitals. Just came from the hospital. We were there a lot longer than we anticipated to be. It was supposed to be just a fairly quick.

We met with numerous people. We met with also the doctors and nurses the medical staff. They have done an incredible job, both places just incredible, and the enthusiasm, the love the respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's not about you. It's not about you, for once, at least today. But we know it's all about this president, especially when he has aggrieved. His feelings hurt. By things he saw on TV.

So, when the president had a chance to speak publicly on this sad day in El Paso, a city in mourning after a racist mass murder, he used his time to brag about himself and then to trash some Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They shouldn't be politicking today. I had it with Sherrod Brown, the mayor, then Whaley. They asked to go in could we possibly go in and make it through. I said, yes, let's do it. They couldn't believe what they saw. And they said it to people. They have never seen anything like it.

The entire hospital no different than what we had in El Paso. The entire hospital was, I mean, everybody was so proud of the job they did because they did a great job. They did a great job here.

And then I say good-bye. I took them in at their request. We made the tour. They couldn't believe it. She said it to people, he said it to people.

I get on Air Force One where they do have a lot of televisions. I turn on the television and then they're saying, well, I don't know if it was appropriate for the president to be here. You know, et cetera, et cetera, you know, the same old line.

They're very dishonest people. And that's probably why he got, I think about zero percent then he failed as a presidential candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, so, as always. We have to look at what really happened. Let's look at what really happened, not just the story that he created afterwards.

Earlier in the day, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley joined the president at the Dayton Hospital. And here's what Senator Brown and Mayor Whaley said to the media about the president's hospital visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): He was comforting and he did the right thing.

MAYOR NAN WHALEY (D-OH): I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the President of the United States came to Dayton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, in fact, they said kind things about the president's role comforting the victims. What likely ticked the president off is that they also told reporters after their hospital visit that they pressed President Trump to push for expanded background checks. And what Mayor Whaley calls common-sense gun control legislation.

They are elected officials. Isn't that what they're supposed to do? But the president doesn't seem to get it. Doesn't seem to get that Americans are scared, that they're frightened of out of control deadly gun violence, that they're fearful that they won't make it home safely from the supermarket, from church, from a diner, a nightclub, that their kids won't make it alive from school.

[22:30:02] Look at these videos. This is real. That is panic and chaos. In Times --

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Look at these videos. This is real. That is panic and chaos. In Times Square last night, people running in all directions after motorcycles backfired. People were heard screaming that there was a shooter. Police tried to calm people down, saying there was no gunfire. Then this is Utah. Panicked people ran from a mall when a sign fell causing a bang that sounded like a gunshot.

And hundreds of employees evacuated from USA Today's office building in Virginia after reports of a man with a weapon. Fortunately, police say there was nothing to worry about in the end. But the fact is Americans are scared. And President Trump seems tone deaf about it, to the point where his priorities were to defend himself, to attack others, and also get in some remarks about heroes in Dayton and El Paso, the victims and the heroes, the people who the whole day should have been about.

And then there is Tucker Carlson, the president's apologist at Fox News, who said last night on the air, stunningly, in the wake of the murders of 22 people in El Paso at the hands of a white nationalist that white supremacy, is not a problem in the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, Fox NEWS HOST: But the whole thing is a lie. If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns or problems this country faces, where would white supremacy on the list? Right up there with Russia, probably. It's actually not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium. I mean seriously. This is a country where the average person is

getting poorer with the suicide rate is spiking, white supremacy, that's the problem. This is a hoax, just like the Russia hoax. It's a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power. That's exactly what's going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: There's so much in there -- the economy was so great and then he says people are getting poorer. Then he says you don't have to worry about it, I guess. A lot of black and brown people have to worry about it. A lot of innocent people who get caught in the gun fire from a white supremacist who just opens fire randomly people, they have to worry about it. Maybe you don't.

I don't know. I wonder if he would have had the guts to look into the eyes of family members from El Paso or Pittsburgh or Charleston and say such nonsense. There's a better word for it, but I want to keep my job. Or in the eyes of the mother of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville. Would he have the guts to look into her eyes and say that, such non-sense? Doubtful, but there is some sanity, luckily, at Fox News, Shepard

Smith did a segment on Biden's speech today, where Biden accused President Trump of fanning the flames of white supremacy in America. Shep Smith never mentioned Tucker Carlson but told his viewers, clearly and precisely, that white nationalism is a serious problem in America. And reported that Biden, if elected, vows to put in place sensible gun control measures and expanded background checks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEP SMITH, Fox NEWS ANCHOR: Marking the unmistakable rise of white nationalism and white racism in America, and saying that as president he will work to fight against it, calling us to our better souls, to recognize that white nationalism is real, that white nationalism is on the rise, that white nationalism is, without question, a very serious problem in America. And beating down those who would help facility it and encourage it, because they are an enormous part of the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Finally, someone over there making sense. Which one of these Fox anchors drew the ire of the president today? The one who called white supremacism a hoax or the one who said it's real and it's on the rise, which is what the FBI says as well. Well, it turns out there were plenty of the president's (Inaudible) tweets to go around today, on his way from mourning American city to another -- one mourning American city to another.

And what about supposed fake news was directed at guess what? Guess who? Shep Smith. For his part tonight, Tucker Carlson told everyone rightfully outraged by his outrageous comments to "calm down." Acknowledging there's racism, fine. But we have other problems. And then announced he's taking a vacation from now until August 19. Stay tuned. We have more on Tucker Carlson's comments a little bit later on in the show. [22:35:17] The president travels to Dayton and El Paso to comfort

victims of the mass shootings, but turns the spotlight on himself. He even made a campaign-style video of this visit to the hospital in Dayton, a lot to talk about next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:39:51] LEMON: President Trump visiting with victims of mass shootings who are still hospitalized in Dayton and El Paso, and meeting with the families of two patients when he visited the University Medical Center in El Paso. However, one of the El Paso's shooting victims did want to meet with him and her family also refused to see the president, did not want to meet with him and also refused to see the president.

And judging by his Twitter feed and his comments leaving the hospital tonight in El Paso, it appears he left the unity message he was calling for on Monday in the aftermath of those deadly attacks. He left that back in Washington. Let's bring in now Daniel Dale, Maria Cardona, and Max Boot. Max is the author of The Corrosion of Conservatism, Why I Left the Right.

I just want to -- Max, let me just get that -- make sure, because one of the victims who was shot three times told CNN's Ed Lavandera that his daughter did not want to see Trump, and the family refused to meet with him. I just want to clear that up with -- I said in the introduction of it. Good evening to all of you. Max, the cities of Dayton and El Paso are grieving. What was on the president's mind?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, pretty clearly, Don, what's on the president's mind is always what's on this president's mind, which is looking out for number one. It's all about Donald Trump. It's not about these victims. And so, you know, he's patting himself on the back, taking victory laps, releasing a campaign-style video about his visits.

And, of course, he is engaging in venomous, destructive partisan right after on Monday. He said now this is not the time for destructive partisanship. That's what he was doing today. I mean, Don, I lost track of how many Democratic politicians he attacked today. Senator Sherrod Brown, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, Congresswoman Joaquin Castro, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, former Vice President Biden.

I mean that's probably an incomplete list. And, of course, he was also attacking the "fake news media." I mean this is a president who is incapable, Don, of setting aside that destructive partisanship. He can read a Twitter speech. He can read a teleprompter speech, but then he is out there on his own, when he's on Twitter, when he's in the real world, you see that he is all about partisanship and he's not about acting presidential.

He's not the person we need in this time of grief to heal our wounds. He is somebody who will simply pour salt into those wounds.

LEMON: I just -- as all of this was unfolding, Maria, I just kept thinking of the phrase have you no decency. You know, you heard the president talk about the love and respect that he got in Ohio. It was, like, what did that have to do with anything? No matter the occasion, he makes these things about himself. Why can't he just say the people are suffering here? Americans are pulling together.

This should never happen in our country. We need to do better, America, and the people are representative of that, and everyone wants change, instead of saying me, me, me, I, I, I.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Simple, Don, because he is absolutely incapable of playing the role that any traditional president, Republican or Democrat, is called onto play in these circumstances. And that is of consoler-in-chief, and that is somebody who heals and that is of somebody who soothes. He can't heal, Don. Because he is the one who helps cause the hurt.

He can't console, because he's the one who helps create the chaos that emboldens these white supremacists to go on and commit these tragedies. He can't soothe, because he is the one, who essentially with his toxic tongue as Joe Biden very aptly said, and his rancid rhetoric are the ones who actually look to, frankly, we might as well call his rhetoric an accessory to this carnage.

He's incapable of doing it because of the role that he plays in carrying it out. And he doesn't understand that. He doesn't care to understand that. He doesn't care to look inside himself to figure out what role did he play and his rhetoric play. As a Latina, my community is hurting. The American community is hurting. My brothers and sisters in El Paso do not feel safe.

My brothers and sisters who are of a different color skin, who speak a different language, who come from these S-hole countries that this president loves to talk about and degrade. We do not feel safe and welcome in our own country, Don. That is not the America that my parents came to.

LEMON: Daniel, President Trump accused Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton's mayor of misrepresenting his hospital visit, you fact-checked that claim. This is false.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: This is false. It's entirely baseless. I don't know if he might have expected them to say negative things about the hospital visit, but they didn't. Sherrod Brown praised him in lengths, that he was comforting. He did the right things. Melania did the right things. Brown said he was glad that Trump went to the hospital. The mayor was briefer but said that he was well received, that first responders and victims were both "grateful that he was there."

[22:44:54] She repeated much the same in an interview with CNN's Brooke Baldwin a bit later. The only thing that I can possibly think of is Brown briefly said that some people at the hospital told him that privately they're not huge fans of Trump, but then he said that even those people showed respect to the office of the president. And so they're just no basis for this claim that they were somehow misrepresenting how he was treated. They said he was treated well. LEMON: I've watched several interviews. I saw the live thing with

Sherrod Brown and with the mayor. And I saw several interviews, Daniel, with the mayor later on in the day. And no matter how the person interviewing her tried to goad her into saying something negative about the president, she just wouldn't fall into the trap.

She wouldn't do it. I didn't hear her say one thing negative about this president. She was -- I thought she was -- what's the word, not articulate is the word, but...

CARDONA: Decent?

LEMON: Well, that's a good word. Decent, kind, smart in her language, she was being delicate. I could see that she was dancing around. But she also said I think that Democrats and Republicans in this moment need to come together and do something different. I didn't think that was a bad thing. But then what got to me, Daniel, is that other members of the president's team and his allies joined in on this lie and joined in on this attack.

DALE: Yes. And so we know that Trump is a frequent liar. He's a serial, you know, daily or near daily deceiver. But what is striking as well, as you point out, is that he ropes in people around him into the dishonesty. So we're not just getting it from the president himself, but there's this entire sort of executive apparatus that begins to lie or deceives for him.

We saw that today with Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, playing the role that Sarah Sanders used to play when she used to do deceiving for Trump. We saw that from Social Media Chief Dan Scavino. And we often see it from Vice President Mike Pence when he repeats Trump's false claims about things like, you know, getting the Veterans Choice Program passed, even though that was actually signed into law by Barack Obama.

And so, yes, Trump is dishonest. But the people around him are doing his bidding as well.

LEMON: Max, so what is this really about then? Is this because he thinks they're critical of his rhetoric or are they requesting gun legislation? Why falsely attack like that?

BOOT: You know I can't get into Trumps head, Don. And thank goodness, because it's not a pretty place to be. But it's clearly -- it's clear to me that he's a seething massive resentment, and he's ready to unload on his adversaries for slights that are real or perceived. And, you know, just incapable of doing what we want him to do. And, you know, Daniel just mentioned President Obama.

And, you know, I can't help thinking in this ordeal of the way that President Obama behaved in 2015 after an earlier white supremacist shooting, a mass murder, an act of terrorism in Charleston, South Carolina. And remember, of course, how he went down there to the African Methodist church and, you know, sang amazing grace. And delivered one of the most beautiful speeches any president has ever delivered. And, you know, we can wait from now until kingdom come and you're

never going to see one tenth of that intelligence, one tenth of that grace, one tenth of that humanity from President Trump. He is who he is and he simply cannot change and who he is utterly inadequate and a damaged individual who is doing more damage as president of the United States.

LEMON: Maria, I -- this -- I -- it is unbelievable. Right around the time the president landed in El Paso, his Twitter feed put out a campaign-style video of his hospital visit in Dayton. And I'm going to point out. We have no idea of what actually happened because the press wasn't allowed in. But what does it say that they are promoting it like this? And by the way, Philip Bump predicted this last night on our air, but go on.

CARDONA: Yeah. They -- I saw that. You know, it is par for the course for him, sadly, Don. The only thing that he cares about is his image. The only thing that he cares about is how he is seen on the medium of television, which is why he lashes out so much when he sees people on TV criticizing him. The only thing that he cares about is what people will think of him going into 2020, especially his base.

And this is what I think is the focus and the reason for all of his actions and his rhetoric, because he knows that this also is something that really riles up his base. Not everybody, not everybody who supports Trump feels this way. In fact, I think he is losing support with the exact same people that voted -- a lot voted for him in 2016. So I think he's doing himself a lot of damage.

LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

CARDONA: Thank you.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump called for unity during his prepared White House address in the wake of the deadly mass shootings, but that didn't last long. He's now back to wedging a partisan divide, both on Twitter and in front of the cameras. Joining me now is Joshua DuBois. He's the former Religious Affairs Director the White House under President Barack Obama. Josh, thank so much for joining us. It's good to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You've advised President Obama following the mass shootings at Sandy Hook and Charleston. Did President Trump squander any opportunity in El Paso and Dayton?

[22:54:58] JOSHUA DUBOIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He missed a huge opportunity here. And the challenging and the sad thing is, Don, President Trump cannot help but make everything about him. I mean, he started off fine. You know, he's going out to meet with and mourn with hopefully these grieving families, but then come the tweets. You know, he's attacking Beto O'Rourke. He's meeting with the families. And then he's walking out of there and attacking the senator from the

state where the massacre occurred, and the mayor as well. And what's tough about this is he's making it about himself. He's bringing the attention back to him instead of where the attention should be, which is these families that are grieving in this unimaginable time.

And so, you know, the number one rule in moments like this is humility. It's not about you. It's about the people who are impacted and it's about the country. And Donald Trump just can't seem to wrap his mind around that.

LEMON: You know, Joshua, at the campaign speech today, at a campaign speech today, the former Vice President Joe Biden talked about how other presidents have responded to tragedies. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: American presidents have stepped up in the past, 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, presidents who led, who opposed, chose to fight for what the best of American character is about. There's deafening silence now. Sadly, we don't have that today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You know I was going to say, is it possible? But how hard is it? How hard is it for a nation to heal without a consoler-in-chief?

DUBOIS: It's very difficult, especially when the only sound you hear is the click of a keyboard typing out some angry tweets. You know, I was there with President Obama in Newtown meeting with those families who were just dealing with the unimaginable. It wasn't just President Obama. I was there with First Lady Obama when she went out to Oak Creek, Wisconsin after the Sikh temple massacre there.

And the anniversary of that is this very week, and so it was a whole family who knew about putting others first. But Donald Trump, again, it all comes back to him, his brand, his reputation. He talks about making America great. But ultimately, isn't he really just trying to make Donald Trump the center of all these things? And it's hard to mourn.

It's hard to grieve. And it's hard to come together when the president continues this sort of divisive approach.

LEMON: Josh, you know, Biden mentioned Charleston. And I can't help but look back to what President Obama did after the shooting which killed nine at the Mother Emanuel AME Church. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was such a powerful moment. I remember being there and live as it was happening, being on the air. What goes through your mind when you watch and you remember that day?

DUBOIS: Man, it was -- it's a lot. So I had the honor of working with President Obama. I left the White House, but they called me back in to help on that speech with him and Cody Keenan and others, and specifically on the part about grace and about faith. I'm in AME myself. And so I went down with my dad who is a pastor in the AME Church and was friends with the pastor that was lost. And I was sitting right there behind the family.

And I knew he was going to talk about grace. We had worked on that in the speech. But I did not know he was going to sing it. And, you know, we just all in that moment, just sort of our spirits and our bodies rose to greet him. And we were just enveloped in this moment of grace together. It wasn't a Republican thing or a Democrat thing, a black or a white thing. It was people coming together to say that hate will not carry the day.

And so it was a really, really unique moment in American history, but it takes a leader to lead in moments like that.

LEMON: You -- you know, that's what the president did publicly for that. And then also you know what he did for Mother Emanuel and for Sandy Hook. But you write in your book about what happened privately with parents of the victims. You said person after person receiving an engulfing hug from our commander-in-chief. He'd say tell me about your son. Tell me about your daughter.

Then he'd hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. I think specifically you're talking about Sandy Hook there. You say President Obama never really talked about those private meetings. How does that compare to what you saw today?

DUBOIS: Well, I saw today a bunch of tweets, a bunch of attacks, a bunch of attacks on the mayor of the city who is now going to have to go to 20 some-odd funerals and wade her -- way through hundreds of family members who are impacted, attacks on the senator from that state. And what President Obama did --

[23:00:00]