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Trump to Visit Dayton and El Paso After Shootings; Trump to Face Skeptics, Protests Today in Dayton and El Paso; New Footage Shows Dayton Gunman Spent Time with Sister Just Before Rampage; President Trump Set to Visit Dayton and El Paso Today After Last Weekend's Massacre. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 7, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:15] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto in Dayton, Ohio. Poppy Harlow is off today.

Yesterday we were in El Paso. El Paso strong, the mantra there. Today we're in Dayton. Dayton strong, the mantra here. Another American community reeling from gun violence.

How many more communities, how many more hashtags?

Well, later today President Trump will leave the White House, come here, and then head to El Paso, Texas, the two cities trying to heal after two gunmen shot and killed a total of 31 people over 12 bloody hours this weekend. As the president meets with first responders as well as victims' families, he's also facing major skepticism and protests from some in these communities.

Dayton's mayor, Nan Whaley, says that she plans to meet with Trump today but called his past rhetoric painful to her community. Still the congresswoman who represents El Paso, Veronica Escobar, says she will not join the president despite being asked by the White House. And while the president is on the ground in El Paso today, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will make his strongest comments yet on Trump and white nationalism.

A line from Biden's planned speech in Iowa today goes like this. We're quoting here. "We're living through a rare moment in this nation's history where our president isn't up to the moment, where our president lacks the moral authority to lead, where our president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington."

That's quite on association there. This comes as pressure builds on Republican lawmakers to act on gun reform measures, supported, we should note, by an overwhelming majority of Americans, also by majorities of Republican voters, such as stricter background checks, red flag laws, even bans on high capacity magazines. Those red flag laws, of course, where family members can get court orders to take guns away from potentially dangerous relatives.

Joining me now CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Of course, she covers the president. It's a difficult visit for this president to two communities that have

mixed feelings about him and real divisions in those communities. How does the president handle that?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what they're going to be facing. And this isn't the resistance the president has seen before in times like this. It happened after the Parkland, Florida, shooting where some of the students said they thought it was the best that the president stayed away, while they process their grief. We saw it again in Pittsburgh after that synagogue shooting where even the mayor refused to meet with the president because they said that the funerals were getting started for those victims, and it wasn't time for the president to come.

Now White House officials are brushing this off saying that if the president didn't come to these cities today, if he didn't come visit them right after these back-to-back mass shootings, that the president would still face criticism then. But of course, the question is going to be whether or not the president takes the bait and how he responds to these officials. We're already seeing a taste of that this morning when the president is tweeting, firing back at Beto O'Rourke in Texas saying -- criticizing him about not only his name but also what he's been saying about the president.


COLLINS: Going after him, calling him a white nationalist. So that's going to be what the president is facing, as he's meeting with these first responders, these law enforcement officials.


COLLINS: And some of the victims and their families.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That was a taste. Will the president take a more conciliatory tone, unifying tone, based on those tweets? Perhaps not.

COLLINS: They're skeptical. They saw -- you saw the president address the nation the other day where he maintained this unifying tone, but they will acknowledge inside the White House that the president has struggled to keep and maintain that tone for days after a tragic event like what we've seen here in Dayton, Ohio, and in El Paso, Texas. So they know that these events are highly scrutinized and they're going to be watching that as they go throughout these visits.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching as well.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.

After President Trump pays his respects here in Dayton, Ohio, he will also head to El Paso, Texas. But ahead of that visit instead of calls for unity Trump is slamming El Paso native and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. Late last night, as Kaitlan noted, Trump tweeted that the outspoken former Texas congressman should, quote, "respect the victims and law enforcement," and, "be quiet," exclamation point.

O'Rourke responded with this, "22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I."

That is the level of division right now.

CNN correspondent Rosa Flores, she is live in El Paso this morning.

Rosa, what else can we expect from the president's visit? When I was on the ground there, I heard very mixed feelings from El Paso residents not just about whether this was the right time for this, 20 funerals -- 22 funerals now coming there, but also whether the president's language has helped or hurt the problem.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, you're absolutely right. That's some of the things that we hear from residents here in El Paso. We're expecting protests later today, and there's mixed emotions about him visiting this city.

[09:05:06] Some of the people that I've talked to put it like this, when you are feeling deep loss, when you are in mourning, you want to be surrounded just on a human level by compassion, by empathy. And some people here in El Paso don't feel that President Trump will be delivering that here today. Take a listen.


ZAHNDRA LUNA, EL PASO, TEXAS RESIDENT: The human level, I think that President Trump should respect this mourning period.

NATHAN HERNANDEZ, EL PASO, TEXAS RESIDENT: You don't play with your scar, you don't play with a cut, right? You let it heal first and then you -- you know what I mean? You don't do that. You know what I mean? Like not right now. You know what I mean, like, let us have our grief, let us mourn, like pay our own respects to our people from our city and our community.


FLORES: And some individuals here in El Paso do hope that the president visits and brings a healing message. Take a listen.


ADOLPHO TELLS, CHAIRMAN, EL PASO REPUBLICAN PARTY: Him showing up in El Paso to show his support, to learn what's going on, hopefully take things back on what needs to be changed, what needs to be worked on, I think it's very important that he be here, and I think it's outstanding that he is coming.


FLORES: And Jim, about those emotions that you and I were just talking about, the feelings that some of the people here in El Paso have, there are posted messages individual that you see behind me for President Trump. There are few that stand out. Just to summarize one of them, it's written by three American citizen little girls. She says -- they say that they have Mexican parents and that they are afraid to go outside. And their message ends by saying, "We hope you read this message. God bless you," to President Trump -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: I heard that from a family there in El Paso yesterday, too, they're child afraid to go outside in the wake of this, worried that they were the next target. That's the level of fear now.

Rosa Flores, in El Paso, thanks very much.

Joining me now, the former Ohio governor, John Kasich.

Governor, thanks so much for taking the time this morning. I saw you over there earlier visiting the site where these nine people were killed. Tell us what you need to hear from the president when he visits Dayton today.

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's got to be the healer-in-chief. This is not about any politics. He's got to come in here humble and strong and try to communicate to the people here that he understands what happened here and that he's going to take decisive action to try to provide more safety for Americans. And Americans are demanding it.

And Jim, I would tell you that, you know, I've been watching this and been on the channel and talking about it, but to come here that little bar there, OK, right across the street, you know, it's like a place that any of us would go, that we would come on a Saturday night with our spouse, with our friends, and we would have a great time and have a drink and eat, laugh. And then you see the flowers on the sidewalk and then you see the picture of the nine who were dead.

I don't have a list of all the people who were injured, see, when you see it, when you're here, and you feel it, as you know, being in El Paso and being here, it's just much different. It makes it so much more personal, right?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely it does. And I think probably like a lot of folks at home you find yourself in public places, I'm sure you've been in the same situation where you wonder what if it happened here right now? How would I react? I think those thoughts are going through the minds of a lot of Americans.

You said what you want to hear from the president. You know the way the president has talked about this issue in the past or even the kinds of tweets he sent last night. Is he capable of providing that leadership at this moment?

KASICH: Well, I think it's a real test for him, Jim, and I think the whole country is going to watch. And the people who don't like him, they're not going to be moved by what he says but those people who have been on the fence, and many Republicans, they're going have to say, is this the kind of leader we want, and they're going to have to watch his words and the way he conducts himself both here in El Paso to decide if he's the kind of leader they want going forward. The other thing, Jim, I felt that what the president should have done

was convene Republicans, Democrats, community activists, faith leaders, law enforcement and get them in a room in the White House and say we're not coming out of this room until we hammer out a comprehensive program to give some safety and security to the people and to the children.


KASICH: That's how this has got to happen. There's a window of opportunity, a way to get things through that window.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about that window of opportunity because I've tried to focus in these last few days on what could be different now. Of course, we've asked that question too many times to count after tragedies like this.

[09:10:03] And of course, things didn't change. But there does appear to be a window because you have a number of Republican senators coming out in support of something I know you've pushed for, for a long time in the state of Ohio. A red flag law will allow family members, loved ones to say listen, this person's got a problem, via a court order they can have their weapon taken away.

KASICH: Right.

SCIUTTO: If that were to get through, would that be a significant and positive change?

KASICH: You know, it would. Now I think it's being kind of dismissed now as well, that's just one little thing. But that's a big deal. I fought for it for a year and couldn't get it through either House, either Republican House. I know that in the Senate they're talking now about a bipartisan effort to help states do that. So if you take a look at this person here, this guy that came and killed, including his own sister, there were warnings. And you've seen former classmates. You've seen former girlfriends. You've seen -- I guess not the girlfriend, that was done in El Paso, but there have been warnings.

SCIUTTO: For years.

KASICH: For years.


KASICH: And it just didn't happen, so maybe that also brings into account, Jim, a different way in which law enforcement can have authority when they spot this because we've got this First Amendment versus what the heck do we do when we see real trouble because people are not going to tolerate this.

I believe it's different now. I mean, I think Las Vegas should wake us up. But you know, nothing really -- well, in Florida it did.

SCIUTTO: Yes. KASICH: The Parkland students demanded. Here's a thing we can't


SCIUTTO: But a lot of the changes they demanded went nowhere, let's just be frank.

KASICH: Well --

SCIUTTO: And I'm wondering --

KASICH: They got a red flag down there.

SCIUTTO: They did in the state. I'm talking about national change here. Because, you know, that's what really makes a difference. You know how Washington works.


SCIUTTO: We're in a recess. You have a momentary push now at least for red flag laws with Republican support. Does that last until September when they're back in session?

KASICH: You know, it's going to largely be up to the public and up to us in the media to continue to talk about this.


KASICH: I think it's different. And let me say one other thing, yes, I worry about Washington and what they're doing and what they don't do because they're so screwed up down there. But do not discount the power of what can happen in states because states can tailor the laws to fit what they need to do in their state, but of course we need leadership at the federal level.

There's a report, our channel reports, that there were a lot of senators that would go farther than red flag laws. OK. But none of them are speaking out.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

KASICH: See, what's I -- here's what I don't get. I don't understand why somebody in those positions just don't say it's common sense and this is what we're going to do?


KASICH: There's a handful of people that object, OK? But they're definitely -- they're definitely drowned out by the vast majority of people who want these changes.

SCIUTTO: The polls -- the polls show it.


SCIUTTO: So even in a vast majority of Republicans, will we see that now? Will they let fear of being primaried out?


SCIUTTO: Fear of getting on the wrong side of the NRA get in the way? This is a test --

KASICH: Imagine, though, let's just say that you get weak and another thing happens, it's on you.


KASICH: It's on your conscience. So -- and you know what, what I also notice here is there's people down here that were yelling at the governor down here, who's stepped up now.

SCIUTTO: Do something.

KASICH: Do something, do something, and young people. It's got to rise and we got to get the heat on. And we can get some things done.

SCIUTTO: Well, folks, if you're watching at home, you heard a challenge issued here from the former Republican governor of this state.

Governor Kasich, always good to have you on this program. We know we're going to have you back in the next hour.

Still to come this hour, in the wake of three -- remember that, three mass shootings over the past couple of weeks, a renewed focus on domestic terrorism driven in particularly by white supremacist ideology. It's in the numbers. We'll take a closer look at what is being done.

Also, this morning, we are hearing from the ex-girlfriend of the Dayton gunman. Disturbing details about his obsession through the years with violence, even showed her a video of a mass shooting on their first date.

Plus as President Trump departs Washington for Dayton and El Paso, I'll speak to the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, why he says the president's visit could do more harm in his view than good.


[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: We are this morning just feet away from where 9 people lost their lives in the early morning hours Sunday, such familiar circumstances, another mass shooting. New surveillance video of that shooting shows the Dayton gunman in a bar with his sister just moments before killing her and 8 others.

Watch this here, the calmness in his eyes, hanging out there with a T- shirt on, glasses on, this video obtained exclusively by CNN, shows the gunman entering the bar Saturday night after spending more than an hour there before then leaving.

That's him there before he left, of course he returned to the area a short time later, that's when he brought back his weapon ready to kill those 9 people in some 40 seconds. Let's bring in CNN national security and legal analyst, Susan Hennessey. Susan, as you look at this video here, I mean, in addition to being chilling, here's someone who went to this bar behind me with his sister, calmly seems to be enjoying the night, leaves, comes back with a weapon, commits mass murder --


SCIUTTO: Explain the sequence of events.

HENNESSEY: Yes, so federal investigators are going to be looking at this video really carefully in order to try and construct the order of events. Was this an individual who arrived at the bar with a plan already in action? Did something happen while he was there that sort of triggered this event?

Was he in communication with anyone else? Is there any reason to believe somebody else was involved, and of course, who was the actual target? You know, obviously his sister was one of the victims, but who he was -- who he was going after. And so really, investigators are going to be trying to piece together, you know, just as many details as possible in order to get a comprehensive understanding of what occurred, you know, both for investigating this particular crime and also with an eye toward preventing future events like this in the future.

[09:20:00] SCIUTTO: Susan, this is an odd profile, frankly, for a shooter, right? As we reported yesterday and again today, he had a lot of social media posts seeming to be extremist left-wing in this case, expressing support for Elizabeth Warren, but he also had a broader history of it seems, violent tendencies, a rape list, a kill list in high school, showing a mass shooting video to his girlfriend on their first date.

As you look at this, and again, I know there's a lot more to be learned in this investigation, what is your best early understanding of the possible motivations for this?

HENNESSEY: So, in the Ohio shooting, unlike the other events in Gilroy and Texas, there isn't a manifesto. The perpetrator didn't actually sort of leave his own explanation. So, you know, so, really, we don't know. There is one element, though, that is emerging about his background that is really significant, and that's potential red flags and concerns for domestic abuse for threats against women.

This kill list, this rape list, some of his female acquaintances said that he threatened them after they declined to go out on a date. You know, this is something that is a red flag that we see pop up in a lot of mass shootings. And that's the tie between mass shooters and individuals who have some ties --


HENNESSEY: To domestic abuse or issuing threats against women. More than half of mass shooters have had in the past decade have had some sort of domestic violence red flag there. And so, as we start to think about what sensible comments and gun control measures might look like, certainly focusing on the link between preventing people who have -- who have really serious red flags, red flags that people noticed at the time, took action on at the time --


HENNESSEY: And making sure that those are individuals who cannot get their hands on guns, do not have easy access to weapons to perpetrate these kinds of horrific, you know, massacres.

SCIUTTO: To that point, we have some sound now from the gunman's former girlfriend, have a listen to that and I want to get your sense of the relevance. Here it is.


ADELIA JOHNSON, DAYTON SHOOTER'S EX-GIRLFRIEND: He was interested in what makes terrible people do terrible things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mass shootings?

JOHNSON: Yes, and he knew that they were bad, he knew that they were horrific, and he wanted to know what led a person to do those things.


SCIUTTO: So, that's a red flag, right? No question leading up to it. But based on these red flag laws, the way they're written, would something like that -- would a girlfriend going to the cops and say he's talking about this kind of stuff. Would that provide enough legal basis under these potential red flag laws as they're written for a judge to rule, we're taking his weapons away?

HENNESSEY: Look, the red flag laws vary across states, and so, we would need to know a little bit more information about whether or not it would rise to the level. But it is a really good example of why things like red flag laws make so much sense.

Often times or most of the time, these things don't come out of nowhere, it's not something that absolutely nobody saw coming. You know, there are signs that there are reasons to be concerned. And again, whenever we're talking about red flag laws, we're talking about arresting people or prosecuting people or putting them in jail.

We're just talking about preventing their access to weapons for the period of time in which there's a reason to be concerned. And so, whenever we think about what the threshold of those laws should look like, you know, it really should be a relatively minimal one because what we're talking about here is a basic public safety.

SCIUTTO: Susan Hennessey, good to have you on this story, thanks very much. We should note that as we're speaking to you now, the president is speaking to reporters on his departure from the White House to come here to Dayton to visit, later, El Paso, Texas, today. When we learn of those comments, we will share them with you. Meanwhile, this hour, not everyone in El Paso wants to see President

Trump this afternoon. Many question if his visit will help the healing or hurt it. So, what could he say today to change those skeptics' minds?


SCIUTTO: Welcome back, and here we are again, standing in front of another American crime scene. President Trump is making his way to both here in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, to the scenes of these deadly mass shootings that stunned, stunned us, stunned the nation this past weekend.

But some local officials in each community questioned if his visit today will comfort their cities during this time of mourning or deepen the divide. Joining me now to discuss is the Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, Gilberto Hinojosa. Mr. Hinojosa, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: I want to play for our viewers what the president said in El Paso in February of this year because this is something that a lot of people in El Paso mentioned to me when I was there earlier this week, and I want to get your reaction to that. Have a listen, first.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are cutting loose dangerous criminals into our country -- murders, killings, murders.


SCIUTTO: Of course, the shooter in El Paso in his manifesto talked about coming to that Wal-Mart specifically to target Mexicans, describing them as an invasion. How did those words resonate then, and why do they contribute to your opposition to the president's visit today?