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Trump Faces Skeptics; Trump Takes Questions before Leaving White House; Trump Open to Background Checks; Booker Comments on Trump's Rhetoric. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired August 7, 2019 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: How did those words resonate then, and why do they contribute to your opposition to the president's visit today?
GILBERTO HINOJOSA, CHAIRMAN, TEXAS DEMOCRATIC PARTY: For some reason, some perverted reason, this president believes that if America is divided, he comes out on top. I mean he believes that if he incites hate and prejudice and racial bigotry against Hispanics or against African-Americans or against immigrants, that he comes out on top. He -- he is the great divider instead of the great unifier.
I have been alive long enough to have lived through the 12th president, which is him. Out of the other 11, I've never seen this before. And I don't think, in all the other presidents, you've ever seen this before.
Every president that this great country has ever had has believed that America is stronger if we are united and that -- that we should be trying to ensure that the message that is coming out of the office of the presidency is a message of -- a positive message talking about the greatness of our country.
What this man has done in order to, I guess, feel that he is on top is to incite hate and bigotry though the statements that he just now -- you played, talking about -- even for the first day when he came down that elevator where he talked about Mexicans being, you know, rapists and criminals, this is what he has done from the very beginning. And when you -- when you create this atmosphere, when you start making it normal to make these kinds of statements, you allow this kind of hate and bigotry to exist and people like this horrible monster that killed all these people to come to our communities and to cause this devastation and hurt that he has caused.
SCIUTTO: Well, let -- let me ask you -- let --
HINOJOSA: So, yes, he's not welcome here. He's not welcome in this community of south Texas.
SCIUTTO: OK. Let me ask you here, the president --
SCIUTTO: Following these shootings, he did say something that he has not said before. He called this out as white supremacy. He referred to these as domestic terror attack. And I wonder, is there something that the president -- he's coming. He's coming to El Paso today. He's on his way to Dayton already. Is there something he could say today that would change your view?
HINOJOSA: He needs to apologize. He needs to retract the statements that he's made in the past. He needs to be sincere in his statements that he is against white supremacy, that he's against these anti- immigrant positions that he's espoused in the past.
Let's remember what he did. When he spoke out this last time after the incident, he read a statement. It's not -- was not coming from his heart. It was not coming from his head. It was a statement that somebody wrote out for him that he read, and he read it in a very stiff way. It didn't show any emotion on his part. It didn't show that he really believed in these things.
You know, he stands in front of the cameras and he make certain statements. Have him stand in front of a camera and sincerely say, I am sorry for what I have said. I am sorry for the -- for the hate that I have incited in these statements that I've made before. In retrospect, I believe that I was wrong. I believe that we should understand that immigrants are coming to this country, are coming because they're fleeing a way of life that is horrendous, when your children are being murdered, when you aren't able to live in a community because of the violence that you are experiencing and you come to this country and you travel thousands of miles with your children and put them at risk because there's no other alternative for you, that's not something that is -- that's not a human being that is coming to this country to murder, as he state, or rape as he state, or commit crimes, it is a human being that is coming to our country that is escaping a horrible life that he's experiencing or she's experiencing in their home country like Honduras or El Salvador.
HINOJOSA: And so, you know, these are people that, you know, our nation, in the past, has always welcomed. Yes.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And that's -- and that is, I will say --
SCIUTTO: I will say, Gilberto Hinojosa, that is a sentiment I heard from many residents of El Paso, a community that straddles that border, people moving back and forth between Juarez and El Paso, families on either side. You know, they don't -- they don't view it as -- as a -- as a frontier between two countries.
Gilberto Hinojosa, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it. We look forward to keeping up the conversation.
HINOJOSA: Thank you for having me.
SCIUTTO: The president has just finished comments on leaving the White House. And here are those comments moments ago. [09:35:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then we're going to El Paso and we'll be meeting with first responders, law enforcement, some of the victims, and paying my respects and regards. I'll be going with the first lady. And it's a terrific opportunity really to congratulate some of the police and law enforcement, the job they've done was incredible, really incredible.
QUESTION: President -- Mr. President, no doubt, I don't think anyone (ph) would argue, this is a difficult time in our country for all of us. So from your heart, from your mind, what do you say to your critics that believe it's your rhetoric that is emboldening white nationalism and inspiring this anger?
TRUMP: So, my critics are political people. They're trying to make points. In many cases, they're running for president and they're very low in the polls. A couple of them in particular, very low in the polls.
If you look at Dayton, that was a person that supported, I guess you would say, Bernie Sanders, I understood. Antifa, I understood. Elizabeth Warren, I understood. Have nothing to do with President Trump.
So these are people that are looking for political gain. I don't think they're getting it. And as much as possible, I've tried to stay out of that.
QUESTION: Mr. President, (inaudible) to tone down the rhetoric. Do you (ph) agree with to that?
TRUMP: Well, I do agree.
But I think we have toned it down. We've been hitting -- we've been getting hit, left and right, from everybody. Many of the people, I don't know. A couple of people from Texas -- political people from Texas that aren't doing very well, I guess.
Somebody said the mayor. I had one very nice conversation with the mayor of Dayton. Could not have been nicer. And then she goes and says -- I tried to call her. Well, I spoke to her. And I didn't receive any call.
So they're trying to make political points.
I don't think it works because, you know, I would like to stay out of the political fray. As I was saying, and has just came out, the Dayton situation, he was a fan of Antifa. He was a fan of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Nothing to do with Trump. But nobody ever mentions that.
TRUMP: Say it?
TRUMP: No, I don't blame Elizabeth Warren and I don't blame Bernie Sanders in the case of Ohio. And I don't blame anybody.
I blame -- these are sick people. These are people that are really mentally ill, mentally disturbed. It's a mental problem.
And we're going to be meeting -- we're going to be meeting with members of Congress. I've already got meetings scheduled, and I have had plenty of talks over the last two days. And I think something's going to be come up with. We're going to come up with something that's going to be, really, very good. Beyond anything that's been done so far.
TRUMP: Well, we're going to see where we are. We're dealing with leadership right now. And, you know, you have two sides that are very different on this issue. And let's say all are good people, but two sides that are very different.
We get close, I will bring them back. But it has to be -- you know, we have to see where we are with leadership.
TRUMP: Normally, this has been, really, a decision -- Congress gets together and they try and do something. But if you look over the last 30 years, not a lot has been done.
QUESTION: (inaudible) background check bill (inaudible) in the House. What could you support?
TRUMP: Well, I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important. I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people. I don't want -- I'm all -- I'm all in favor of it.
QUESTION: What about (inaudible)? What is your position on that?
TRUMP: Well, I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment. If you look at -- you could speak, you could do your own polling, and there's no political appetite, probably, from the standpoint of the legislature.
But I will certainly bring that up. I'll bring that up as one of the points.
There's a great appetite -- and I mean a very strong appetite -- for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we've never had before. I think both Republican and Democrat are getting close to a bill on -- to doing something on background checks.
QUESTION: (inaudible) between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, exporter list (ph)?
[09:40:00] TRUMP: Yeah. South Korea and I have made a deal. They've agreed to pay a lot more money toward the United States. As you know, we've got 32,000 soldiers on South Korean soil, and we've been helping them for about 82 years and we get nothing. We get virtually nothing. And South Korea and I have made a deal where they're paying a lot more money, or they're going to pay a lot more money.
The relationship is a very good one. But I felt all along, I felt for years, it was a very unfair one. So they've agreed to pay a lot more, and they will agree to pay a lot more than that.
And we're with them. We're with them.
QUESTION: Would you consider a ban on (inaudible)?
TRUMP: So, you have to have a political appetite within Congress, and so far I have not seen that. I mean, I can only do what I can do.
I think there's a great appetite to do something with regard to making sure that mentally unstable, seriously ill people aren't carrying guns, and I -- I've never seen the appetite as strong as it is now. I have not seen it with regard to certain types of weapons.
QUESTION: Mr. President, how (inaudible)? What are you going to do about it?
TRUMP: I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate. I don't like it. Any group of hate, I am -- whether it's white supremacy, whether it's any other kind of supremacy, whether it's Antifa, whether it's any group of hate, I am very concerned about it, and I'll do something about it.
QUESTION: Mr. President, (inaudible)?
TRUMP: No, I don't think my rhetoric has at all. I think my rhetoric is a very -- it brings people together.
Our country is doing incredibly well. China is not doing well, if you look at the trade situation. China just admitted yesterday that they've been a currency manipulator. First time they've ever been called out. Companies are moving out of China by the thousands, and our country is doing very well. We're going to see how it all works out.
Somebody had to do this with China because they were taking hundreds of billions of dollars a year out of the United States, and somebody had to make a stand. No, I think our country is doing really well.
TRUMP: I think the markets -- I think the market reaction is anticipated. I would have anticipated. I would have maybe anticipated even more.
But ultimately, it's going to go much higher than it ever would have gone, because China was like an anchor on us. China was killing us with unfair trade deals. The people that allowed that to happen are a disgrace. China, what they were doing to us for years and years, taking hundreds of billions of dollars out, stealing intellectual property, targeting our farmers -- all of that's ending, and they understand that.
TRUMP: That's right. I'll be -- I'll be convincing some people to do things that they don't want to do, and that means people in Congress.
But you get a lot of people on one side, and you have a lot of people on the other. But I can -- I have a lot of influence with a lot of people, and I want to convince them to do the right thing. And I will tell you, we've made a lot of headway in the last three days; a lot of headway.
QUESTION: You and the shooter in El Paso used that same language. Do you regret that?
TRUMP: I think that illegal immigration -- you're talking about illegal immigration, right? Yes?
I think illegal immigration is a terrible thing for this country. I think you have to come in legally. Ideally, you have to come in through merit. We need people coming in because we have many companies coming into our country. They're pouring in.
And I think illegal immigration is a very bad thing for our country. I think opens borders are a very bad thing for our country, and we're stopping.
We're building a wall right now. We won the lawsuit in the Supreme Court two weeks ago. The wall is well under construction. It's being built at a rapid pace. We need that.
We need strong immigration laws, but we want to allow millions of people to come in because we need them. We have companies coming in from Japan, all over Europe, all over Asia. They're opening up companies here. They need people to work. We have a very low unemployment rate.
So I believe we have to have legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
TRUMP: I am. I think the market reaction is to be expected. I might have expected even more.
At some point, as I just said, we have to take on China. They've been taking -- look, they've been taking us to the cleaners for 25 years. This should have been done long before me as a president. You know the story better than anybody. You know it better than I do, frankly. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year taken out of our country, stealing intellectual property.
And you know what? We, right now, we're sitting on top. We have money pouring in. We have powerful companies, strong companies. China is losing so many -- they're losing -- thousands and thousands of companies are leaving China now because of the tariffs. And we're in a very good position.
As to whether or not a deal will be made, I will tell you this: China would like to make a deal very badly.
QUESTION: Joe Biden says you have more in common with George Wallace than George Washington.
[09:45:58] TRUMP: Well, you know, Joe is a pretty incompetent guy. I've watched his interviews. I've watched what he said and how he said it, and I wouldn't have rated him very high in the first place. But Joe Biden has truly last his fast ball, that I can tell you.
SCIUTTO: The president there leaving the White House just moments ago, of course, on his way here to Dayton, Ohio, and then later to El Paso, Texas.
As is so necessary, we need to fact check the president after moments like this because many things he said have no factual basis.
Let's begin with the motivation of the shooter here in Dayton. He cites correctly that he did have social media postings in support of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren. However, he has a violent history going back to high school, kill lists, rape lists. Law enforcement has made no conclusion about that being his motivation for this, though the president claimed. So the president said that he is building a wall in response to the question about immigration. In fact, our latest fact check shows that there's only repair of existing wall. He has still not managed to get money that he wants, federal money, to build a wall -- a wall through Congress.
He also stated early on that he is avoiding the politics of this debate, that he's always tried to stay away from politic. Seconds later he attacked Joe Biden and then you heard him there, just before he completed his comments, attacking Joe Biden again.
Finally, if there was a bit of news in here, the president saying that he is open to background checks as a new gun control measure following these attacks here. The question is, does he follow through on that? We know that many Republican lawmakers, they privately say they support such a measure. They need the president's leadership. The president, after past attacks, including Parkland, has expressed support for gun control measures and then backed off after meeting with the NRA. Will this be any different? He's made promises like this before, has not followed through.
I want to speak now to a number of folks we have here, Kaitlan Collins, Nia-Malika Henderson, David Swerdlick, and Brian Stelter.
First, let me begin with Kaitlan Collins there.
Test that presidential -- I don't know if we want to call it a commitment there, but a statement that he's open at least to background checks and that there's a lot of support for that. Is that a significant change for this president?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that echoes what he's been saying privately since these shootings took place over the weekend. And, of course, you're right, this is something we've heard from the president before, only to have him later back away from some of the stances that he's been supportive of in the past. So that is what critics are going to be saying in light of this, whether or not this is something he's actually going to standby his support for that.
But the president did say that he believes there is a growing political appetite to expand those background checks. That's something that would be pretty significant and, of course, it would essentially open up the getaways for Republican lawmakers to go ahead and be behind that because they've been wary about some of these things with Mitch McConnell saying he doesn't want to move that universal background checks bill that the House has passed because he doesn't believe that the president himself supports it.
So the president saying there he does support that was interesting, but also he said he doesn't believe there's a political appetite for any kind of a ban on assault weapons. He repeated that several times there. And that's going to be the question going forward. And that was a big criticism of his address to the nation a few days ago was the president is talking about the aftermath of the shooting but the question is what is he actually going to do going forward. And he is saying there he is open to background checks. SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, I'll tell you, one Republican who came out
publicly last -- yesterday for legislation banning weapons of war is Ohio Congressman Mike Turner, who has 100 percent rating from the NRA. His daughter was standing very close to where I'm standing now during this shooting in the early mornings of Sunday morning, a near miss as nine people were killed behind me and he's now come out in support of that. Will he be a singular voice?
Nia-Malika Henderson, help me fact check the president on the following claim he made at the beginning of his remarks. My criticize are political people. These are people looking for political gain. As much as possible I've tried to stay out of that. The president uttering those words again before attacking Joe Biden.
Can he say that with any credibility?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, he can't. And he's, of course, attacked Beto O'Rourke as well during the course of the healing that needs to go on and is going on right now around these two massacres, one where you are in Dayton and the other down in El Paso.
[09:50:09] What's also not true is it's not just his critics trying to score political points, folks who are political people, he said, and folks who are running for president. It's actually average Americans who feel like his rhetoric is too divisive, too racially divisive and inspires incidents like we saw in El Paso. It's folks who talk about stochastic terrorism, the idea that words do matter and words do inspire people to commit terrible, terrible acts. So on those two counts, he's absolutely wrong, he has been political, and it's not just his critics, it's not just political people who really want him to tone down his language.
And I think that is a big question for this president. Does he actually do this? All of us who have watched this president, first as a candidate in 2015 and now as president, and there's always been the question of whether or not he changes his behavior, modifies his strategy, in this case around being racially divisive and calling out illegal immigrants and calling out people who are black and brown folks in this country. Does he change?
And I'm sure, if you're a Republican, you certainly want him to. They haven't been that vocal in calling him out. They sort of say, oh, it's not helpful, but they haven't been as vehement certainly publicly. And maybe that's something that' will change. And I think most Americans certainly hope his rhetoric does change.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, as you heard there, the president was pressed, he was asked about the invasion rhetoric. Of course, similar to that cited by the shooter in El Paso in his manifesto. The president rather then denouncing or backing away from that, seemed to defend it as a description talking about illegal immigrants, the number of them, et cetera.
David Swerdlick, the president saying that he's in favor of background checks. Based on his past statements and track record, doesn't mean that he's credible on that because he's backed away. And it struck me that he set up himself for backing off that support by putting the onus on Congress saying, well, there's not a lot -- there's not a lot of -- it's got to happen in Congress and for measures like assault weapons bans, that's got to be something that there's not political backing in Congress there. Did you see the president setting up at least an off-ramp, as it were, for supporting those measures?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jim, what it sounded like to me was that the president was focus grouping the issue in real-time in front of cameras, in front of the American people. He said there was a strong appetite for background checks. As Kaitlan pointed out, he said -- he suggested there was less appetite for banning assault weapons. It seemed like he wanted to throw that out there, see what the reaction was, and see how far he could go or how far Republicans might consider going. But given the track record with the president and Republicans in the Senate, I'd have to say I'm skeptical at how fast any kind of national gun reform legislation is going to move.
Can I make one more quick point about Congressman Turner that you brought up from Ohio? Yes, as you said, he has an A-rating from the NRA. His daughter was across the street from the Dayton shooting. Now he has sort of seen the light on gun reform, reminded me of another Ohio politician, Senator Portman, who was against gay marriage until 2013 when he said that his son came out as gay, reversed his position. It makes me ask, when do politicians take a stand on principle and open their minds to the pros and cons of an issue rather than having to wait until something is personal and brought home to take a stand possibly on principle on an issue? That, I think, is the one question I would have for Congressman Turner.
SCIUTTO: Well, there was one congressman here whose daughter was across the street. He's the one who's come out and publicly changed his stance. There weren't other congressmen in that situation. Does that mean they hold their stance?
Brian Stelter, you heard the president's answer there on white supremacy. Now, to his credit, he called out white supremacy in the hours after this attack. But did you hear something in his answer there, something of a both sides moment where he said, I'm against all kinds of supremacy.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right.
SCIUTTO: I'm not sure what other sorts of supremacies he was talking about there. What was the president trying to do there?
STELTER: He was trying to draw a false equivalence between white supremacy terrorism, the kind that we saw in El Paso, and other forms of violence.
Now, yes, it is true the Dayton shooter had extreme left-wing views according to his Twitter feed. That's been reported by CNN and lots of other outlets. Trump claims that's not been reported, even though it has. Trump is trying to mix everything together, muddy the waters, confuse people so they come away with a misimpression of what's really going on. White supremacy terrorism is a rising threat. There is no indication of a political motivation in Dayton to this point. If that changes, the authorities will let us know. But right now, El Paso is clearly politically motivated, and the president wants to avoid and ignore that whenever possible.
[09:55:00] SCIUTTO: Yes.
And let's, if we can, fact check. I'm just going to ask my team, we have statistics on this, by the way. There is only one kind of supremacy, and that is white supremacy, that has led to an increase in acts of domestic terrorism in this country by the Justice Department's own statistics, but the Anti-Defamation League's own statistics. That is white supremacy. An enormous percentage, that is where the growth in problem is as identified by the president's own Justice Department.
I want to briefly go to Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Cory Booker. He has just taken on Trump directly, saying, in his words, that you reap what you sow. Have a listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So the act of anti- Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this past weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger. It did not begin when a single white supremacist got into his car to travel ten hours to kill as many human beings as he could. It was planted in fertile soil because the contradictions that have shadowed this country since its founding remain a part of our body politic.
It was slowed by those who spoke the same words the El Paso murderer did, warning of an invasion. It was slowed by those who spoke of an infestation of disgusting cities, rats, and rodents, talking about majority/minority communities. It was slowed by those who have drawn an equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who protest them. It was sowed from the highest office in our land where we see in tweets and rhetoric hateful words that ultimately endanger the lives of people in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Nia-Malika Henderson, you heard Senator Cory Booker's words there, responding directly to the president. Tell me the significance today.
HENDERSON: Powerful words from Cory Booker there. Obviously down in Charleston, the site of another racist inspired killing down there. And, you know, I think he gets at how deeply felt this is for Americans, particular for black and brown Americans.
The idea that you have a president who has targeted people who are black and brown over and over and over again as if to say those folks aren't part of the fabric of American history. So I think you have a lot of Americans who are going around afraid, afraid of what might happen next because of the rhetoric that comes from the highest office in the land, as Cory Booker said.
And he is a critic. And I'm sure the president will dismiss him. But, listen, the president should certainly listen to Americans who are afraid because of his rhetoric and what his rhetoric might inspire.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And because of the facts, the data, what it shows. Brian Stelter mentioned before about how the president was muddying the waters by talking about all kinds of supremacies.
Let's look at these figures here from the Anti-Defamation League. The attacks, extremist related killings in the U.S., in the last year, 78 percent driven by white supremacy. That's the vast majority here. That is the focus of the problem, again by the Department of Justice's own statistics as well.
I want to take a moment here to look at the Dow. The Dow Jones Industrial average down more than 400 points, a reaction here to concerns about the ongoing trade war with China. We're going to stay on top of that story as well.
And we'll be right back.