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Trump Greeted By Protests As He Visits Dayton After Shooting; Experts Dispute Claim Mental Illness Causes Mass Shootings; USA Today Headquarters Evacuated: Police Report Man with Weapon; Mass Shootings Put New Pressures on Congress to Act. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 7, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:32:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. President Trump is here in Dayton, Ohio, the site, right where I'm sitting of one of last weekend's back-to-back mass shootings in America. The president is here to meet with first responders, with medical personnel, and victims' families. We're going to bring you his appearances live as they happen.

Our Brynn Gingras, she is right in the middle of the protests that we've been witnessing here over the past couple of hours. She joins us now live.

Brynn, you've been speaking to people in that crowd. I've heard it get loud at times. I've heard a lot of frustration. Tell us what you're saying -- what they're saying to you.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. And I mean, the president is not even expected to actually drive down this street, but yet people are compelled to come out here. And the reason is because of the memorial.

I'm standing right next to it. And it is interesting, you know, there are people walking by but I can tell you, talking to a lot of people, this, for them, is very personal because they want to respect the victims. That's why this memorial continues to grow. And that's kind of the message I've been hearing echoed a lot from people is respect what happened here.

And that's part of the reason many people have said to me that they don't want the president here. But you can hear probably in the background there are some chants of pro-Trump supporters here who are also speaking their mind, wanting to let the president know that he has their support here in Dayton.

And I want to talk to one woman though, Lynell Graham. Thank you so much for joining me.


GINGRAS: You work, you say you're not even a person that comes out and protest but you felt compelled today because this happened in your town. Tell me why. GRAHAM: That's right. I -- I'm no extremist, I work, I usually not able to even come out and protest something like this but I do not feel like this is a place where Trump should come for a photo-op on our dead people. He has made it clear that he is not sincere when it comes to gun control, when it comes to, you know, also dividing people. And at his rallies, he's totally sincere when it comes to that. So, his staged, you know, rhetoric the other day --

GINGRAS: You don't want him here?

GRAHAM: We didn't want him here.

GINGRAS: Do you think it will change being -- after being here?

GRAHAM: I don't think that he will change his mind but, you know, we will -- we people will keep standing up. We will keep standing up against his hateful rhetoric.

GINGRAS: All right, thanks so much, Lynell. And, you know, as I was talking to Lynell not long ago there was a woman came by and said respect the presidency, respect the president. So there is discourse that happened right just in front of my face. And it's going to happen for a while, Jim, while the president visits here, I'm sure.

But, yes, I can tell you, it's important to many people I talk to, to respect those survivors. Or respect the victims rather. I'm sorry.

SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras, Brynn as you said there are I think a lot of folks who turned out here at the site of the crime, they expected the president to drive down this street. That's not look like that's going to happen. Now, we'll keep your prize.

In the midst of this, some city and state officials, they've been joining the chorus of those criticizing the president's visit to this community, including the Dayton city commissioner.

[12:35:02] He writes in an open letter to the president, and I'm quoting here, I had the privilege of being on the stage as we prayed and honored those who were killed on Sunday morning. You may have heard that the crowd became impatient listening to long statements from elected officials. The crowd's message was, and is clear, do something. We do not want to hear empty words. We want action. If you are not prepared to do something real, do not waste our time. Do not come to Dayton, Ohio.

I'm joined now by Commissioner Darryl Fairchild. I can feel the sincerity in your words. You're not alone in that message because I've heard it from other politicians but also just folks who live in this town. The president is here now. He has come. Do you expect him to do something?

DARRYL FAIRCHILD (D), DAYTON CITY COMMISSIONER: Well, he said he was going to do something and I'll take him at his word. And I wasn't being critical of the president, I was simply asking him to make good on his word.


FAIRCHILD: And it's been 48 hours since he said he was going to act. Part of what I wanted to point out in the rest of the letter was that there are things he can do. He doesn't have to wait for Congress, he has some steps he can take with some executive action. He could start to put funding toward research and development of safer guns. We have, I think, 200,000 guns that are stolen a year and maybe -- I'm not sure of the number but suicides that could be prevented with smart phone technology. So we could take steps there.

He could post host an expo like they just did in Wisconsin to start to demonstrate that smart technology. And, you know, he could -- today, he could announce he's going to host that technology.

SCIUTTO: He's been shy about using the executive order on other things.

FAIRCHILD: And that's part of the point that he's used that power, he has power to act. It's been 48 hours, he hasn't acted yet. And, you know, I was here Sunday and this street was filled with people who are hurting. And when the politicians spoke too long, the chant came and I think all of us heard it, and it was, do something. And it was a unified voice.

You know, right now, we're back to our divisive self but in that moment, it was unified. Do something.

SCIUTTO: It sparked some action here by the Republican Governor Mike DeWine, at least the start of action, releasing some proposals. Beyond what you mentioned just there, what else do you want the president, do you want Congress to do now in terms of measures that could have prevented something like this?

FAIRCHILD: Sure, and, you know, Governor DeWine, I think -- I really appreciated his words and he said, you know, the people were right, and he heard them. And Congressman Turner also has put out word that he'd be willing to support some of the legislation that I would support as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, even the ban on assault-style weapons which is something the Republicans, himself included had opposed vehemently in the past.

FAIRCHILD: Right. So ban on assault weapons, the large capacity, and red flag laws.


FAIRCHILD: So those are three things that, you know. And I think the president could speak up and have a private conversation with the Senate leadership.

SCIUTTO: He could, but do you expect him to? Do you trust him to? It's our -- it's my colleague Kaitlan Collins reporting the White House has been in communication with the NRA. You can guess what the NRA's message is to the White House, to a president who's facing election in 2020, he's worried about his base. Do you expect him to be different this time?

FAIRCHILD: Well, I can't read his mind, and I'm going to asking him to hear the voices out of the streets of Dayton.


FAIRCHILD: And, you know, let's be clear, this was just one incident but it's the 250th around an active shooter. But in addition in Dayton we've got violence in our streets, we got gun violence in our streets. We have violence in our homes, there's domestic violence issues that are often times deadly with guns.

We have children who would get -- pick up guns and use them accidentally. We have suicides that are used with guns. So the -- you know, the issue of violence with guns is one that we have to address. And, you know, people are impatient. That was the message Sunday. People are impatient. Do something.

SCIUTTO: I hear that loud and clear, and understandably so. Listen, Commissioner Fairchild, we appreciate the work you're doing here. And thanks for taking the time this morning.

FAIRCHILD: All right, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Next, the president says that mental illness causes mass shootings, that that pulls the trigger, not the gun. Experts say it's really not that simple. The head of the American Psychiatric Association is going to tell us what is true and what is not when it comes to mental health and guns. That's right after this break.



[12:42:54] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: That was President Trump just this morning, blaming mental illness for the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. On Monday, he did the same when he said that mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun. And he's done this before after our past shootings, and there's a laundry list of them like Thousand Oaks, California.


TRUMP: These are very sick -- it's a mental health problem. He is a very sick puppy. He was a very, very sick guy.


BOLDUAN: And after Parkland, Florida. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This person that did this horrible act, he was mentally deranged and everybody knew it for a long period of time.


BOLDUAN: And after Sutherland Springs, Texas.


TRUMP: I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very -- based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual.


BOLDUAN: And while every shooting is different and mental health may be a factor, it is an important discussion, the American Psychiatric Association is now pushing back on the president after this mass shooting over the weekend, putting out this statement. Let me read it in part.

"The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent and far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of violence. Rhetoric that argues otherwise will further stigmatize and interfere with people accessing needed treatment. Individuals can also be emboldened to act violently by the public discourse and divisive rhetoric."

Joining me right now is Dr. Saul Levin, he's the chief executive officer and medical director for the American Psychiatric Association. Doctor, thank you so much for being here. Why did you feel compelled as an association to put the statement out?

DR. SAUL LEVIN, CEO AND MEDICAL DIRECTOR, AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION: Thank you, Kate, and thank you for doing this session. Both this country and the world is looking as to how all we're going to get out in this situation that we seem to have landed up in the United States around guns and violence.

[12:45:01] You know, our belief is very clearly, mental illness does not mean gun violence. Four percent of people with mental illness do, do have some serious mental illness but they usually -- if they're all going to be violent or violent against themselves not against others. Violence is usually perpetrated as you said on them.

And I think that's the issue that all our leaders should be remembering when a situation like that happens. We need to look at what are the other issues that is causing someone to go into churches, schools, malls and start shooting up people?

BOLDUAN: Does this kind of -- when the president said that mental illness pulls the trigger, not the gun, does this kind of simplistic kind of generalization about a complex issue like mental health, does it make it even harder for people who actually need help to get help? LEVIN: You're absolutely correct. When politicians and people go on TV and start demonizing and saying that people with mental illness are the cause of the problems, it essentially takes away and trivializes what mental illness is really about. And in fact, it means that some people with mental illness don't want to go and get the help that they need.

We need to remember that mental illness such as depression is no different to diabetics or hypertension. You can prevent it. You can do early intervention. You can do treatment and you can do recovery services. That is what we really need to be doing for those with mental illness, not beginning to point fingers at them every time this happens.

BOLDUAN: And Doctor, look, everyone is looking for a way of how to prevent future shootings from happening like this, but I do wonder when it comes to what we are seeing play out, there's a conversation about gun safety measures and a lot of it comes to what are the legal parameters. But there -- it seems that mental health professionals are often between a rock and a hard place, what are the challenges for mental professionals that they're up against with the -- if they're tasked with identifying, somehow predicting, and then intervening before something like a mass shooting happens.

LEVIN: Well, that's why psychiatrists who have years and years of training, as well as the other mental health professionals who are in the field know that it takes a lot of knowledge to begin to start teasing out, what are the symptoms and the possible repercussions of what someone with mental illness has? However, we do know that the only way that we can avoid this gun epidemic and health crisis that is happening in our country is let us begin to have pass laws that if someone is mentally ill and is getting really sick, that the or emergency workers or law enforcement can go in and take away that gun, get them the treatment. And when they are treated they can then get through due process and get their guns back again. That's what we should be looking at.

How do we make sure that everyone who buys a gun should at least have a background check? It's very simple in today's day and age with the electronics, for whether it's a gun dealer or at a gun show that you can check to see does this person have a criminal record, have adjudicated mental illness, and, therefore, not sell them the guns. There are things we can do, and I call on both the president's administration and the Congress to act now and act fast because everyone in this country is suffering today. And the sequelae of every event happening is going to stay with those people, in those towns, in those cities for a long time.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And casting aspersions and stigmatizing what is something that needs to be an honest conversation that every community and every family deals with is not helping this problem. Doctor, thank you for being here.

LEVIN: Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you again in the future.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. We'll be right back.


[12:52:36] BOLDUAN: We have breaking news coming in. Reports of a man with a weapon at the headquarters of USA Today, that is outside of Washington, D.C.

Let me get over to CNN's Jessica Schneider, she is following this as the details are just starting to come in. Jessica, what are you hearing?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we know at least that part of this building complex that houses USA Today, we know that the people in there have been evacuated. We know for a fact that USA Today's newsroom has also been evacuated. In fact some employees have been tweeting the scene as they leave that building.

So, about half hour ago, Fairfax County police, that's an area about 30 minutes outside of D.C. in Virginia, they tweeted out this notice saying, "We are responding to reports of a man with a weapon at the Gannett Building located at 7950 Jones Branch Drive in McLean. Please avoid the area, and updates to follow."

Now we have checked in with police and a spokesman for the Fairfax County Police Department, they tell us that this was a call that came in where someone reported seeing a man with a weapon. However at this point, there have not been any reports to police that shots have been fired. But, of course, as its protocol, police have responded to the Gannett Building, they've evacuated at least part of that building complex, they've asked people to leave the area and now police are investigating.

So this is all something that's in progress, police are investigating this. But we know Kate at least one person called in saying they saw a man with a weapon. Police are investigating to see if any shots were fired or what exactly the case is right now.


BOLDUAN: And if anything is still happening there, I mean, it is all happening right now. And Jessica is going to be following that with any updates that we get from the local police. Thank you so much, Jessica. I really appreciate it.

Another scary day in another city in America.

The president right now is in Ohio at the moment saying that he wants to grieve with the have families of the nine victims there who -- nine victims who lost their lives in Dayton, Ohio after the horrific shooting this weekend. On his way there, the president was asked if anything he wants to do -- if there's anything that he wants to do to stop these mass shootings from happening.

This uniquely American tragedy. He told reporters this that there is no political appetite to ban military-style weapons but he did say that he was open to expanding background checks. Well, that is news. But this is a debate that we have heard play out in some fashion after every shooting tragedy in America. Is it different this time? Is Congress more likely to act?

[12:55:03] Joining me now is capital bureau chief for Politico John Bresnahan. John, it's great to see you.

JOHN BRESNAHAN, POLITICO: Hi, Kate. How are you?

BOLDUAN: I would say I am seeing a little bit of movement. I don't know what that exactly means. One person that kind of exemplifies this kind of shift is Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Turner. He announced and I'll read for our viewers, part of his statement in his change, in his evolution. He says that he strong strongly supports the Second Amendment but he says, we must prevent mentally unstable people from terrorizing our communities with military-style weapons. "I will support legislation that prevents the sale of military style weapons to civilians, a magazine limit, and red flag legislation."

How real though -- that's Mike Turner. That's one Republican in the House. How real is the movement, though, what do you think?

And we saw another Republican in the House, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois who also say he'd be open to something on universal background checks. But that makes only 10 when this bill came up in February in the House, who voted on it are only eight Republicans out of 189 who supported it. So it was only a fraction of their conference supported it.

I think -- I spoke to a senior Republican today. I think everybody is watching President Trump and what he does in a near party and whether he'll support universal background checks. You reported -- and CNN reported earlier that Trump has -- or the White House has had some conversations with the NRA which has opposed universal background checks in the past including after the Sandy Hook shooting when that came up in 2013 in the Senate.

So, I think the Republicans are all watching Trump. They're all saying where is the president going to go? But I still think, and you've covered this, I just don't see how this passes in the Senate with Senate Republicans fighting for the majority. I just don't see them passing this -- passing any major gun legislation.

BOLDUAN: Because that's really it, right? I mean, it's just -- and it sounds definitely that the Senate is not going to be brought back early. That McConnell is not bringing the Senate back early in August. I mean, what is -- but he is saying that they want to -- he wants to allow a process to play out. What's McConnell likely to do here?

BRESNAHAN: Well, I think he's talked to his chairman, he's talked to Lindsey Graham in the Judiciary Committee and Lamar Alexander of the Health and Education -- Health Committee. He's talked to them about that. I think we'll see discussion about whether there'll be universal background checks. I think there'll be some discussion of that. But I just don't see it happening. Look at John Cornyn in Texas, he's up for re-election this year. John Corny is supporting two bills, one that would allow more -- fewer regulations on silencers and another that would allow concealed carry in all 50 states.

They're -- you know, Republicans have gone the exact opposite way now that they're talking about. So to make such a dramatic shift in such a short period of time, I really see rank and file Republicans are going to have a hard time with this.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And I think what you said at the top is maybe the most important statement. Republicans are waiting to see what President Trump does. That tells us everything. It's great to see you, Bres, thanks so much for being here.

BOLDUAN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining me and Jim Sciutto at the last two hours. John Berman and Brooke Baldwin, they continue our special coverage after a quick break.