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Will Congress Take Action on Gun Control?; President Trump to Visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in Wake of Mass Shootings; Democratic Texas State Rep. Mary Gonzalez Interviewed About President Trump Visiting El Paso; Tucker Carlson Makes Controversial Statement That White Supremacy is a Hoax. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 7, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] GOV. STEVE BULLOCK, (D-MT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's happening to the country that said, if I have something to contribute to this, it's worth doing.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Steve Bullock seems like someone who likes to be at the helm. He says he's willing to give up this majestic Montana landscape to steer the country on the right course.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Beautiful landscape to be sure. Alisyn Camerota going all the way to Montana to learn new things, really, about this new presidential candidate.

Thank you to our international viewers for watching. For our U.S. viewers, President Trump is set to leave for Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso in the next hour, so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump laying low as he prepares to head to Ohio and Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's made his bed. He's got to lie in it. His rhetoric has been painful for many in our community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he wants to do is go to these communities and greave with them, pray with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say to the President Trump that words matter. Once they're spoken, they can't be brought back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch McConnell wants an actual outcome, not political grandstanding. There needs to be bipartisan support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is unacceptable. We need leadership in the U.S. Senate. I don't know what Republicans are waiting for.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your New Day. It is Wednesday, August 7th. It's 8:00 in the east. I'm in El Paso, Texas, this morning. Erica Hill joins us from Dayton, Ohio. In just about one hour, President Trump will leave Washington, leave the White House, and he will travel first to Dayton, then here, two cities in mourning after deadly massacres. He and the first lady are expected to meet with victims' families as well as first responders and medical personnel.

Not everyone is happy to welcome them. Here in El Paso protesters plan to gather hours ahead of the arrival to call for gun control and to denounce white supremacy. And overnight, and this is significant, one of the people that appears to be the president's top advisers, Tucker Carlson, called white supremacy a hoax, saying it's not a real problem in America. How can you say that to the people of El Paso when 22 of them were killed in the Walmart behind me, Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The people that I met in El Paso certainly would not agree with that, John. You mentioned, of course, though, the president will also be coming here to Dayton. This will be his first stop this morning. He's expected to arrive around 10:35 eastern time. And protests are also planned here. The mayor is vowing to confront the president on gun control, a topic she says he skirted when he addressed the nation on Monday night, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Erica.

Joining me now is Texas State Representative Democrat Mary Gonzalez, whose district covers part of El Paso. Representative, thank you for being with us this morning. Thank you to you and your city for being such wonderful hosts to us in this incredibly difficult time. What can your constituents say? What have they been telling you about the president's visit today?

STATE REP. MARY GONZALEZ, (D-TX): All of us, whether it's leaders or church leaders, all of us want healing as part the experience of our community. We've gone through such a tragedy, and I think a lot of fear is around the president's visit. Just like what happen with what Tucker Carlson said is that we don't want anything that will trigger any negative emotions, that will interrupt the healing that all of us are trying to do in this very moment.

BERMAN: Are you going to join the protest protests?

GONZALEZ: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: And what exactly are you protesting?

GONZALEZ: I'm protesting the fact that this isn't an accident, that there are things that have happened before that caused a man to drive nine hours to our beautiful, loving, kind community and target people of color, Latino people. We have to at some point start to dismantle some of the discriminatory rhetoric that's being used in this country that then puts my city and my home as a target. BERMAN: I'm struck by the fact that we've been talking all morning to

you and other members of the community, and we're right in front of the Walmart, and I know that's got to be hard and difficult for you just to be here, to be near where all this happened. And then to hear Tucker Carlson overnight say that white supremacy is a hoax, what does that say to the family members of the victims in there? What does it say to members of the Latino community who were targeted?

GONZALEZ: This is what we are concerned about in the president's visit, that rhetoric like this will continue and follow him here. It's insulting to the victims, it's insulting to my community in El Paso. But it's also ignorant of the history of this country, and we cannot move forward and heal if this is the things that are going to follow in this visit.

BERMAN: So I know you're protesting, and to an extent that's opposition to something, but what will help you to move forward? What does this community need now? Because you're four days, and I know it feels like an eternity, but it's not. And you face the next few weeks, four months --

GONZALEZ: Four years.

BERMAN: -- and four years. So what's going to help you in the community here?

[08:05:07] GONZALEZ: I want to say, I would say we're not protesting. We're resisting the rhetoric that the president has used in the past. If he wants to come here and say, hey, I'm sorry for saying these things that maybe triggered that man to come here and do what he did, I would appreciate those words.

But also, what we need right now is continued love, support, healing, but actual actions. What are we going to do about white supremacy? Because what I hear from my constituents, from my neighbors and my friends is they're scared. They're scared not because we never imagined this would happen in this beautiful, loving community. We're scared that other people might copycat what happened and target us again, all because El Paso has been at the center of this Latino conversation for over a year.

What people don't realize is a year ago just a few miles away, thousands of kids were in the Tornillo tent city. A few miles away from here again hundreds of kids were Clint Detention Center. We have been dealing with Latino issues at the forefront of our community.

BERMAN: The killer, why do you think he chose El Paso?

GONZALEZ: Right. Because he's seen it in the news as this place, as the epicenter of this conversation. So what is everyone else going to do post? And so what we need, and what we're asking for for healing, is we need actual action. We need to think about how are we dismantling white supremacy and racism and discrimination. How are we going to tackle gun control and gun laws. And I think there's a balanced way to approach it all and bring everybody together. But our community has come together, and we're hoping to model that for the entire country.

BERMAN: Do you have a message for Tucker Carlson this morning?

GONZALEZ: I would say to honor the lives of the victims, to honor our community, and to read history because that's just not the truth.

BERMAN: Mary Gonzalez, state representative here from El Paso, again, thank you for being with us. Reach out to us if we can help in the next few weeks or years as you say.

GONZALEZ: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right, these deadly shootings have Americans on edge. There was panic overnight in Times Square in New York when the sound of a backfiring motorcycle was mistaken for gunfire. You can see the crowds scrambling for cover as police there pleaded for calm. And in Utah in a mall outside of Salt Lake City there was another false alarm. Police tell CNN that a sign fell and made a loud noise some feared were gunshots, prompting patrons to run into those stores to hide. Management ultimately evacuated and closed the mall after the mass panic.

Joining us now, and I'm going to speak to him first and then Erica is going to talk to him what's going on at Dayton, is counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Phil, I want to talk about a few things. One, I don't know if you had a chance to see that picture, people scrambling in Times Square, they were hearing this happening in malls also. And this is what happens. This is what happens when Americans see month after month their countryman being gunned down. It's a reasonable fear, wouldn't you say?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It's a reasonable fear, but it's going to be echoed. Whether it's reasonable or not, people today talking about going to a super store, talking about walking around the street, talking about going to a synagogue or a church are going to take what they see in a state or three states away and say that could happen in my neighborhood. So regardless of whether the statistics tell you it's likely that you're going to be hurt going shopping or going into a synagogue or a church, any human being looking at this is going to say my life is going to change.

BERMAN: I drove through Newtown, Connecticut, on my way back to New York after the shooting in El Paso. This happens everywhere. This can happen everywhere and it is happening everywhere. I'm bending down to read you something. I'm going to read a little more what Tucker Carlson said. And this has to do with law enforcement. And I don't want to overdo what he said, and I don't want to give it too much credence here, but he said white supremacy is not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country was able to fit inside a college football stadium. From a law enforcement, from a counterterrorism perspective, what do you think when you hear that?

MUDD: I guess al Qaeda was a hoax, but I'm supposing the number of real al Qaeda cases we had in this country could fit inside a football stadium, but America told us you will spend all of U.S. government resources chasing them. Mr. Carlson knows cameras. He has never seen a case. If he wants to talk to every director that is advisers to the White House, every senior director in the White House in the past few years, Democrats and Republicans, they put out a letter this week, both parties, we should focus more on white supremacists. The FBI agents association, I dealt with them, not exactly a group of leftwing activists, they put out a notice this week. We have to spend more resources on this. Mr. Carlson can talk to a camera, the man's never seen a case. If he wants to talk about a case, I'll take him on. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

BERMAN: White supremacy is a threat?

MUDD: Yes, of course. We're not talking about whether it's on every street corner. If you had enough people to fit in a football stadium, that's 60,000, they can kill a lot of people. It's about one person doing what we saw in El Paso.

[08:10:01] BERMAN: And they have killed a lot of people at this point. And again, practically speaking, what's the difference between treating something as domestic terror?

MUDD: There's a huge difference here. Look, there's going to be a conversation on this. Let me give you a couple of examples. If you want to designate a group, a domestic group, let's say the KKK, as a domestic terror organization, and you want to do the same things you do against them against a foreign terrorist organization, you're talking about wiretaps, you're talking about email intrusion, you're talking about search warrants, you're talking about a secret court to say I want to listen to their e-mails, you're talking about anybody who contributes to them, money, that's material support. That's a federal crime. There should be a conversation on this, but the Americans don't know what they're asking for.

BERMAN: There are major choices that deserve discussion. I'm going to throw you over to Erica now, because there are developments in the case in Dayton as well.

HILL: Yes, John, they are. And they're very different situations, because as you're talking about domestic terror and we're talking about hate speech and we're talking about that manifesto that police believe the shooter in El Paso is responsible for, what's happening here is we are looking at and learning about from the police chief, Mudd, we are learning about a shooter who had a fascination, according to police, an obsession with violent ideation. He actually -- they said he had a commitment to a mass shooting. In fact, I just want to play for you a little bit, Phil, what an ex-girlfriend told our Drew Griffin. Take a listen.


ADELIA JOHNSON, DAYTON GUNMAN'S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: He showed me the one video of a mass shooting on our first date. I'm not sure which shooting it was. I was drunk and it was at a loud bar so --

DREW GRIFFIN: He was playing that out? JOHNSON: I think it's weird but it wasn't like -- it wasn't a red flag, which I know is weird to a lot of people. But given the context of him being a psychology student and him being fascinated in the psychology of those things, that's what made it digestible.


HILL: So it didn't exactly stand out to her because he was a psychology student. For a lot of people watching it this morning, though, they would been say, no, this is weird, that should stand out. Shouldn't that be a red flag for people? And if so, what do you do with that, Phil?

MUDD: Boy, that's a tough one. Of course, it should be a red flag. But if you want to take a next step, I'm not talking about a step where you're referring somebody off to a social worker, I'm talking about a next law enforcement step, what do you want the police to do? Until you have legislation that says if somebody talked to their girlfriend about psychotic episodes, until you have legislation that says that's a formal red flag and you can take away somebody's weapons, law enforcement hands are tied.

I'll tell you my take away from that is that it's going to be very difficult for investigators to get to the bottom line, especially since the subject is obviously dead, the bottom line of motive. Some people are going to say there must be a political motive, whether it's left wing or right wing, but before you get to that political motive, you've got to step through the psychology of someone who is fascinated by violence. That's going to be tough.

HILL: How much more of this do you think we're seeing today? A fascination with violence, seeing these mass shootings happening, there's always a concern -- the FBI putting out a specific statement earlier this week, and they were warning about their concerns when it comes to essentially copycats on the heels of El Paso and on the heels of what happened here in Dayton. How much of an influence do you think that is having?

MUDD: Let me take you inside a threat room to understand this. You're not talking about 10 million Americans, but even if you're talking about 50,000 or 100,000 Americans, that's just a guesstimate on my part, who might be susceptible not only to this kind of ideology but who might commit an act of violence, it's a relatively small number of people. But for federal investigators to try to look at that number of people, you're talking about informants, you're talking about wiretaps, you're talking about years of investigations. A, you're not going to be able to stop the number of people who might be susceptible to this ideology.

The final thing I'd say is even in the past eight or nine years the impact of the Internet not only domestically but somebody in this country who is looking at an act of violence in a place like New Zealand and saying I want to do that here, the Internet is echoing this kind of ideology. It's not just the Islamists. It's also people who have ideologies like white supremacy.

HILL: Phil Mudd, always appreciate it. Thank you.

MUDD: Thank you.

HILL: And just a reminder, Chris Cuomo will moderate a live Cuomo primetime town hall, "America Under Assault, The Gun Crisis." That is tonight right here on CNN at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

Washington did nothing after the slaughter of elementary school children in Sandy Hook. Could this time be different? It's a question we ask every time. This morning we look at whether there could be some momentum when it comes to legislation and gun control next.


[08:18:58] BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. John Berman here in El Paso, Texas.

And we wanted to walk down and give you a much closer look of this really what has grown to be a wall of remembrance here. It started out as just a few candles a couple of days ago and now, it's 100 yards long here along the wall. The Walmart is right behind us where 22 people were killed.

And it's so (AUDIO GAP) of each of the victims, you can see here this says Gloria Marquez, a picture of Gloria right there, one of the people who died. Some of the signs (AUDIO GAP) forget, 3 August 2019.

And there hasn't been a moment since the candles (AUDIO GAP) I'm going to turn all the way around for one second because I want to show you something remarkable also. There's a prayer circle here. These people just walk through this memorial, looked at the candles, looked at all the memorials.

[08:20:01] And I say this, I tried to talk to them but they didn't want to talk to me. They wanted to pay their respects to the fallen here. There were tears. It is deeply moving for them. It is deeply moving and painful for this community, and you can see how they're coming together today to try to work through it.

Again, this is the El Paso, Texas, that people who live here know about. This is the El Paso, Texas, that president Trump will see when he comes here today. And it's a place that not everyone is happy he's coming because they think he'll get in the way of the healing process.


All right, Erica, I'm going to go back to you.

HILL: John, I do have to say too one of the thins that stood out to me, and you showed it this morning, if you look at the flags behind John, a Mexican flag, an American flag, a flag of the state of Texas, and also a Mexican and American flag that are sewn together at that memorial. They are united and that is what that community is. It doesn't have a border in El Paso and that's important to remember. Republicans in Congress are under intense pressure at this point to

take action after the weekend shootings. It appears there may actually be some momentum when it comes to passing so-called "red flag" legislation. These are measures, of course, that allow law enforcement to take guns away from people who pose an imminent danger either to themselves or others.

Joining me now, David Gregory, CNN political analyst and Bianna Golodryga, CNN contributor.

When we look at this momentum we're seeing some of it here in Ohio. We're hearing from Governor DeWine just yesterday. We're hearing from Mike Turner.

And in speaking with the lieutenant governor here this morning, he said he really does believe this proposal, this 17-point proposal that was put forth is going to pass here in Ohio.

David, where do you see the momentum going, though? We know what happens at the state level. The question is the federal piece of it.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's an important piece of distinction because the states have done a lot more to enact restrictions that are common sense that have broad support publicly and that they can get through their legislators. In Congress, we see something different. I mean, I still think the action is in the Senate. Is Mitch McConnell going to do something that the president doesn't support?

Until and unless the president comes out for something beyond the "red flag" laws, I don't see much momentum, certainly on the Senate side, even though McConnell said he wants to have a broader debate about it and will let a process move forward.

I think that the political class in the country has to get around the idea that the perfect can't be the enemy of the good. They have to try some things to harden targets to reduce the prospect of violence. I think we've gotten to a point where in any other circumstance, whether it's the fight against terrorism, this kind of broad-based violence, the political class has to do something even if the results are not perfect, even if they don't totally solve the problem.

That has to be a starting point, and it has to be sustained because what we've seen are these flash points before and then the momentum cools off and that's what can't happen this time.

HILL: You know, David, you alluded to Mitch McConnell saying he's serious about some sort of bipartisan, bicameral legislation. We're learning about this call held Monday for 50 minutes. And part of what we learned, too, Bianna, is that there wasn't even a discussion about whether the Senate should come back to tackle, of course, this background check, the background check bill that passed the House with bipartisan support. Didn't even come up on the call.

It's fascinating, too, that is clearly being put out there so we all know it was not discussed, Bianna. BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Which is why there's so much

skepticism, Erica, about this actually changing anything. It's the 250th mass shooting we've seen in this country thus far this year. And the country in a sense is numb to it.

Obviously, we feel the pain of the tragic human loss we see coming out of the results of these mass shootings as a uniquely American problem.

I agree with David, the impetus really is not only on Congress but on the president of the United States. His focus seems to be on video games and mental health, and just hearing that from his speech two days ago gives you the sense when it comes to significant gun legislation, that is not where this country is headed right now. We haven't seen significant legislation in this country with regards to guns in 25 years. The red flag warnings, background checks, obviously that's a positive development, but there's so much to dissect even with regard to red flag warnings.

You look at the Las Vegas shooter, there was still no motive behind he did what he did. How do you define a red flag warning to somebody who may just have a bad day or is a loner? I mean, there's so much to still figure out with regards to these perimeters that we're setting up.

[08:25:05] It's obviously great we're having this conversation, but if this president really wants to get something done, he's in a unique position as a Republican to really make a change, because any time a Democrat enters this conversation, you have so many people in this country concerned about their guns being taken away. Any time an incumbent Democrat is elected, you see gun sales spike in this country.

So, for this president, if he wants to be the one to make a significant change. It's up to him and it's up to pressure on him and this Congress to get something done.


GREGORY: But I think the problem is this is not a president -- I'll continue. I know we're on a big satellite delay.

The issue is that this is not a president who exercises big leadership on big issues. He's actually much smaller, much more targeted, much more divisive. That's a real problem because with this kind of thing you've got to reorient the entire focus of the government.

We saw that after 9/11 where it wasn't about one particular issue. It was about a broader threat to the country. It's fine to contextualize what the real chances are being struck in a terrorist attack and a shooting like these.

But what doesn't change is the country is awash in guns, that we have such similar behavior, that we have white supremacy rearing its head, we have nativism rearing in head throughout communities. That's what has to be tackled in a totally inclusive way. I think it's a mistake of everyone goes to their battle stations and we have the same fights that haven't moved forward.

We have to look at every potential input to this problem and try to build some momentum. And I think it's helpful actually that there's a presidential campaign that's underway because then it's a test that whether voters will sustain their attention and vote on these issues, whether there'll be voter intensity around these issues, around violence, around gun restrictions. That will be a test.

HILL: And it is certainly being pushed.

I do want to get your take on this. Joaquin Castro putting out a tweet, listing 44, the names of 44 names and employers of Trump donors, 44 different Trump donors, saying their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate. The response from the RNC from campaign officials, denouncing it, saying that essentially he is inviting harassment and creating a target list.

Bianna, it is remarkable this is where we are at this morning.

GOLODRYGA: And it's also a reminder just how ugly twitter can be as well. It's not necessarily what the nation is talking about right now. You go to Twitter and you look at your feed and you just walk away depressed.

You can see arguments on both sides of this. Obviously, all of this information is public knowledge, so it's not as if he's revealing and tweeting out information he has only and nobody else has access to. That having been said, you can see given the level of tensions in this country how that could incite even more tension.

But the flip could be said about the president and his own rhetoric and what he says at campaign rallies. And not obviously to put blame on him for anybody making the decision to pick up a gun and shoot innocent Americans, but you look at some of the rhetoric that they use in their manifestoes, very similar to some of the ret rock you hear from the president and something we're not familiar with in this country.

It's one thing we've had to time and time again come together as a nation and heal after these mass shootings, that only this country seems to see time and time again. But we've always had a president whether it's Democrat or Republican that tries to come together and bring the nation together. We've gotten very accustomed to and good at healing. What we haven't done is follow through, the next step, what can we do to prevent this?

Right now, we're not even healing. So, I think the timing of this is what's inciting all this tension.

GREGORY: And a lot of times we don't agree because there's not agreeing on what the actual cause and solutions are. So, then the debate shuts down instead of looking at well the president has some suggestions, let's look at what's constructive there, move on there and then keep building momentum around other areas that could actually solve the problem. It's going to have to be a multipronged approach to this over a long period of time. HILL: David Gregory, Bianna Golodryga, appreciate you both being here

this morning. Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. Marianne Williamson was one of the top searched candidates after last week's debate but that interest has not increased her popularity in the polls. We're going to talk to her about her proposals, including her proposals for gun violence. That's next.