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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Lashed Out at Staff Over Visits to Dayton and El Paso; McConnell: Senate Will Put Background Checks "Front and Center" After Recess; Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is Interviewed About Gun Policy; Two State Department Officials Resign Amid Disagreement With W.H; Deputy DNI To Leave Amid Signs President Wants Loyalist; U.S. Foreign Service Officer In Blistering Washington Post Op-Ed: I Can No Longer Justify Working On "Trump's Toxic Agenda; McConnell: Senate Will Put Background Checks "Front And Center" After Recess; Children Crying After Parents Arrested In Immigration Raids. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired August 8, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Last night, we began the program with President Trump's remarks to reporters in front of first responders in El Paso, Texas. The first words out of his mouth were about the great reception and respect that he got. It wasn't about the dead or the wounded in El Paso or in Dayton. It wasn't about the grieving families or first responders. It was about him and how loved he was.
The last night after showing that video, I gave the president the benefit of the doubt. Surely I thought when the cameras weren't present he must have properly consoled responders, praised responders and hospital staff. Surely, he wouldn't try to puff himself in front of those heroes.
Well, according to a new piece of video today, I was wrong. There is new video tonight of the president speaking with hospital staffers about the last time he was in El Paso.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was here three months ago. We made a speech and we had -- what was the name of the arena, that place --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was front row.
TRUMP: What was the name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was front row.
TRUMP: Good. Come here. That was some crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for all you do. TRUMP: Twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto.
Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot. They said his crowd was wonderful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's the president of the United States, let's just make this clear, that's the president of the United States in a hospital that treated many of the people whose bodies were torn apart by a racist gunman who echoed the president's language. Hospital staffers still treating some of the survivors in that hospital.
And today, we learned that none of the victims actually wanted to see the president. That is according to an official who had been briefed on the matter. Some didn't want to see anyone, wasn't about the president particularly. They just didn't want to see anybody, understandably. The rest did not want to see the president specifically.
And at the other local hospital treating the wounded, a similar story, almost every patient said no. So the president did not even visit. Two patients were brought back to the hospital he did visit, specifically to see the president, including a two-month-old, Paul Gilbert. His parents were killed in the Walmart.
A hospital official familiar with President Trump's visit to University Medical Center in El Paso told our Jim Acosta that the general assessment was, quote, that there was a, quote, absence of empathy by the president, unquote, on the president's part. This official told Jim Acosta that Jim spoke with mentioned that the clip you just saw and said it left the impression that the president was not as focused on consoling patients as might be expected, which is strange because generally that is all that's expected of a president visiting a hospital in a city where 22 people had just been murdered.
Nothing more. Just that. Just empathy, listening, consoling. Just being in the moment as a normal, caring, human being would, as anybody would.
Or barring that, simply pretending to be that, a normal, caring human being. The president, after all, spent years playing a character on TV. He played a successful business executive, as he'd quickly point out, got good ratings for a while.
He could have looked at this as a performance on the biggest stage yet and as obscene as that sounds, that act of pretending, the simulation of human kindness and caring might have at least brought solace to a few people. But even pretending to care was too much. Perhaps because it wouldn't have meant not boasting about his reception earlier in Dayton, Ohio, or making up stories about his host to justify the grievance he was venting which he did about the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I took him in at their request. We made the tour. They couldn't believe it. She said to people, he said it to people. I get on Air Force One where they do have a lot of televisions.
I turn on the television, and there they are saying, well, I don't know if it was appropriate for the president to be here. You know, et cetera, et cetera, you know, the same old line. They're very dishonest people and that's probably why he got -- I think about zero percent that he failed as a presidential candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Again, that's in front of first responders there. And he's talking about on a flight from a city where nine people died where he'd just been to a city he was going to with 22 fatalities, and that's what he's watching, television, and he's concerned about it. And he's angry that Sherrod Brown is saying stuff. What he was saying wasn't even -- he actually complimented the president.
The president also rage-tweeted about his treatment and had his social media director and former caddy, I should point out, tweet about what he, quote, rock star he was in Dayton.
At one point, according to "The New York Times," he shouted that no one was defending him -- because on a trip to a pair of grieving cities that saw a combined 31 people slaughtered, let's never forget who the real victim is.
Today, we learned that multiple staffers say this it was not a successful trip.
[20:05:03] And again, these are not supposed to be that difficult, at least not in the sense of being difficult to conduct one self properly on. They are, in fact, tremendously difficult in the sense of being painful to bear and bear witness to. They're supposed to be.
These are for a president evidence that the country they are responsible for has been wounded. Sometimes very deeply, and they feel it deeply, often personally. They're supposed to. And it's supposed to show.
Just as it shows when a tweet like this pops up on the president's time line from Air Force One sent minutes after departure from the scene of such heartache. Quoting from the tweet: Leaving El Paso for the White House. What great people I met there and in Dayton, Ohio.
The fake news worked overtime trying to disparage me and the two trips but it just didn't work. The love, respect and enthusiasm were there for all to see. They've been through so much. Sad.
Enthusiasm for the president. As we said earlier and many times before, this is just not normal. It's starting to seem normal but it's not, and it's not how a president should behave. It's just not. It's not how people behave.
And it has nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with what presidents in both parties have always known, that at times of national tragedy, the presidency should never be about the person in the White House, it should be about what that person can do for the people he serves. I want you to just -- you know, we all think this is now how presidents talk and how that this is presidential speech. It's not. I want to show you three presidents -- Clinton, Reagan and George W. Bush, in moments of crisis for this country.
Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombings, Reagan after the Challenger disaster, W. Bush at a mosque just days after 9/11 at a mosque, remember. Three presidents who could not be more different one from another, and the grace that each of them showed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Our words seem small beside the loss you have endured.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: The families of the seven, we cannot bear as you do the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss and we're thinking about you so very much.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: And our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.
CLINTON: Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it.
REAGAN: Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy.
BUSH: This is a great country. It's a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.
CLINTON: In the face of death, let us honor life. As St. Paul admonished us, let us not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
BUSH: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.
CLINTON: If anybody thinks Americans has lost the capacity for love and caring and courage, they ought to come to Oklahoma.
REAGAN: The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us with the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them nor the last time we saw them, this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye, and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That seems like a long time ago, that kind of language.
More now on how this is unfolding at the White House, CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there for us now.
So, the president fuming about the coverage. What more are you being told, what more have you learned?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he essentially thinks, Anderson, he's not being treated fairly of these visits that he made to Dayton, Ohio, and to El Paso, Texas. And the president is lashing out about that, saying that there aren't enough people defending him in this matter. He thinks he's being unfairly linked to the shooting in El Paso, even though, of course, the suspected shooter's manifesto referenced the president multiple times.
But he thought essentially that this trip was going to help the president get more favorable coverage as he acted in this presidential manner. But, of course, now, this video surfaces of the president there about those crowd sizes in the hospital hallways, and that just essentially not exactly how the president thought it was going to be portrayed. And a lot of times, he views these trips through the lens of the coverage.
COOPER: Yes. We should point out that so-called manifesto was really just a racist screed by the killer in El Paso.
He -- the killer actually went out of his way to say president, I thought this long before President Trump, but he did echo the president's language, specifically words the president had used and clearly was spouting white nationalist, white supremacist ideas.
Part -- I'm fascinated that part of the president's anger apparently had to do with the fact aides kept cameras away, which is a good thing.
[20:10:02] I mean, normally when a president goes to visit grieving people, you don't bring cameras in to, you know, to document their grief and show the president -- it's done behind closed doors. It's done in an honorable way. The president seemed annoyed by the lack of cameras?
COLLINS: Yes, how this White House has handled that has varied. Sadly (ph), the president has been to too many scenes of these mass shootings. And sometimes, they have allowed cameras to go into the hallways of the hospitals and the president comes out and made remarks, sometimes he does so outside of the hospital. It truly just depends.
This trip, they didn't let the cameras into the hospital. They said that was out of respect for the patients. They didn't want this to turn into a photo opportunity that we should note the White House did release their own photos and own videos of the president's trip to Ohio and Texas and to those two hospitals.
But the president was lashing out at his aides, because he thought if the cameras had come in it would give him an advantage essentially so they could have seen -- the cameras and reporters could have seen what the patients were saying about him, because he says he was getting essentially these glowing remarks from some of the medical staff, some of the officials who were there. So, he lashed out at his aides in those flights from Ohio to Texas and from Texas back to Washington last night, saying that in part, the reason he didn't get better coverage was because they didn't let the cameras into the hospital.
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins from the White House, thanks very much, Kaitlan.
Perspective now from "AXE FILES" host, former top Obama advisor, and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod.
David, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but yesterday, I kind of was giving the president the benefit of the doubt that the public statement he made, which was completely inappropriate, you know, he's going after politicians in front of first responders in the midst of a tragedy. I thought maybe that was a one-off. But this other video now where just not even in a public setting, one on one with people, he's yammering on about his freaking crowd sizes. I mean, it's -- it's --
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
COOPER: -- I would say unbelievable, but it's completely believable and it's completely pathetic.
AXELROD: Yes, well, people are who they are, Anderson. And we know who Donald Trump is. He's a very narcissistic person. He is very much consumed about how people think of him and, you know, we know from history that things like crowd sizes are important to him.
I remember at the time of that El Paso rally of his that he seemed a little bit rattled that there was this competing rally that might have been even larger than his own, and much different in tone. And he was a little perplexed and unhappy about that event.
But to bring it back now, I mean, look, he was flying down to El Paso, a town that was just consumed by grief. And frankly, didn't have clean hands going in, so he was sort of on probation. I mean, he has engaged in a three-year project of incitement that was very much echoed in the manifesto of the shooter in El Paso. So, of course, people were going to be upset.
It would have been so great, it would have been so important for the country if he just could have risen above this one time. If he had just -- he told Beto O'Rourke to be quiet. It would be good if he had been quiet, if he had just played the role that we expect of presidents and consoled people --
AXELROD: -- and offered his -- his wishes on behalf of the country. He could not do it.
COOPER: You know, all you have to do is just close your mouth and listen to people who are in grief. Listen to first responders who have risked their lives and saved lives. It's -- you don't have to say anything. You just need to listen. And the fact that he can't do that --
AXELROD: Right. COOPER: -- it's just -- it's sad.
AXELROD: You know, one of the great requirements of a president is the capacity for empathy, to feel the pain and to feel the suffering of people. And in moments like this, to be the consoler in chief and, you know, he couldn't muster the resources to do that then.
But this is not a new thing, Anderson. I mean, we always express astonishment at his behavior, but his behavior is quite consistent. I mean, this was really very predictable. People were attacking him for his role in incitement. He didn't like it, he struck back and he was very consumed with how people thought about him.
The tweets about how people were -- how people felt about him, how they appreciated their president and so on, so missed the moment that it was painful in and of itself.
COOPER: According to CNN's reporting, the overwhelming majority of the patients at two El Paso hospitals told the White House they did not want to spend any time with the president. I'm just curious, in your experiences in the White House, did anything like that ever happen on a trip of this nature where people say, you know, I don't want to meet the president?
AXELROD: I don't honestly think that -- it certainly depth happen in the administration I served, President Obama's administration.
[20:15:04] I don't think it's happened in any administration.
People generally are eager to meet with a president in situations like this. It is consoling. It is -- it is a source of strength in a hard moment, to see the president of the United States come and express the sympathies of the country and the support of the country.
But as I said, he is so intertwined with the episode down in El Paso, his rhetoric. You know, you can't -- you can't denounce hate in the moment and then practice it on all other days and then have clean hands. And people are going to react to that. These people felt targeted by the president. He is going to pay a price for that because the country wants more from their president.
COOPER: Yes. President Obama called it the day of Sandy Hook tragedy, the worst day of his presidency. And that the biggest frustration as president was not being able to pass sufficient gun legislation. I guess if he couldn't do it by putting all of his muscle in the White House and muscle behind it, should Democrats have any expectation that real change can happen under this administration?
AXELROD: First of all, I just want to say parenthetically, I remember the day of Sandy Hook. I was out of the White House by then. President emailed me. He said this is the first day that I've cried in the Oval Office, and that wasn't for anybody's benefit, but he just warranted to wanted to share that with me.
That is empathy. That is someone trying to put himself in the shoes of the people who suffered such horrific loss. As to the gun legislation, actually there is an opportunity here
because if Donald Trump were to actually embrace it, I think he'd give cover to a lot of Republicans who might want to vote for some form of universal background checks. But he needs to provide them that cover. Without that, they're going to do what they've done in the past.
COOPER: Which by the way --
AXELROD: They're going to run in fear of the NRA.
COOPER: Right, which by the way the president had said in the past to Republicans, I'll take the heat for it. And then, you know, has a conversation, I guess, with the NRA or somebody changes his mind, the next person who walks in the room changes his mind and, all of a sudden, you know, just like him taking the mantle for the shutdown, that doesn't last very long. That mantle just slides off his shoulders.
David Axelrod, thank you.
Coming up next breaking news, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell making a pledge on taking up gun control legislation. Plus, a Democratic candidate tells us how he plans to keep the pressure on him.
Later, the children caught in the middle of a massive immigration round up, outrage in the Latino community and elsewhere about the timing so soon after the targeted killings in El Paso. That and more as we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I need my dad with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:22:03] COOPER: There's breaking news tonight in the effort to craft legislation to prevent another mass shooting. A key legislative voice and gatekeeper just weighed in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling a Kentucky radio station today, the Senate will put the issue of background check legislation in red flag laws, quote, front and center when the Senate reconvenes after the summer break. He declined however to call senators back from recess.
We spoke about this before the break with David Axelrod. President Trump, you'll recall, has signaled his openness to more extensive background checks which drew then a warning from National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre who told him this will not play well with his base.
And if the entire scenario seems kind of familiar, it is, as David Axelrod mentioned just after the Florida parkland shootings, talking to lawmakers, including Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Sandy Hook, the president also talked about backing stricter gun measures, and mocked legislators, Republican legislators about not standing up to the NRA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Mr. President, it's going to have to be you that brings the Republicans to the table on this because right now, the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.
TRUMP: I like that responsibility, Chris. I really do. I think it's time. It's time that a president stepped up and we haven't had them, and I'm talking Democrat and Republican presidents. They have not stepped up.
And they do have great power. I agree with that. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me.
Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified. They want to do what's right and they're going to do what's right, I really believe that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, whether you consider it right or wrong, the NRA did not do what the president said he could make them do, he did what they told him to do.
Joining us now is Democratic presidential candidate and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan who took part of a caravan co-lead by the gun control group Moms Demand Action. They traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, trying to put pressure on Leader Mitch McConnell.
Congressman Ryan, thanks for being with us.
You heard what President Trump said after the Parkland shooting. Do you have any expectation this moment will be any different? Because he's basically saying the same thing now. He wants stricter background checks and he'll do what it takes, but, you know, he said that before and the NRA said no.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I think we have to be skeptical, which is why we're here. We think we need to put the political pressure not only on Mitch McConnell and his home state, but also other Republican senators around the country. I think there's been a shift on the ground. I saw it -- you can hear the enthusiasm here.
You know, I heard it in Dayton. It went from Republicans coming up to me, Anderson, after the vigil saying, you've got to do something. I'm a Republican, but you've got to do something. This has gone too far.
I think the shift on the ground is happening right now and I think that's where the pressure has got to come, from the bottom up, not the top down.
Again, we don't want to take hunting rifles. We don't want to take away people's ability to take care of their home and protect their family. That has nothing to do with this. I'm a hunter, I take our older son hunting, who is 16 years old, once
a year, at least. We go duck hunting. This is about getting weapons of war off the street that are slaughtering people in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, and so many other cities.
[20:25:04] COOPER: So, you made your road trip to Kentucky hoping to put pressure on Senator McConnell. He now says he's open to red flag laws and increased background checks. Are you encouraged by that or still skeptical?
RYAN: Well, again, these guys try to slow-walk things. They throw a little shiny object up and -- I think they know I'm talking to you, Anderson.
But they put these shiny objects up and they get everybody distracted on them, and so that takes the focus off the real thing. And they hope to slow walk it until the news cycle changes. And that's what we cannot let happen this time. We've got to keep the focus on it.
So, if you want to have an honest conversation about red flags, I think that's an important step that we can all take in a bipartisan way, but we've got to go further than that. We've got to get the background check bill and close that Charleston loophole.
COOPER: So, in terms of large capacity ban, there seems to be no appetite among congressional Republicans for those steps. Do you have any reason to believe that might change?
RYAN: No, I don't think so. I mean, again, we've got to slowly build this pressure up. And I think rallies like this happening all over the country from groups like Moms Demand Action, they're pulling in Republicans, they're pulling in sportsmen around the country. And I think it's starting to build, Anderson.
People ask me, why is this different? I think it started to accumulate. And then what happened last week when people went to bed on Saturday night, heartbroken about El Paso and went to sleep and woke up and their phone alerts were telling them about Dayton, Ohio, I think that has lit a fire in the United States for something to actually get done.
So, the pressure is coming from the bottom up. I hope these Republicans don't think it's like it used to be because it's not and you can feel it on the ground.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Ryan, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
Three more big exits in the Trump administration today, a trifecta of resignations. We'll tell you who and why, next.
[20:31:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A new Director of National Intelligence has been named to replace the outgoing director, Dan Coats. It's another acting appointment by President Trump. He picked Joseph Maguire, the current director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Coats' number two will also now be leaving, her name Sue Gordon. She resigned today as two other U.S. officials joined the exodus from the administration. Assistant Secretary of State Kimberly Breier is out after a reported clash with the White House over immigration policy.
And a Foreign Service officer of the State Department also quit, Chuck Park is his name, saying in a pretty scathing new editorial that he wrote, he says he can no longer justify being part of the President's "complacent state."
He writes, "The Complacent State sighs when the President blocks travel by Muslim immigrants, shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, averts its gaze from images of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders. I'm ashamed of how long it took me to make this decision."
I want to bring in the CNN Global Affairs Analyst Max Boot. So, first of all, the deputy Director of National Intelligence, traditionally she would have taken over as acting director when Dan Coats departs this month. It's been pretty clear President Trump did not want her in that post, though he had to, I think, at one point said some nice things about her. What do you -- how do you see her resignation?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think it's certainly a bad signal, Anderson, because Sue Gordon is somebody who was universally respected, over 30-year career in intelligence. She was somebody who was seen as a very competent and nonpolitical professional.
But somehow she fell afoul of Donald Trump and we're not sure exactly why, but Donald Trump Jr., just last week, you know, issued this crazy bizarre tweet where he said that, you know, the rumors about her being besties with Brennan, John Brennan and the rest of the clown cadre must be 100 percent true, because Adam Schiff recommended her for the post of acting Director of National Intelligence. I mean, that is just crazy.
You know, they're sort of paranoid. They're conspiratorial and they're assuming that everybody else is paranoid and conspiratorial, too, whereas in fact Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was just delivering the universal judgment of intelligence professionals in Washington, which was that Sue Gordon was the right person for the post.
COOPER: I'm glad that you quoted Donny Trump, Jr., who has dedicated his life to studying intelligence matters for the U.S. foreign policy. So, the President's pick for acting DNI, Admiral Joseph Maguire, he has a strong military and counterterrorism background. I mean, he's certainly more qualified than Congressman John Ratcliffe who the President wanted in that post permanently.
BOOT: Right. I mean, when I think about this appointment, I'm reminded of a version of Churchill's clip about America. And in the case of Trump I would say that he sometimes does the right thing, but only after exhausting all the other alternatives. And, of course, in the case of the DNI job, he tried to appoint John Ratcliffe, this Republican congressman who falsified his background and had no qualifications, whatsoever, in intelligence. And now, you know, Trump got rid of Sue Gordon.
But at least mercifully, the acting post is going to former Vice Admiral Joe Maguire who is also well respected, a professional Navy SEAL. But we still have to worry about who is going to be the permanent, you know, Director of National Intelligence. Is Trump going to try to appoint somebody like Devin Nunes, which would certainly not be beyond him?
COOPER: The State Department Foreign Service officer who resigned today in that really blistering "Washington Post" op-ed, he obliged the President quote -- what he called a toxic agenda. For a diplomat to say that, it's pretty rare. I mean, diplomats resign in protest, but they don't often pen an op-ed in "The Washington Post."
BOOT: Right. I think -- you know, I don't know Chuck Park, but his sentiments reflect something that I hear from my friends in the Foreign Service. They are very discouraged and very demoralized and they're kind of trying to keep their heads down and a lot of them are saying, "I'm, you know, trying to get assigned as far away from the United States as I can because I'm so disturbed by what's going on."
[20:35:06] And a lot of them are basically just trying to wait out, the Trump administration, and hoping for better and more saner times in the future. And obviously in the case of Chuck Park, his conscience nagged him and he felt he could not be part of this monstrous administration.
And I -- you know, I admire him and I respect his stand on principle, but it's, you know, it's a very difficult dilemma, Anderson, that I think everybody in the government faces. Because if all of the good people of conscience, if all of the dedicated public servants resigned in protest, who is going to be left?
It's going to be people like, you know, Stephen Miller and these crazy ideologues and conspiracy (INAUDIBLE) who are going to be running the entire government.
COOPER: Right. And by the way, I mean, these are -- again, I guess in, you know, Stephen Miller and others might deride them as bureaucrats or, you know, deep state. But -- I mean, these are people who have dedicated their lives to service, in this case, the Foreign Service. And, you know, are basic -- you know, serve in every administration.
The idea is they're serving the country, not the political winds. And to have these people, you know, this -- all the knowledge they've acquired and the expertise they've acquired to have that just disappear obviously long-term, that's not a good thing for the U.S., for the State Department. Max, I appreciate you being with us.
BOOT: Right. And that's something that doesn't compute with Trump, because for him it's 100 percent about politics, even these horrible tragedies are all about politics and looking out for himself, so he can't imagine that there are people in the government who are actually dedicated to serving the country and not their own self-interest.
COOPER: Yes. Max Boot, appreciate it. Thank you. Just ahead, President Trump likely to roadblock gun control while he's in office. Can he and Republicans ever buck the grip of the NRA? That's next.
[20:40:28]COOPER: Well, for the hurdles for gun control activists begins certainly with Congress and the White House. As we reported earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising background checks and red flag legislation will be front and center, but not until after the August recess.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called out McConnell a little letter to the White House today saying, "We have an opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to pass gun violence prevention background checks. However, Leader Mitch McConnell, describing himself as the 'grim reaper,' has been an obstacle to taking any action."
President Trump also does not appear enthusiastic for anything that could anger the NRA. However, in a second statement tonight, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer write, "The President gave us his assurances that he would review the stalled background checks legislation."
Joining me now to discuss is former federal prosecutor and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, also former Republican senator and CNN Senior Political Commentator Rick Santorum.
Senator Santorum, do you agree with Pelosi that there is an opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to pass background check legislation? I mean, is there an appetite for that on the Republican side of the aisle?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's really interesting that she said we'll work in a bipartisan way to do what we want, which is to pass our agenda. Not a bipartisan way to actually try to solve the broader problem of how we limit what is this, you know, increasing violence, you know, mass shootings, which involves a whole variety of things that there actually are bipartisan ideas around. She didn't say that.
She says, we're going to -- you have to pass what we want and be bipartisan about it, as opposed to, let's actually try to work together and see if we can come up with a package of things that may include some amount of gun control or red flag laws as a package of things to address this issue. I think that would have been a more, frankly, less political and more productive way of addressing the issue.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, Rick, you know that's not true. I mean, there is no way Mitch McConnell is going to support any sort of gun control legislation. And let's just talk about like facts here. You know, the reason that nine people died in 30 seconds in Dayton is because the gunman could -- had magazines where he had 100 bullets, 100 bullets in one -- you know, without reloading. He had that device on it. And you think that should still be legal, right?
SANTORUM: Look, I think those are things that are worth a debate. I mean, we talked -- look at the Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks and things, you know. We had a good debate about it and things were actually being talked about to move forward to try to limit those.
So, I think there are opportunities on the margins. And I say on the margins because, remember, what we're talking about here is a constitutional right, a individual constitutional right to possess a firearm. So, what we have to do is be very cautious about how we limit that.
But, look, I think talking about that, maybe there is something we can do to deal with that. But the idea that, you know, well, we can't touch gun control, look, we've talked about gun control a lot in the Congress. They did when I was there and some of it passed.
TOOBIN: It failed.
SANTORUM: But the reason it doesn't pass now is because those gun control measures have by and large not worked.
TOOBIN: That is completely untrue that gun control is -- certainly has worked a lot better than anything else. And the idea that there is some --
SANTORUM: What else?
TOOBIN: -- national interest in having assault weapons be legal. What is the value that is protected by -- what is the reason why it's in the national interest to have assault weapons, you know, legal to purchase?
SANTORUM: An assault weapon is simply a design of a semi-automatic weapon that some people refer to as an assault weapon. There is no such thing as an assault weapon. They are -- as you know, they had a hard time back in the '90s when Clinton passed it to define what assault weapon is.
SANTORUM: It is a semi-automatic weapon, like almost every hunting rifle in America is a semi-automatic weapon.
TOOBIN: Do you think that -- you say it's hard to define assault weapons. Do you think the people in Walmart could define assault weapon, the people who were shot by then?
SANTORUM: As you know, Jeffrey, because you're a lawyer, it's not a matter of what the people in the Walmart decide, it's a matter of what's in the statute. And so -- and that's not an easy thing to define and it can, in fact, be quite problematic.
TOOBIN: And -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
SANTORUM: So the answer is, let's look at what is effective. You say, well, it's more effective than anything else that's been tried. Well, I would argue that a lot hasn't been tried. For example, you know, we're talking about these red flag laws.
[20:45:02] I have in principle no problem at all with red flags laws as long as there is due process that people can't arbitrarily get denied the opportunity to purchase a gun. But there has to be some sort of process by which they go through to come to that adjudication.
COOPER: But, you know, even though red flag laws which, you know, a lot of people seem to be getting behind right now. I mean, there is other side to it. Advocates for, you know, mentally ill will point out and say, well, look, so firefighters from 9/11 who suffered from PTSD or police officers from 9/11 who suffered from PTSD, should they not be able to ever get a firearm again because they --
SANTORUM: Yes, that's why I believe we have to have due process. We can't just say, well, you know, your case looks suspect and so we're going to put you on a list and you got to work. And that's what California law and other laws do. You get named on a list and you have to get yourself off that list. That's not the right way to go about it.
The states that have done it, many of them have done it the wrong way. And I think what Lindsey Graham is working on is saying, "Look, we're willing to have a process by which we make sure that more people who are potentially dangerous are deprived the right to have a gun, but we want to make sure it's a fair process."
TOOBIN: You know, I mean, this is why, you know, Rick and the National Rifle Association, and the Republicans in Congress are winning, is because not only do you have the President on your side, you have at least the Senate on your side, you have the courts on your side now. Because the National Rifle Association has succeeded in turning the Second Amendment into something it was never in American history until 2008, an individual right.
And now you have Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court who all want to make all of these laws unconstitutional. So, I mean, this is the problem -- this is one of the many problems that gun control supporters have now that it's not just the National Rifle Association's political power, it's their judicial power as well.
SANTORUM: And as you well know, Jeffrey, there are plenty of laws on the gun -- about guns that bar certain guns from being in the hands of Americans. You can't have automatic weapons without, you know, you can get some antiques and special permits. You know, even a suppressor, a fire, you know, a suppressor --
TOOBIN: Silencer. SANTORUM: -- you know, silencer, you know, they have to be federal -- there's all sorts of laws that keep lots of firearms out of the hands of Americans. But what we do have is an individual right for obviously sporting purposes, but also for the important right of self- defense and that's what this -- that's what the court has upheld.
COOPER: Rick, if there are so many laws restricting guns in America, how come there are more guns than people in America?
SANTORUM: The reality is that most of those guns, as you know, are handguns and guns that are used for sporting purposes. You know, you have some that are used primarily, as you call, assault weapons that are used primarily for personal defense.
But the reality is that most people, you know, law abiding citizens use guns for law abiding purposes to protect themselves, their families and to enjoy shooting and other types of sports.
And what we need are laws that don't infringe upon those rights and make sure that people who shouldn't have those guns don't get them, including prosecuting gun crimes, which is also something that the Justice Department has a very poor record of.
COOPER: Senator Santorum, I appreciate it. Jeff Toobin, the conversation that will continue. Ahead on immigration crackdown so widespread, officials are calling it historic. What happened after these migrants were captured is creating a big backlash tonight, especially when it comes to the timing of it. We're taking you to Mississippi, next.
[20:52:51] COOPER: The Justice Department is defending its handling of massive immigration raids at Mississippi food plants. While hundreds of adults were arrested, these are some of the images that critics were pointing too. They showed children left without parents to come home to after Wednesday sweeps.
The crackdown of the plants happened on the first day of the school year and just days after the mass shooting, only two states away in El Paso, Texas. The suspected gunman, white supremacist, wrote of Hispanic invasion in Mississippi.
Nick Valencia shows us the outrage. I want to warn you, some of what you're about to see is hard but important to watch.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, can I just see my mother? Please.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional plea from one of the many children left behind after a massive ICE raid on undocumented workers on the outskirts of Jackson, Mississippi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government, please put your heart. Let my parents live free with everybody else, please. Don't live the child with cryness and everything.
VALENCIA: This 11-year-old, like so many others, doesn't understand why her parents were taken away from her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad did not do -- he's not a criminal.
VALENCIA: Desiree Hughes works at one of the seventh plants across the six Mississippi cities targeted by ICE.
DESIREE HUGHES, MORTON PLANT EMPLOYEE: Very hard seeing many kids cry, scream for their loved ones because they're gone. They don't know when they'll see them again.
VALENCIA: Kids who would have had to fend for themselves if not for the compassion of locals like Jordan Barnes.
JORDAN BARNES, OWNER, CLEAR CREEK BOOT CAMP: We're going to have bed and available for them and we're going to get food for them just to get them through the night. And if they need transport to school in the morning, we can arrange that as well.
VALENCIA: The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi called the raids the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in American history. More than 600 ICE agents were involved.
MIKE HURST, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI: Now, while we are a nation of immigrants, more than that, we are first and foremost a nation of laws.
VALENCIA: Responding to criticism that the arrests of hundreds of undocumented immigrants fell on the first day of school, as well as just after a deadly mass shooting that targeted Latinos, an ICE official with direct knowledge of the raids defended the timing as coincidental but said he understood the poor optics.
[20:55:00] The official who was on site for the raids telling CNN, "The emotion is a horrible thing. I saw kids coming up crying at the gates." Some detainees have been released with ankle monitors to reunite with their families. Still, local activists, Thursday, expressing outrage about the massive operation in their community. The community they say is only here to contribute.
NSOMBI LAMBRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NAACP OF MISSISSIPPI: We are ashamed about what our state is doing, but we're here to let everyone know around the world that we're going to fight back and we're going to make sure that these families are supported.
COOPER: Nick Valencia joins us now. Do we have any idea how many kids have actually been reunited with their parents?
VALENCIA: Anderson, according to locals I spoke to, they estimated up to half of the 680 undocumented immigrants that were detained in those raids were parents. It was earlier I spoke to an ICE official and asked if they could verify that number, they couldn't.
But what they did tell me was that those who said that they were the sole guardian of a child were released. And in the case of two parents, if two parents were detained, they say one parent would be released while another would be remained in custody.
But as you saw in that piece, Anderson, there were many children that if not for the compassion of the locals here, would have been left to fend for themselves. Anderson.
COOPER: Nick Valencia, appreciate it. Nick, thank you.
A lot more straight ahead, including one-on-one with Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, what she has to say about President Trump's response to mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, when we continue.
COOPER: Good evening. Chris Cuomo is off tonight. Welcome to the special edition of "360." We begin this hour with Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris in Iowa, as our many other candidates. She spoke at length with CNN's Kyung Lah about the shootings in Ohio and Texas, and the President's reaction to them.