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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Claims Support For Stronger Background Checks, But Walked Back Similar Positions After NRA Pressure In 2018; Trump Complains About Critics While Visiting Grieving Cities; Mother Of El Paso Suspect Warned Police About Son's Gun Weeks Before Massacre; Kids Left Without Parents After ICE Conducts Raid On Undocumented Immigrants In Mississippi; New Iowa Poll Shows Joe Biden Leads, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Surges, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Sinks. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And to restate this, Jim, police said that he was searching for cash. Back to you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Goodness, that's horrible. Paul Vercammen, thanks very much, I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

President Trump traveled to the grief-stricken communities of Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. He met with first responders, hospital staff, local officials. He was also met by protests in both cities, people demanding that the president and their chants said it clearly, do something to stop the gun violence in the country. But what is the president going to do? That's a key question. And the answer seems to be becoming more and more confusing.

Here is what the president said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important. I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people. I'm all in favor of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It doesn't seem confusing, so why is that confusing? Because the president has said that before with no follow-through. Here he was just after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're going to be very strong on background checks, we'll be doing very strong background checks.

We want to be very powerful, very strong on background checks.

We certainly have to strengthen background checks. Everybody agrees with that.

We're really, I think, going to have the support of the NRA having to do with background checks, very strong background checks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Again, nothing happened. And The Washington Post has new reporting that may help explain why these promises seem to evaporate into thin air. Three letters, the NRA. According to The Post, Trump spoke with the gun lobby's chief executive, Wayne LaPierre. And LaPierre told the president that expanding background checks, quote, would not be popular among Trump supporters. So now what?

Joining us now is a Washington Post Reporter behind the story, Josh Dawsey. He's also a CNN Political Analyst. It's great to see you again, Josh. Tell us more about this call.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, called the president on Tuesday after the president seemed to publicly support some expanded background checks. NRA officials had been in close touch with Nick Mulvaney and the Chief of Staff's Office, and the White House, lobbing against such a legislation. But Wayne LaPierre then elevated it to the president.

And there's been a lot of people in the president's ear, Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Pat Toomey, the kind of two of them are working on a bipartisan bill, lots of advisers, lots of friends from New York, kind of a various small group of people that the president often ask for advice before deciding what to do.

But the NRA was seen as particularly important inside the White House where many of the aides, in fact, are a little less liberal than the president maybe on gun control and don't want much to happen.

BOLDUAN: This seems something of a pattern though. The president says that he's open to expanded background checks, then the NRA reaches out to him and tells him to back off or tells him something. Are you hearing anything that suggests that the president's reaction is going to be any different though this time, Josh?

DAWSEY: Well, if you talk to current and former officials in the White House, which we did for this story, what you learn is that the president may go along with something if it has significant political support. He's not going to jump out if he talked to anyone in his orbit and support something that doesn't already have a strong chance of passing. And what the NRA has is a large constituency, and the president knows that. And it kind of keeps it from becoming an easy call for him.

Now, I talked to Joe Manchin yesterday, who talked to the president after he talked to the NRA. And Josh Manchin said the president said he was still committed to doing something and wanted the senators to come back and do it.

But as you said in your intro, we've heard that before from the president after Parkland, after other shootings and the momentum faded and they didn't really go and catapult it through the finish line.

So whether we'll do it this time, time will only tell.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Unfortunately, we have to fall back on that. But on your interview with Manchin, because I also think that Manchin told you something important, that he told President Trump that no gun safety bill is going to pass, nothing, because, obviously, he and Toomey have been pushing something ever since Sandy Hook, but no gun safety bill is going to pass, will succeed without Trump backing it.

And I hear that, but, again, we have seen the Senate buck the president before, I mean, force the president's hand on big issues. Russia's sanctions is just one example. Why -- what are you hearing from Manchin and all of the other lawmakers you're talking to and why gun measures are so different?

DAWSEY: Well, McConnell advisers and folks in the White House think exactly what Manchin thinks, that if the president doesn't go out and give cover to supporting a bill that is seen as limiting gun control rights, that there could be serious recriminations for Republicans back home.

It's somewhat analogous to immigration, when the president goes out and says he's willing to do something.

[11:05:01]

Republican lawmakers are a lot more inclined to come along because he's popular in the party, 90 percent by all accounts the president has in the Republican Party.

It's hard for Republicans to buck the president on this or whether to go against the president. Manchin, Toomey, even some of those supporters say, we probably only about 40 or 45 votes right now, there's no chance of it passing. It would take the president really pushing Republicans to get it over the finish line.

McConnell's folks yesterday told us that he's unlikely to bring anything to the floor unless at least half the Republicans in the Senate support it. Who could get half the Republicans in the Senate to support it? President Trump probably could do something along those lines.

BOLDUAN: And probably maybe President Trump alone in that regard in the way that it's looking right now.

Senator Chris Murphy, you guys also talked to him, and he told you -- and he's one of the most vocal advocates for gun safety, gun control measures. He told you this, what difference -- he kind of like asked the question. What difference can the federal government make in what is largely a state decision? What is Chris Murphy saying there? Is that his -- is that just his pure skepticism that Congress will actually do anything, get anything done?

DAWSEY: I mean, I think there's a skepticism among some in Congress that whatever they do will be piecemeal. And once states come up with broader and stronger laws that not much will happen if you took to senators, particularly Democratic senators, they say that a lot of these solutions, while obviously I think they would vote for them, they say they would vote for them, they don't see them as necessarily moving the needle all that much and they think it would take a state- by-state comprehensive approach to actually make a difference in the eyes of many, particularly Democrats.

BOLDUAN: Yes. So now, all eyes on governors like Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio and albeit then all eyes once again on the White House, to me, as it seems that the president must lead. Go ahead.

DAWSEY: And we saw when DeWine came out to the event in Ohio that people were chanting at him, do something, and we've seen a little bit of movement there. I think what the White House is trying to figure out is whether this current anger or kind of the current tone and mood of the country, wanting something to do more is going to pass or not. And I think that will probably make a big difference on what happens here.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. Great reporting as always, Josh, thanks for bringing it. I appreciate it.

DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: I want to go from Washington to Dayton, Ohio right now, where this conversation about gun safety and stopping gun violence could not be more urgent.

Joining us now is the City Manager of Dayton, Shelley Dickstein. Thank you so much for joining me.

SHELLEY DICKSTEIN, CITY MANAGER OF DAYTON: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Ahead of the president's visit, you were skeptical about the president coming to town. Now after President Trump came to Dayton, visited and returned to Washington, what are you thinking? Are you happy that the president came?

DICKSTEIN: Well, I don't know that it's my place to be happy or unhappy. It is the Office of the President. And as a local government, we certainly appreciate the highest office being present in our town. I think what's more important is how our city will continue to galvanize and sustain the energy around having something impactful occur and lower this gun violence across the country.

BOLDUAN: And that was part of the message that the mayor of Dayton and Senator Sherrod Brown, that they had for the president when he met with them yesterday during his visit. I want to play for you -- I'm sure you saw it, but I want to play for our viewers what the senator and mayor, they had to say after the visit with the president yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, he was comforting and he did the right things and Melania did the right things. And it's his job in part to comfort people. I'm glad he did it in those hospital rooms.

MAYOR NAN WHALEY (D-DAYTON, OH): I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So they said that. But then the president went after both of them, saying that that press conference was, in his words, a fraud and misrepresented what took place when they were at that hospital.

I know that Mayor Whaley says that he's simply confused by the president's reaction to all of this, but what do you make of it?

DICKSTEIN: I would say confused is a good way to sum it up. Clearly, as I stood at that press conference, that is not at all what I heard with regards to how it was characterized by Mr. Trump. So we don't really have any answers with regards to how he walked away with that kind of impression.

BOLDUAN: Yes. The fact that he did walk away with that kind of impression, what does that say about his view on the visit, do you think?

DICKSTEIN: Well, I think that there is a lot of frustration around the visit.

[11:10:01]

But certainly, my hope is, as our mayor is extremely active and the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) of the mayors, and has already been galvanizing the 61 mayors who have experienced, unfortunately, these mass shootings, and works very well across the aisle, I'm hoping that Dayton, because we are a city of innovation, can innovate around this very difficult conversation and be -- and influence some good national policy around gun violence.

BOLDUAN: Ad that is an important conversation that should have been happening and is happening once again, unfortunately, because of what happened in your city. In terms of what actually will be done, can be done, that's the huge question. One policy that has been proposed and requested is a ban on assault weapons, but that is something the White House is already indicating is a non-starter.

From your perspective, if what the federal government would pull off, and this is still even a bit of a long shot to even say that it would pass this considering there's really -- if past is prologue, we can see what could be happening. But if what the federal government would pass is expanding background checks and red flag laws, would you consider that a success or failure for the people of Dayton? DICKSTEIN: I would consider that a step in the right direction. You know, I have said before there are a lot of other countries across the world who have made gun violence a priority and put federal policy in place to address it. And our great country of the United States of America certainly has the talent, the intelligence, and hopefully the will, to do the same thing for our citizens that other countries have done for theirs.

BOLDUAN: Shelley Dickson, thank you so much for being here. Thank you for all of our exhaustive efforts in what is such a difficult time for your city. It's going to be some tough challenging days, weeks and months ahead. But thank you so much for being here.

DICKSTEIN: You're very welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, we have a CNN exclusive. Turning to El Paso, why the El Paso shooter's mother reached out to law enforcement weeks before the attack?

Plus hundreds of kids came home from school yesterday to find, without warning, their parents wWere gone. The massive immigration raid that has left communities scrambling and children desperate for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government, please put your heart, let my parents be free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:00]

BOLDUAN: A mother's fear, a mother's warning. Now, could it have been a chilling missed opportunity? Lawyers for the family of the El Paso shooter tells CNN that the suspect's mom reached out to police weeks ago in their home town because she was concerned about her son having an A.K.-type firearm. This is a report you will only see on CNN.

Let's go over to CNN's Brian Todd who has been digging into this. He joins us from El Paso.

Brian, please, what more are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this information coming from our investigative team, Scott Glover and Majilie de Puy Kamp, they've spoken to attorneys for the family of the alleged shooter. These attorneys have told CNN that in the weeks before the massacre here at this Walmart, the mother of the alleged shooter called the Police Department in Allen Texas. That's a suburb north of Dallas. That is their home town.

She called the police department there and said she was concerned about her son owning an A.K.-type firearm, clearly a reference to an A.K.-47 assault rifle. She said that she was not necessarily concerned that he would pose a threat to anyone. The lawyers are making that clear to us. But she was concerned about his age, his maturity level and his lack of experience handling that kind of a firearm.

The critical thing is how did the police respond? Well, according to the lawyers who spoke to CNN, the Public Safety Officer who the mother talked to, said that under Texas law and given the circumstances that she described, her son was legally entitled to have that weapon.

Now, were there other questions asked by the police, according to the attorneys, no, not really. They didn't ask her any other information. She did not volunteer her name or her son's name. They didn't really push back in any way. The police were basically saying to CNN, look, if the mother didn't give any more information than she was willing to give, there's not much more we could have done.

But there are questions being raised about questions the police could have asked the mother, could they have pressed her further on this. The police have not responded to our request for documentation regarding this call, but, again, the mother concerned about her son owning an A.K.-style firearm calling the police in the weeks before the shooting.

In addition, Kate, the lawyers for the family are saying there were not red flags here, that the mother was not concerned about him being a threat.

[11:20:01]

He was not a volatile or erratic-behaving kid. But then again, a question, why call them about him owning an A.K.-47?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Brian. Great reporting, thank you so much for bringing that. I really appreciate it.

We do need to take you now from El Paso to Mississippi, where another heartbreaking story is playing out today. Young children left stranded at daycare, arriving then from their first day of school to find their houses, their homes, empty and spending the night in a local gym, depending on the kindness of neighbors and strangers.

This happened yesterday, after almost 700 undocumented immigrants were picked up by U.S. immigration authorities in a massive sweep of six different cities in Mississippi. Look at what this means for their families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government, please put your heart, let my parents be free. And everybody, please, don't leave the children with (INAUDIBLE) and everything. I need my dad. My dad is not a criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Oh, my God, poor baby. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Morton, Mississippi following this. Dianne, what more are you hearing about these raids?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Kate, I want to point out here that was the first day of school. So, so many of these children were excited to go to school for the first day and that turned into absolute devastation for them.

I talked to one mother who was still out here today hoping that they're going to drop her husband off after he was detained at the plant behind me around 8:00 yesterday morning. She said their five- year-old started kindergarten yesterday and she's had to explain to him why dad isn't coming home right now.

I was kicked off the property a few moments as, as were those families who have been waiting. Two busses showed up last night with some of the people who were detained from this facility. Some of the people who were detained from this facility were dropped off at sites almost an hour away and they've been depending on churches and neighbors to try and get people back home. It's that kindness of strangers that you were talking about there that led to all of those children who were being picked up by friends or guardians or just kindness of strangers, again, from daycare and school and stayed in that gym and donated food.

I want you to listen to what the owner said about why he did this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN BARNES, CLEAR CREEK BOOT CAMP OWNER: We're going to have a bed 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.

I understand the law and how everything works, but -- and everything has a system. But everybody needs to hold the kids first and foremost in their minds. And that's what we've tried to give them a place to stay just to kind of ease the pain just a little bit

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGER: Now, again, some people have been released, Kate. I've seen people with ankle monitors on right now waiting for their spouses. So some of those children them had both parents that were picked up in this raid. And, of course, tensions on edge in the Latino community after the hate crime, that massacre in El Paso. After that, one woman told she feels even more targeted now, even though she was born in the U.S., just based of the color of her skin and her last name.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, it's too full (ph) now, and forget any policy, just what those poor children were going through, are going through and what kind of trauma that leaves them with, even if they are now back with a parent. What they -- either didn't get picked up from school, what they returned home from to deal with, it is devastating. Thank you so much. Coming up for us, there are brand new numbers out that offer a new look at the landscape of the 2020 race out of Iowa, the all-important State of Iowa. There are some significant moves there. What this means, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:25:00]

BOLDUAN: Fresh off the presses, a new poll of Iowa caucus goers shows some very interesting movement in the 2020 Democratic field. Joe Biden is holding steady with 28 percent support among Democrats there in this new Monmouth University poll. But look at Elizabeth Warren making some big gains from the last time they took this poll, now 19 percent support, compare that to where she stood in April the last time they took this measure at 7 percent.

And where she goes up, someone needed to go down, and that is Bernie Sanders, down to 9 percent in Iowa now.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins me now from his home away from home, Des Moines, Iowa. See, you never have -- you always have such a big smile when you're in Iowa. I'm just going to say that for everyone at home. What's the big message that Iowa caucus goers are sending, Jeff, with these new numbers?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, even on a rainy morning here at the Iowa State Fair, I can tell you that Joe Biden is remaining consistent in those polls, as you said. But the big take-away from this is that Bernie Sanders really has fallen here in this new Monmouth University Iowa poll and, of course, Elizabeth Warren has climbed. And that tracks largely with what we are seeing on the ground over the last several weeks and even months here, of course, the function of the debates.

But one thing that also is clear from this is that Joe Biden, of course, is leading this, but the question hanging over this entire primary campaign is, is he the placeholder in the race or is he the frontrunner in the race?

Talking to voters here this morning, you get a variety of answers. They like how he's performed in the second debate more than the first. But people are still keeping an open mind. That's one of the reasons Joe Biden will be here talking this afternoon at the famous Des Moines Register Soap Box.

[11:30:01]

It's where politicians stand on an actual soap box and give their speech, their message. Governor Steve Bullock from Montana also will be speaking here.

[11:30:00]