Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Mass Shooting Investigations; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Mississippi ICE Raids Target Hundreds; Trump Brags About Crowd Size During El Paso Hospital Visit; Crying Children Left Without Parents After Immigration Raids. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Andrew McCabe saying that he was unlawfully terminated because he didn't agree with the president here -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Got it. Thank you for the update, Jessica. Appreciate it.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being here.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A massive ICE raid on undocumented immigrants leaves children without their parents today.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump offering praise and consolation and bragging about his crowd sizes to El Paso medical staff who had just responded to a racist mass murder. How and why the White House is celebrating the president's trips to El Paso and Dayton today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGDALENA GOMEZ GREGORIO, FATHER DETAINED IN ICE RAID: My dad didn't do nothing. He's not a criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Families torn apart, children absolutely terrified, as hundreds of suspected undocumented immigrants are ripped out of their places of employment in ICE raids, with Latinos across the country already living in fear after El Paso.

Plus, buttering up the voters. It's opening day at the pivotal Iowa State Fair, as a brand-new poll shows a big-time surge for one of the 2020 contenders. Who is it? Well, we will tell you.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with our politics lead today. President Trump right after his call for unity in the wake of 31 people murdered in the United States and right after his claim that his rhetoric brings people together, decided to then publicly complain about media coverage, attack his political foes, and he discussed the size of his crowds in the middle of visiting an El Paso hospital treating victims of that city's horrific racist terrorist attack.

Moreover, in this newly obtain cell phone video from his hospital visit showing the president talking about how many people came to see him speak in El Paso in February, the president mocked -- quote -- "crazy Beto" for not drawing as large a crowd, a reference to former El Paso area Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who is running for president.

The press was notably not permitted to accompany the president to his visits to these hospitals, the White House saying that this is not a photo-op.

Now, while it's true that these sensitive moments do many times happen behind closed doors, it did become pretty clear that the White House had no actual opposition to photo-ops. They just wanted to control the photos.

The president yesterday posting on Twitter a highly produced video featuring this triumphant, cinematic soundtrack and images of the president meeting with hospital staff. It resembles a political ad, certainly not what one might expect in the wake of 31 innocent people being gunned down in a horrific weekend of mass shootings.

CNN's Pamela Brown has more now from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's schedule included a tour of tragedy, two scenes of mass murder in a single day. He greeted some of the recovering victims, the heroes, the first responders, signing autographs, receiving ovations, as well as criticism.

It was meant to unite a grieving, scared country. But President Trump partly used the trips to boost his own morale too.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, we left Ohio, and the love, the respect for the office of the presidency, it was -- I wish you could have been in there to see it.

BROWN: During one hospital visit, he praised the medical staff.

TRUMP: It's an honor to be with you. Look at this group of people.

BROWN: Then boasted about the crowds at his last El Paso rally compared to those of El Paso native and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke.

TRUMP: That was some crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: We had 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.

BROWN: All this as 31 victims lay dead.

For those still recovering, none of the eight victims at the El Paso hospital Trump visited agreed to meet with him. But two who had already been discharged came back to meet the first couple.

The dual massacres have reenergized nationwide calls for gun control. Trump answered by saying yesterday before leaving for Dayton he will consider background checks.

TRUMP: I think we can bring up background checks like we have never had before.

BROWN: But Trump also had multiple conversations with NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre this week. Sources telling CNN LaPierre told the president more restrictive gun measures may upset Trump supporters in deep red districts.

The NRA then tweeted, in part: "None of the current background check proposals would have prevented these tragedies."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And a source tells CNN today that almost all of the patients at a second hospital in El Paso, Del Sol Medical Center, also declined to meet with the president.

And the White House ultimately decided not to set up a visit there. Were also learning, Jake, Trump was unhappy with the coverage of his trips, according to an administration official, who went on to blame the media, though, again, Jake, it's worth noting the White House blocked journalists from covering most of the trip.

[16:05:03]

TAPPER: Pamela Brown at the White House, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Nice to see you.

TAPPER: I want to get to the legislative aspect of how we can, as a country, do something to curtail these horrific incidents, these mass shootings.

But before we get to that, what's your response to the president's trip to Dayton and to El Paso?

HIRONO: As usual, all -- everything that he experiences, he brings it back to himself.

So while he was supposed to be there to show sympathy and empathy, I think he showed himself the most sympathy and empathy. And he always acts like the victim.

TAPPER: So another thing I want to ask you about is, yesterday, we broke the story on this show about how, according to many officials, current and former and other sources close to the White House, the Department of Homeland Security throughout 2017 and 2018 was pushing the White House to make domestic terrorism a higher priority...

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: ... in the national counterterrorism strategy. And the White House kept pushing back.

What's your reaction?

HIRONO: Well, apparently, he doesn't like to hear the words white supremacists doing anything.

And so they really cut back on any references to domestic terrorism and acknowledging that as a growing problem. And, as you know, Chris Wray only a couple of months ago before our Judiciary Committee in the Senate acknowledged that domestic terrorism is a growing concern, and that much of that is associated with white supremacy actions.

TAPPER: Sources tell CNN that the House -- the House Judiciary Committee -- you're on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- the House is considering coming back early to work on gun-related legislation, including perhaps red flag legislation, perhaps even a ban on some kinds of semiautomatic assault weapons, semiautomatic weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines.

Is there anything in there that I just mentioned that you think could get through the Republican-controlled Senate?

HIRONO: Not as long as Mitch McConnell is in charge.

We can't even get the law that was passed, the bill that was passed by the House, which is just a background check law. And so there are two people who are holding everything up. It's Mitch McConnell and the president.

And when the president starts talking about he's going to take on the NRA, he will stand up to them, oh, that's just such B.S., you know?

So, by the way, when all of this tragedy occurred, and Veronica Escobar, when the president was talking about going to El Paso, she had wanted to talk with him. She reached out.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: She's the congresswoman from the El Paso area. We had her on the show yesterday.

HIRONO: Yes. Yes.

But he had all kinds of time to talk to the NRA, who got to him immediately.

TAPPER: What can Senate Democrats do, if anything, to try to bring this legislation that has passed the House, this background check legislation? It has overwhelming support among the American people.

HIRONO: Yes.

TAPPER: Probably would not have had any impact on these two shootings, but would have closed a loophole that has been obvious for many years.

HIRONO: Certainly.

As you say, these loopholes have been huge for a long time. But we need to get to also the banning of the assault weapons and any kind of weapons that can charge -- that can fire dozens of bullets at one time.

What can we do? Well, you know what? The elections, that is one opportunity. We need to defeat Mitch McConnell because he is very focused. In fact, he prides himself as being the Grim Reaper, and he's happy to hold back all of these kinds of bills that the House has sent to us.

So, one way is to defeat Mitch McConnell. Another way is for the Republicans in the Senate to raise their voices. And you hardly hear a peep out of any of them.

TAPPER: So semiautomatic weapons are the most popular kind of weapon, I think, being sold in the United States right now.

If you're talking about banning them, how do you envision that? Do you envision a mandatory buyback, mandatory confiscation, just a restriction sales of new ones?

HIRONO: Well, you start with the sales of new ones, because when you start talking about confiscating guns, then you run into, I would say, some legal challenges.

But I think there are ways to encourage people to turn in their firearms, but first and foremost let's just not keep selling new -- the new sales. That, we can stop.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, thank you so much for being here.

HIRONO: Thank you.

TAPPER: I don't know why you're here, as opposed to in Hawaii, but we love having you. Thank you so much.

HIRONO: Good to be with you. TAPPER: A call to police from a concerned mother about her son

possibly owning these assault-type weapons -- the CNN exclusive about the alleged El Paso gunman and potential warning signs next.

Then, children sobbing and hysterical, not sure where their parents are and when or if they will ever see them again. The ICE raid that now has ICE agents scrambling.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:42]

TAPPER: A CNN exclusive in our national lead now.

We now know that, weeks ago, the alleged El Paso white supremacist terrorist's mom called the police. She was worried that her son had in his possession and AK-style firearm and that he might not be mature enough to handle it.

But the family's lawyer says she never gave police her name or her son's name.

In the Dayton, Ohio, massacre, we're learning more disturbing details about that killer's background.

CNN Ed Lavandera has more now on the two suspected murderers and warning signs that may have been missed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mother of the El Paso Walmart gunman called police in Allen, Texas, because she was concerned that her son owned an AK type of firearm.

Lawyers for the gunman's family say the call was made in the weeks before the massacre that killed 22 people and wounded 27 others. Police in the Dallas suburb where Patrick Crusius lived say they have no documentation of the call from the mother, who lawyers say didn't give them her or her son's names.

The lawyers also say the mother was worried about her son's maturity to handle the weapon, but that he was not showing volatile or erratic behavior.

El Paso police say it will take another 20 days for forensic teams to finish processing the crime scene at the Walmart, where the parking lot has turned into an emotional gathering spot for residents to share their grief.

[16:15:02] CHIEF GREG ALLEN, EL PASO POLICE DEPARTMENT: The scene is being screened off. I don't want to get gory here, but the scene is picking up human remains, actually there.

LAVANDERA: The Dayton gunman's past is equally troubling, with a history of violence going back to high school. A friend and former classmate to the gunman's sister recounts a night where Connor Betts was physically and verbally abusive to her and his sister Mega, who was shot and killed by her brother, along with eight others.

Another friend of Connor Betts tells CNN they would visit the local shooting range together. He knew he owned an AR-15 type gun, but didn't think he'd do anything violent with it, but he was wrong. 911 calls from the night of the shooting show just how violent he was.

CALLER 1: Do not go outside! Stay inside! We ran inside, we're barricading the door.

CALLER 2: There were shots and everybody laid down, and I don't know where my friends are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, Jake, the sadness continues here in El Paso, as funerals are under way in Juarez, Mexico, where one of the victims is being laid to rest, as well as the beginning of the funeral process here on the U.S. side of the border as well.

So, tough days ahead for everyone affected by this massacre here in El Paso -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera in El Paso, thank you so much.

Fear in America. Children inconsolable after their parents were arrested and detained as part of a massive immigration raid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGDALENA GOMEZ GREGORIO, FATHER ARRESTED IN ICE RAID: Governments, please feel your heart, let my parents be with everybody else, please. Don't leave the childs with crying (ph) and everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:21:26] GREGORIO: I need my dad for me. My daddy did not do -- he's not a criminal.

(END VIDEO CLPI)

TAPPER: That's 11-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio begging the Trump administration to release her father from custody. He was arrested in a sweeping ICE raid in Mississippi yesterday, one that targeted undocumented immigrants. He was one of nearly 700 people detained in a community where fears are already heightened just days after that terrorist shooter targeted Latinos in El Paso.

Some families have been reunited today. We are not sure if Magdalena and her dad are among them. A few weeks ago when President Trump announced that there would be

more raids by ICE, he said the focus would be on violent criminals. But obviously, that is not what happened here.

And CNN's Dianne Gallagher in Morton, Mississippi, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, can I just see my mother please?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Parents taken away on buses, separated from their children --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her mom is the only one she has. That's her guardian.

GALLAGHER: -- in immigration raids across on Mississippi on Wednesday.

GREGORIO: I need my dad for me. My daddy did not do -- he's not a criminal.

GALLAGHER: Many children left behind in schools and day cares. One gym in a nearby town offering to house and feed children who were separated from their parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand the law and how everything works, and everything has a system, but everybody needs to hold the kids first and foremost in their minds.

GALLAGHER: Today, anxious family members are drying to locate their loved ones who were arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a website we were told that we could find anyone that's been processed and detained. I haven't found a single person.

GALLAGHER: One woman telling CNN her husband who has a heart condition was arrested, leaving her and her 5-year-old child with no one to help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He asked me for his dad where he is, and I tell him he's not here. I told him they took him, and he starts to cry, because he needs him.

GALLAGHER: A total of 680 detentions in seven food processing plant across six cities in Mississippi. Officials calling it the largest single state immigration enforcement operation ever in the U.S.

MIKE HURST, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI: While we are a nation of immigrants, more than that, we are first and foremost a nation of laws.

GALLAGHER: The raids on the heels of the El Paso shooting where Latinos were purposely targeted also came on the first day of school for those children. An ICE official telling CNN they did considering the impact on

children and worked with school administrators, adding, quote, this was planned for months, well before El Paso. We did this under past presidents. This is business as usual for us.

Some detainees released overnight with ankle monitors like this, as White House officials tell CNN, ICE is scrambling to reunite some parents with their children because of child care issues, many of whom were placed with volunteers and strangers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: And, Jake, we just got new information from the government -- 271 of those nearly 700 people have been released. We also learned that they found 18 juveniles, one as young as 14 years old working in those plants.

I can tell you that CNN has also learned from a senior immigration officials that they used these plant employees as informants, one employees was paid between $500 and $800 for each unauthorized worker. Jake, we still have no word from any of the owners or managers at these facilities are being charged.

[16:25:00] TAPPER: All right. Dianne Gallagher in Morton, Mississippi, thank you so much.

So, we knew that ICE raids were coming, where President Trump signaled these raids in July. Take a listen to what the president said about ICE raids and who they would primarily target.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're focused on criminals as much as we can before we do anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, MS-13, people who had committed horrible, violent acts. But that's what these people are. These are -- these are families.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, and despite the president's comments, we know that this administration has been looking to target the undocumented community in the United States, more broadly, beyond those priorities as they are carried out under previous administrations, including the preceding one under President Obama, to prioritize these individuals who committed crimes other than simply crossing the border illegally.

And, obviously, because of how this is coming just days after this mass shooting that targeted Latinos in El Paso, because of this shooter and his manifesto which laid out how he felt there was an invasion of Hispanics in Texas, you do obviously have to wonder how Hispanics in this country are feeling, and undocumented Hispanics in particular.

And the president really hasn't done much to address those concerns in particular, in the wake of this mass shooting, and this action obviously doesn't do anything to help ease those pains from this week at all.

TAPPER: And you saw the ICE official there saying this is business as usual, this is what happens, they've been planning this for months. I don't know that a previous administration -- Bush deported people, Clinton deported people, Obama was called the deporter in chief. I don't know that after a massacre targeting Latinos, that the prior presidents would have gone ahead with this, not to mention on the first day of school.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right, I can't answer that, either, Jake. But what I do know s that when the Obama administration did carry out some deportations, they responded when Latino lawmakers reacted and said, you can't be carrying out aggressive mass raids like this, and Obama instead if they were trying to build a case against certain companies, would audit those companies and would carry it out that way as opposed to these shows up force by raiding and doing sting operations.

TAPPER: What's your take on this? Obviously, again, raids like this didn't just start under the Trump administration, but it does feel like the timing is suboptimal.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that it's probably the best use of resources to focus on those that are violent criminals, not people just doing jobs in the U.S. That is I think the higher priority of ICE's job, but it is not the entirety of their job.

And one of the things that seems to be suggested in a lot of the discussion of this is that entry and enforcement is just off the table? Or that enforcement is just sort of off the table because we're in a time when that is somehow inappropriate.

Look, there was an Antifa guy who was killed trying to fire-bomb an ICE facility, and now, there's this El Paso incident, two domestic terrorism incidents that have to do with this issue. I don't think that ICE is -- the federal government's plan for dealing with a law enforcement issue should be dictated by those events, if this was indeed in the works, it should be handled with the utmost sensitivity, which is not the Trump administration's strong suit, but I do not -- I reject the idea that interior enforcement is just somehow not appropriate.

TAPPER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was very critical of the Obama administration when they -- the way they handled the situation with undocumented immigrants, whether it was them sending back the unaccompanied children who came over the border, deporting people who really had done nothing more than try to get a better life in the country. I think that's the point, when they say they're criminals, you don't know what ICE ever means when they say that, because they could mean they just crossed the country, they could mean they're a violent criminal. They could mean they sold a dime bag of marijuana.

You know, they have a history of overcharging immigrants and deporting them, undocumented immigrants. Often people who have no connection to the country, they moved here they were a child, and they're sent back to a country where they don't even speak the language.

TAPPER: Yes.

POWERS: I think the biggest issue is the use of resources going after a mother working in a plant when they have a domestic terrorism problem in this country, right? So, it's like -- doesn't the U.S. government have better things to be doing than this?

TAPPER: So, then, the other question, of course, is they plants and the plant owners. And we see the people being punished right now, these kids, and, you know, your heart goes out to them, Koch Foods, which owns one of the plants raided yesterday, told "The Times", quote: The chicken industry uses every tool in the tool box including E-Verify to help ensure a legal work force. And we've been strong advocates before Congress to make these tools even stronger.

But the truth of the matter is, and I think we all know, these companies generally speaking do not suffer much from this, even if they have been, let's face it, exploiting these workers, who are terrified, who live in the shadows, they can't organize, they can't collective bargain. You heard the report from Dianne that some of these kids working, they were 14 years old. I mean, the owners get off scot-free quite often, it seems.

[16:30:00]