Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

ICE Arrests Undocumented Immigrants in Mississippi; Latinos on Edge after Shooting; Biden and Bullock Campaign at Iowa State Fair; Mothers Pressure McConnell over Gun Reform Stephen Ross Under Fire for Trump Fundraiser. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These raids happened just before the president touched down in El Paso to allegedly go and comfort individuals who are grieving because a white supremacist posted this racist screed targeting Latinos and 22 people were killed, most of them Latinos, Jim. And so people here are grappling with what happened in their community, of course what's going on in this country right now, especially for the Hispanic community.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Dianne, you capture it there in the words of that little girl, it's breaking families up.

We know you're going to stay on top of this story.

The hateful racist rhetoric against immigrants by the suspect in the El Paso mass shooting has Latinos across the country worried about their own safety, some even afraid now to go outside.

Joining me now is CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval. He's been speaking to families like this.

Tell me what they're telling you. I heard this from families in El Paso that talking about their children not wanting to go to school because they thought they would be targeted.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, it seems to be that it's beyond fear. It's really more of an intimidation here according to many of the people who I spoke to. And this fear and intimidation is actually going to be quite serious enough that the Mexican government is now turning to the U.S. government, asking for any and all information on the El Paso shooting. They want to know if any of their Mexican citizens living on this side of the border are in any potential danger specifically of -- of any more attacks from white supremacists.

And we also traveled to Brentwood, New York, about an hour's drive outside of the city, and found that that fear is quite palpable, particularly at Make the Road New York, this organization that helps migrants, especially get their paperwork together to process that. And when you hear from the organizer, Javier Guzman, he tells me that his waiting room has been full with families right now. Before it was a concern about deportation, but now there seems to be something else that's heavy on their mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAVIER GUZMAN, ORGANIZER, MAKE THE ROAD NEW YORK: It's real now. You know, it's not like we can connect those dots and people know that they're in danger just because of the color of their skin.

SANDOVAL: The gun was real.

GUZMAN: Exactly.

SANDOVAL: The bodies are real.

GUZMAN: Exactly. It's not -- it's not FaceBook anymore or Twitter, you know? It's guns and people die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: The comments being made here about 2,200 miles from the walls of that Walmart where so much bloodshed happened. Not everybody feels that way, however. CNN also spoke to several Hispanic Americans here in the city that say that they do not fear anything additional and they also believe that at this point that this deranged action should not be tied to the president's rhetoric. So, again, two very different sides, but a majority of people are feeling fairly fearful right now, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

Joe Biden back on the trail in Iowa, one day after his blistering rebuke of President Trump's rhetoric. Will we see an encore today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:37:15] SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that none of the eight survivors of the El Paso shooting, who are still being treated at university medical center, agreed to meet with President Trump on his visit there. This comes after the president slammed Democrats and the media for, quote, misrepresenting the reception he got during his hospital visits.

The White House responding this morning saying the president and first lady met with victims of the tragedy while at the hospital. I'd also point you to the video the White House posted this evening which shows the president and first lady being received very warmly by not just victims and their families. But, again, "The Washington Post" reporting that none of the survivors of that shooting, wounded survivors, would meet with him directly.

We're going to continue to follow this story and there is much more ahead.

To politics now. 2020 contenders gearing up for a big weekend in Iowa as the state fair there gets underway with less than six months to the Iowa caucuses. The state fair, a great and important opportunity to speak directly to voters there. They care in Iowa about these meetings. Today, Joe Biden and Steve Bullock will be the first two Democratic candidates to appear on those fair grounds. Biden is hoping to build offer -- of his blistering speech yesterday, attacking President Trump for his reaction to these shootings, divisive rhetoric. In total, nine candidates will host events all over the state today. All are expected to appear at the fair over the weekend. One of the big campaign tests early on.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Arlette Saenz, they're in Des Moines this morning.

So, Jeff, as we inch closer to the caucuses, we know Iowa voters, they pay attention to these speeches, they listen hard, they ask hard questions. How important are these next few days for the Democratic candidates?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there is no question that the next few days are important. And this is the reason why. Iowa voters of course, have been taking a measure of these candidates for really several months, but this race is now in a new phase. There are two debates underway already. Voters here have been paying attention.

And, in fact, the field of candidates have already broken in several tiers, the top tier, the middle tier, the lower tier. Of course, the ones on the lower tier, those candidates are trying to make their way into the next debate. The ones in the middle tier are trying to rise up. And, of course, the top tier, like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, they are trying to make their case to voters that they are the most electable.

Jim, one of the most interesting things about the Iowa State Fair, of course, is these Democratic voters will come face-to-face with voters who don't necessarily agree with them. This is a mix of Republicans, of Democrats. Iowa of course, a classic swing state, went for President Trump four years ago.

And speaking of Donald Trump, Jim, just as I was walking the grounds of the state fair this morning, I was thinking back to that moment four years ago this week when Donald J. Trump came here as a candidate with his helicopter, giving rides to a lot of families and kids, that was a moment when it was clear that Donald Trump was catching on, when he was taking Iowa seriously.

[09:40:08] So it is an opportunity -- I don't expect any Democratic candidates to bring helicopters today, but it is a chance to connect with voters. It is early, but for Joe Biden he is trying, of course, to sustain his lead and others are trying to make their urgent plea to voters.

SCIUTTO: Yes, to survive in this race.

Arlette Saenz, she's been covering the vice president.

A blistering speech on the president's rhetoric yesterday. Should we expect the same from the former vice president during his so-called soapbox speech there today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Jim, I think that's the big question, will Joe Biden go as hard on Donald Trump as he did yesterday when he accused him of fanning the flames of white supremacy in this country. Biden throughout his campaign has painted this as a battle for the soul of the nation, starting out with that campaign launch video where he criticized President Trump's response to the clashes in Charlottesville, saying there were fine people on both sides.

And Biden has really tried to frame this, not just as a battle for the soul of country, but as a campaign between himself and the president. He's saying that the country's character and values are at stake under this current White House.

Now, Biden has been a frequent fixture here at the Iowa State Fair dating back to the 1980s when he first ran for president. I've been to state fairs with Biden in the past. It's always quite a scene as he runs from booth to booth mingling with voters. Buy, today, Biden is going to be trying to sell these Iowa voters here at the state fair on his message for the campaign and also trying to maintain that position atop most of the polls.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny, Arlette Saenz, we may think the presidential election is a long way away. In Iowa they're already paying attention.

A group of mothers demanding change after the most recent mass shootings, real change, this time. They're not heading to Washington, though, but to the Senate majority leader's hometown. They think that's where it really makes a difference.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:46:28] SCIUTTO: The calls for gun reform are growing louder and louder, even among some Republicans. This after Dayton and El Paso and Gilroy. And Mitch McConnell is under intense scrutiny now and some political pressure to act.

In an effort to push the Senate majority leader to do something about gun reform, Congressman and Democratic Presidential Candidate Tim Ryan and the grass roots group Moms Demand Action are starting a caravan of protests. The destination, Mitch McConnell's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Joining me now is Shannon Watts. She is the founder of Moms Demand Action.

Shannon, so good to have you on the broadcast this morning.

SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So I found it remarkable, and you noted this in your "Washington Post" editorial, that your group, Moms Demand Action, as well as Students Demand Action, you were in Washington. You were having your annual meeting to discuss these issues. You hear the news about El Paso. Then you hear the news about Dayton.

I want to ask you this question and I know you've been asked this before, and we, as a country, have asked this before after mass shootings like this, do you sense that the politics are different this time so that action will actually happen?

WATTS: Look, the politics are different every time because as these horrific shooting tragedies continue to mount in our country, we do see hearts and minds change. We've seen that just in the last few days among Republican governors and members of Congress who realize that we don't have to live this way. And I'm grateful for their support because time is of the essence. Over 100 Americans are shot and killed in this country every day. It's not just the mass shootings and the school shootings, it's city gun homicides and rural community suicides. All of it matters. And it needs to be addressed immediately.

Our lawmakers have the power to stop this. And we need them to do so immediately.

SCIUTTO: Now, I'm sure you saw "The Washington Post" reporting that the president met or spoke with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, and the NRA president told him that his base does not want even background checks, that that would damage the president with his base. We know that the president is counting on re-election in 2020 based on a base strategy.

Is that where real gun action dies?

WATTS: Well, first of all, gun lobbyists should not be writing our nation's gun laws. That's what got us into this mess in the first place. But also we know 90 percent of Americans support stronger gun laws and that includes people who voted for Donald Trump.

So if the president is serious about passing stronger gun laws and protecting Americans, which he said that he is, then he needs to tell Mitch McConnell to pass background checks and a strong red flag law immediately. And Americans who want to call their senators should text the word "checks" to 64433 and we will patch you in to make that call.

SCIUTTO: You noted as well in your "Washington Post" editorial something that is interesting, because I think folks at home, we all have a tendency to say, throw our hands up in the air, say nothing's changing here. But you note in that editorial that if you look at the mid-terms actually, that gun control advocates helped flip seven statehouses. That's key. A lot of laws is written in the statehouses. But also helped Democrats win many swing congressional districts.

Is that a sign, in your view, particularly when you look at suburban voters who tend to favor gun control measures, is that -- is that evidence to you that the politics of this are changing?

WATTS: It's such an important point. You know, everyone is waiting for this cathartic moment in Congress. I understand. But we have made such significant strides in statehouses and in boardrooms. And as you said, we not only out maneuvered the NRA in the 2018 elections, we outspent them. As a result, we elected over 1,000 candidates that are gun sense candidates across the country, from city council to Congress. We've flipped the makeup of seven state legislators. We've gone into those states and passed stronger gun laws. In many cases we are winning. And we go into 2020 stronger than we've ever been. There is so much reason to have hope on this issue, but we need every single American to get off the sidelines and to vote specifically on gun safety.

[09:50:32] SCIUTTO: So you're going to Louisville. You're going to challenge the immovable object of the Senate, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who often, in these situations, won't even allow a vote on it, let alone try to get a Republican majority to push through measures like this. How does a caravan in this context make a difference with Mitch McConnell?

WATTS: We're so grateful that Congressman Tim Ryan started this grassroots caravan and we're happy to go with him all the way from Ohio to Kentucky today.

But it isn't just that. You know, this is about making sure we're having this national conversation for a long time. We're going to be meeting in district with all of our members of Congress throughout the month of August as Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers and we're going to keep the pressure on. We need the Senate to come back and to vote on these bills.

And we're also going to be focusing -- you know, there's a huge election in 2019 and what these senators decide will have an impact on that. Every single seat in the Virginia assembly is up for election.

And then, obviously, building momentum going into 2020. We're having a forum, a gun sense forum in Des Moines on Saturday. Fourteen presidential candidates are coming and we're going to shine a spotlight on this issue. We are going to keep this at the forefront of the national conversation.

SCIUTTO: Final question. We learned that the shooter, the El Paso suspect's mother called police weeks before the shooting concerned that her son had this AK-style weapon, semi-automatic weapon, a weapon of war. I've seen it in war zones myself. And the police said it's legal. Nothing we can do. What is your reaction to that?

WATTS: Well, first of all, Governor Abbott in Texas, they suggested that he pass red flag laws after the Santa Fe High School shooting and he backed down because the NRA put pressure on him. So Texas doesn't have a red flag law. And that really speaks to why we need a strong, red flag law at the federal level. In the 17 states where they've been passed, we see that they work for gun suicides and gun homicides and it would save lives and it certainly could have helped in this situation.

SCIUTTO: Shannon Watts, thanks so much for coming on. We appreciate the passion for the work that you do.

WATTS: Thank you. SCIUTTO: A billionaire businessman now facing calls for a consumer boycott because he wants to host an expensive fundraiser for President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:33] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

The chairman and majority owner of the Miami Dolphins now faces criticism for his decision to host a high-dollar fundraiser for President Trump in the Hamptons. Members of Stephen Ross' luxury gym and exercise companies are also calling for a boycott.

CNN's Cristina Alesci joins me now with more -- a lot of social media reaction to this, SoulCycle, et cetera.

Tell us what you're learning.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction on social media has been fast and furious and that's because consumers and customers of SoulCycle and Equinox, both high-end gyms and cycling studios, really feel betrayed like a slap in the face. That's because these brands have incorporated inclusion, diversity, LGBTQ rights into their marketing. For example, in June, during Pride Month, they hosted several pride rides. So these customers really feel betrayed.

And the social media backlash is just very forceful at this point. Celebrities weighing in. They see it as total hypocrisy that Stephen Ross, who is a billionaire developer and has a partial ownership stake in both companies, is hosting this fundraiser. He's very close to Donald Trump. And one of those celebrities that I mentioned is Billy Eichner. We just had his tweet up on air. He said, what's your policy for canceling membership once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?

Meanwhile, Equinox and SoulCycle to trying to distance themselves from Stephen Ross, who owns part of the company. They put out a statement saying, neither Equinox nor SoulCycle have anything to do with the event later this week and do not support it. As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians.

But here's the thing, Jim, I've got to call this out, because this is a fairly disingenuous statement to put out there because I think our viewers are smart enough to know, even though official company profits aren't used, people do not want to indirectly support a billionaire real estate developers who has brands that promote inclusion and diversity, meanwhile they believe that this administration is essentially antithetical to those values. So that's what's going on here.

It's unclear how much of a hit they're taking to their bottom line. I've asked the company to tell me if they've seen an increase in membership cancellations. I have yet to hear back.

Jim. [10:00:00] SCIUTTO: Yes, the boycott becoming a political tool, a

political weapon even in this highly divisive environment.

Cristina Alesci, thanks very much.

ALESCI: Of course.

END