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Trump Visits to El Paso and Dayton; McConnell Faces Pressure; White House Search for DNI; Latinos Across the U.S. on Edge; Biles Says USA Gymnastics Failed. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:28] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president is back in Washington this morning after visits to these sites, these two cities where the unthinkable massacres took place. His visit, and all the atmosphere surrounding it, it did get political. What's the reaction on the ground from his supporters?

Joining me now is El Paso Texas Republican Party Chairman Adolpho Telles.

Adolfo, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

Did you get a chance to meet with the president yesterday?


BERMAN: How do you assess the visit?

TELLES: You know, I -- I think the visit was great. I'm glad he showed up. I think it's important that he shows up because, again, you know, what we went through was a big -- a tragedy, a real tragedy. And for him to recognize it, to be here, which is what he's done with other tragedies throughout the nation, I think was important.

BERMAN: The victims in -- at the university medical center, there are reports this morning that the victims still in the hospital would not meet with him. They would not meet with the president. What does that tell you?

TELLES: Well, it tells me that our local politicians have spewed so much venom that they're looking for sound bites to blame somebody and they're blaming --

BERMAN: This is -- this isn't -- this isn't the politicians. These are the people who were shot.

TELLES: Well, but they're -- they're blaming -- they're -- and they're listening to the -- they're listening to our local politicians, O'Rourke and Escobar, Moody, who are -- who are -- they're spewing the venom. And what's happening is they're only talking about and blaming the president for what occurred. But they're not talking about the document that was issued by the shooting where he put in there that giving people $1,000 a month is unreasonable, unacceptable, and he needs to do something about it. He talked about health care for all, including illegals in his --

BERMAN: Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on.

TELLES: None of that -- none of that's being addressed.

BERMAN: I don't want to -- look, look, I'm asking -- I'm asking --

TELLES: None of that's being addressed.

BERMAN: I'm asking about the victims. And the question is, what does it tell you that when after a tragedy like this that people who were shot in that building behind us don't feel comfortable speaking with the president of the United States? And it's them. They're the ones who are deciding. They have their own agency here. So --

TELLES: You know, I wasn't there, so I don't know that that's a fact. It wouldn't surprise me that some of them would take that position. It would surprise me very much if all of them did, which is what the implication is in the question. So I -- you know, I can't respond to that. I wasn't there.

And, in this town, you're going to have people on both sides of the fence. There are people that are going to react that way. There's others who are going to react very positively, which is what I've been hearing since the beginning on -- when the president was coming. That's great. We're glad to see that he's here.

If he wouldn't have showed up, the same politicians would be criticizing him for not showing up. So it's a lose, lose situation for him.

BERMAN: CNN is reporting, our Jake Tapper reported yesterday, that the White House rebuffed efforts by Homeland Security to put a greater emphasis on domestic terror and white supremacy. We know from the writings of the suspected shooter at this Walmart behind us here that he went after this location because of his feelings about Hispanics and Latinos. Again, the White House rebuffed efforts to put a greater emphasis on white supremacy. What does that tell you?

TELLES: Well, and I think that's changing though. I think if you listen to what the president said, he said that terrorism, no matter where it comes from, is never going to be acceptable in this country. So where he didn't say white supremacy, he's talking about terrorism across the board, which is expertly what needs to be addressed because this one happened to be a focus on Hispanics. I'm Hispanic. I don't feel threatened by it. But you can go anyplace else that threatens against blacks, there's -- against Muslims. Just go down the line, you'll find people that are threatening certain segments of our -- of our population. And that's going to continue.

BERMAN: In this case, the suspected shooter threatened directly Hispanics and Latinos.

TELLES: I agree with you. He did. I agree.

BERMAN: Twenty-two people are dead this morning.

[06:35:01] One of the things that happened yesterday, the president did visit first responders in Dayton, visit first responders here, and the families of the victims here, victims in Dayton, Ohio. He did all of those things. At the same time, he was talking about political opponents, he was talking about Sherrod Brown, he was talking about the Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. On the way home, he's talking about Rod Blagojevich, maybe commuting his sentence.

Does that sound like someone to you who is exclusively focused on the welfare of these victims of these shootings?

TELLES: You know, we're talking about the president of the United States, and his job is not exclusive to this. This was important. He came over here and he's addressing it, he's taking the information he gained and he's going to use it for whatever decisions he does in the future.

But he's got 100 issues a day that he has to address. So when he's addressing these other issues, that's appropriate.

I'm a businessman. I worked with a large firm for a long term and I never was exclusively focused on one thing and I don't think he can ever be exclusively focused on one item, except when he was here, he was focused on the victims and focused our police force, and that's the way it should be.

BERMAN: When he was here he was talking about Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, as well as Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

Adolpho Telles, thank you for being with us.

TELLES: John, thank you very much.

BERMAN: I appreciate the time you've given us. This community is going to need you in the days and weeks ahead.

TELLES: Well, thank you. Appreciate that.

BERMAN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

TELLES: Thank you.

BERMAN: Erica, let's go back to you in Washington.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: John, Washington problems are following Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell back to Kentucky and he is now facing new pressure at home. That's next.


[06:40:31] HILL: "The Washington Post" reporting this morning President Trump's support for background checks following two mass shootings drew a warning from the NRA. Meantime, calls for Senate action on guns are now at Mitch McConnell's doorstep in Kentucky.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live in Louisville with more for us this morning.

Lauren, good morning.


That's right, pressure is growing on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. We expect Tim Ryan, a Democratic presidential candidates, will be headed to Louisville tonight with supporters from Ohio trying to pressure the majority leader to take action and bring gun legislation to the floor of the United States Senate.

But, of course, he's not just getting pressure from Democrats. Yesterday, President Trump said he was open to doing something on background checks. And we know that privately and publicly he is putting pressure on Republicans to take action. He is having conversations with Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, somebody who has supported expanding background checks in the past.

Now, behind the scenes, GOP aides say, look, their members are talking. They're having conversations. They're trying to figure out how to stop more mass shootings. But the reality is, a background checks expansion would be maybe too much for Republicans to stomach.

So the big question is, is there something they could do on so-called red flag laws to incentivize states to pass more of those? They're also just trying to get a sense of whether Trump is actually serious about supporting something for the long haul.

Look, they're all the way on recess and there's a big question whether or not the president is going to keep his focus on this issue moving forward.

Now, I've been told from Republican aides that if there was ever a moment to do something, now would be it. There's a perception that the NRA is weak and I want to leave you with one thing that one Republican aide told me yesterday. He said, quote, there is a growing disdain for that part of the gun culture that thinks the essence of the Second Amendment is being able to walk around with a military grade weapon. So that gives you a sense of where the Republicans are at this moment.


HILL: Lauren Fox with the latest for us. Lauren, thank you.

Sources close to the Trump administration tell CNN exclusively that White House officials rebuffed efforts by Department of Homeland Security colleagues to make combatting domestic terror threats a greater priority in the national counterterrorism strategy. Now, this reporting comes as the search for a new director of National Intelligence returns, of course, back to square one after President Trump's first choice, Congressman John Ratcliffe, abruptly pulled out of the running.

Alex Marquardt is live here in Washington with the latest developments for us.

Alex, good morning.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Erica. That's right, there are big questions this morning over why the White House, for over a year, repeatedly ignored the Department of Homeland Security's calls for the Trump administration to focus more on domestic terrorism. Now, sources are telling our colleague, Jake Tapper, that the White House only wanted to focus on the jihadist threat while disregarding the rise of racial extremist violence here at home.

Now, eventually, a paragraph about domestic terrorism was inserted into the official national counterterrorism strategy, but a source called that a throwaway line that does not mention white supremacists.

Now, as you mentioned, all of this is happening as the White House seems to have hit the reset button really in its search to replace Dan Coats as the director of National Intelligence. The Trump administration, of course, suffered a huge blow when Congressman John Ratcliffe withdrew himself over a five-day firestorm over his lack of experience, his exaggerated resume and his noteworthy political partisanship.

Sources are telling CNN that the White House is going through a more deliberative and diligent process, while also looking for someone who would be palatable to the president. Several administration officials are telling CNN that they are willing to take their time, they're consulting with the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, as well as others on Capitol Hill and various national security experts.

Some of the names that we are hearing being floated are the former Georgia Congressman Saxby Chambliss, the former NSA director, Mike Rogers, and the current ambassador to the Netherlands, John (ph) Hoekstra.

Time is very much ticking, though, Erica. Dan Coats steps down exactly a week from today. The White House still hasn't said who will be the acting DNI during that nomination process. Dan Coats' number two, Sue Gordon, would be the logical choice given her decades in the intelligence community and wide separate respect for her. The president recently said that he does like Sue Gordon but she is very much part of the intelligence establishment, which the president has repeatedly criticized.


[06:45:08] HILL: All right, as you point out, the clock is ticking. Alex, thank you.

Up next, living in fear. We speak with members of a Latino community to find out how the shooting in El Paso is now affecting their everyday lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: The hatred erupted here in El Paso, but the fear is being felt across the country. Latinos who were already on edge, they're feeling an increased sense of dread after the carnage this weekend. Their community no longer the target of just rhetoric, but now of deadly violence.

CNN Polo Sandoval joins us now with much more on this.

Polo, I have to say, this is something we have heard repeatedly from people here on the ground. They are scared.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And going back, John, to Saturday, when the shooting happened, those what ifs immediately came to mind for me. What if this white supremacist had driven south to my border town, walked into the Walmart that my family shops at. You know, the more fellow Hispanics that I hear from, it becomes clear that what happened on Saturday, where you are, was really a turning point.

[06:50:10] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL (voice over): Some 2,200 miles from El Paso, Hispanics in Long Island, New York, say they are living in fear. Saturday's attack targeting migrants in El Paso reverberated across minority communities throughout the country, including here in the city of Brentwood, New York, not far from where there was a series of attacks targeting Hispanics a decade ago, where Maria Magdelena Hernandez worries Salvadoran immigrants, such as herself, could also become the targets of white nationalists.

SANDOVAL (on camera): What's changed in the last few days? Is there more fear?

For me there's an increased fear, says Hernandez, adding, we may not talk about it, but it's definitely palpable in and around our communities. We deserve dignity, respect and peace. Hernandez's feelings were shared by many we spoke to, including her co-worker Javier Guzman.

JAVIER GUZMAN, ORGANIZER, MAKE THE ROAD NEW YORK: He was trying to kill immigrants. That's why he went all the way down to the -- to -- to the border. So that's scary.

SANDOVAL (voice over): Guzman, an organizer with Make the Road New York, which helps migrants, says this concern has been heavy on the minds of the families he helps.

GUZMAN: We've seen a lot of fear in the community because of that, and because they -- 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: It's also personal for Latinos on the West Coast.

When things like this happen, we get more worried, and we can't remain calm, says Jose Sanchez, a Mexican native living in L.A. This week, President Trump called on the nation to condemn the racism and white supremacy espoused by the El Paso shooter. For many it fell short.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.

SANDOVAL: The president did not acknowledge that some of the racist words that police believe the shooter posted online actually echoed the president's own words. In an online manifesto, police say the killer rambled about a, quote, Hispanic invasion of Texas.

TRUMP: You look at what's marching up. That's an invasion.

Our country is full. We're full.

How do you stop these people? You can't. That's no --


TRUMP: That's only in the panhandle you can get away with that statement.

SANDOVAL: The president's words, some say, helped fuel racism, embolden white supremacists and create a climate of fear among the nation's nearly 60 million Latinos.

Back at the scene of the deadliest attack on the Hispanic community in years, the shock and the grief are still raw.

CHRISTINA CARRILLO, EL PASO RESIDENT: We're back attacked and our government needs to step in. If not, the people here will step in.

SANDOVAL: Others are putting their message in writing at the ever growing makeshift memorial. Three little girls said they were American citizens and the daughters of Mexican parents, were afraid to go outside. They wrote to the president, we hope you read this message. God bless you.


SANDOVAL: It's those written words that are perhaps the most powerful. Despite this fear, I get the sense also that they will overcome this hate here. We saw it in Charleston with the African-American community and, of course, the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, John. And then there in El Paso, it's quite evident that they too are standing up against this hate.

BERMAN: Yes, I had a woman in tears here yesterday, Polo, talking to me about the fear she feels. And she's been in El Paso for some 30 years. She's never felt like this before.

Thank you so much, Polo.

So she is one of the most decorated gymnasts in history and she now has a message for U.S. Gymnastics.


SIMONE BILES, FOUR-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: You had one job. You literally have one job and you couldn't protect us.


BERMAN: Simone Biles' emotional moment, next.


[06:58:08] HILL: Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles blasting USA Gymnastics in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

Andy Scholes has more for us in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

She is not mincing words.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: No, she is not, Erica. Good morning to you.

Simone Biles, you know, she's getting ready to compete at the U.S. gymnastics championships in Kansas City and she broke down when she was speaking with reporters yesterday about the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Now, Biles was one of the hundreds of young female athletes abused by Nassar. An 18-month long congressional investigation found that the U.S. Olympics Committee and USA Gymnastics knowingly concealed Nassar's abuse. And Biles says it's tough to compete for an organization that didn't look out for its athletes.


SIMONE BILES, FOUR-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: It's hard coming here for an organization and having had them failed us so many times. And we -- we had one goal and we've done everything that they asked us for, even when we didn't want to, and they couldn't do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn't protect us.


SCHOLES: Yes, USA Gymnastics responded to Biles' comments saying, while they have made progress in strengthening athlete safety measures and putting athletes first, they admitted they still have work to do.

Nassar was sentenced to more than 100 years in federal prison for his crimes.

Biles, meanwhile, will be back competing tomorrow. And, Erica, she's won every meet she's competed in dating back to 2013. She certainly is one of the most dominating athletes we've seen in our time. And you see her there getting emotional, not the usual smile we're used to seeing here when she's winning because obviously she was affected greatly by Larry Nassar.

HILL: She is a -- she is a force to be reckoned with and she has an important, important message and it's good to hear her speaking up about it so that people don't forget what happened there.

Andy, thank you.


HILL: A CNN exclusive about a possible red flag in El Paso, missed.

NEW DAY continues right now.

[07:00:01] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turned on the television. Here they are saying the same old line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was comforting and he did the right things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he feels his good intentions are being misrepresented.