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NEW DAY

El Paso Suspect's Mother Called Police Weeks Before Massacre; Trump Falsely Accuses Senator, Mayor of Misrepresenting Visit; WH Rebuffed Attempts to Make Domestic Terrorism A Higher Priority; Biden: Trump Fans "The Flames of White Supremacy"; 2020 Dems Call Out Trump Over Rhetoric, Response to Shootings; Owner of Equinox, Miami Dolphins Under Fire for Trump Fundraiser. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[07:00:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turned on television, and they are saying same old line.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): He was comforting and he did the right things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he feels his good intentions are being misrepresented then he's going to try to counter that narrative.

MAYOR NAN WHALEY (D), DAYTON, OHIO: Talking very divisive and that's the last thing we need in Dayton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president who is incapable of setting aside the strike of partisanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that some of the Democrats work with the White House and to try to work in that piece of legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sitting around waiting for Mitch McConnell to get his marching orders from Trump. Come on, Mitch McConnell, where are your guts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. Alisyn is off.

I'm John Berman in El Paso, and Erica Hill joins me this morning from Washington.

So, a day that was supposed to be about grieving instead became a lot about grievance. The president, people here in El Paso and in Dayton this morning, they're trying to figure out where the president's head was all day while meeting with people affected by this tragedy.

Now, he is back in Washington this morning. We're going to have much more on the strange moments over the last 24 hours. But we also have important new information about the White House pushing back on an effort to put a greater emphasis on domestic terror and white supremacy.

Also, new reporting this morning on the efforts to battle gun violence, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And part of that, support for stronger background checks we know is also growing. President Trump expressing his support, the question though this morning is whether that lasts.

CNN learned he spoke with NRA President Wayne LaPierre on Tuesday and with that call came a warning. The Washington Post reporting LaPierre told the president the idea will alienate his base. And so far, of course, there has been no action on gun control, John, here in Washington.

BERMAN: So true. And we're going to begin though with exclusive new CNN reporting on a possible missed signal here in El Paso. So, weeks before the massacre that took place behind me, the suspected gunman's mother called police. She called police, concerned that her son owned an assault-style rifle and didn't know how to use it.

Now, she did not leave her name or her son's. Her concerns were dismissed by police who said based on the information her son had a legal right to have that gun. But again, let that sink in. The mother of the suspected shooter called police with concerns.

CNN's Brian Todd joins me here in El Paso to give us much more on this. And just that one phrase I think will be alarming and disappointing, shocking to the people here in El Paso.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean,, clearly, you know, you're raising questions about a red flag possibly missed here. But then it raises questions about how much she interacted with police and what specific information did she give them. Because according to our investigative team who spoke to lawyers for the family, she called the Allen Texas Police Department in the weeks before the shooting, expressed concern about her son owning an AK-type firearm. Concerned really because of his age, his maturity level and his lack of experience dealing with that kind of a weapon.

But apparently, according to these lawyers, she did not express concern that he posed a threat to anyone. And the lawyers were telling our investigative team that, you know, this was not a volatile or explosive or erratic behaving kid and there were no alarm bells raised. Well, then, OK, why are you calling police to express concern? Is there a disconnect here?

So clearly there is something there and we're trying to get some more information, again, from the Allen Texas Police. They're not really giving us a lot of information or they're not giving us documentation about the call. They did not really ask for much more information from the mother other than to say that given her explanation of the situation, he was legally entitled to have that weapon. BERMAN: All right, this is so interesting. So we have a key data point here which is the mother called police with concerns about her gun -- her son owning this weapon. This is so pertinent now because there are the discussions about these so-called red flag laws that exist in some states, not Texas, which would allow police, usually a judge, to step in and take a gun away if someone close to a person in question calls with concerns about a threat to his or herself or others. So the question now is would a red flag law have caught this? And based on what you're telling me, Brian, you go more into this, we simply don't know because she didn't say he was a threat to himself or others, correct?

TODD: That's right. I mean, there are so many nuances here that have to be brought out when a mother or somebody makes a call about a relative and concerns, right? You have to have to be specific. And really maybe it's up to the police to ask very specific questions. You know, why are you even calling us?

When did he buy the weapon? What has he done with it? You know, things like that, specific questions. And again, from what we're told so far, police did not really ask those questions that we know of.

BERMAN: And that's the part of it where we don't know maybe if a red flag law had it existed would have made a difference because police would have pushed more for much more information.

TODD: Right.

BERMAN: Specifically, why then really are you calling? Brian Todd, this reporting raises so many questions. Thanks to you and our investigative team for bringing it to us.

[07:05:5] President Trump lashing out at Dayton's mayor and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, both Democrats, accusing them of misrepresenting his hospital visit with victims and first responders from the mass shooting. They were with him in Dayton. Now, Erica, let me go to you for the rest here.

HILL: Well, of course, some facts first on this. They did actually praise the president afterwards. In fact, here is what they said.

(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 that -- in those hospital rooms.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: The president and the White House -- White House aides I should say, ripping both the senator and the mayor after those comments. CNN's Daniel Dale is live in Washington with a little bit more of the back and forth in sort of two alternate realities -- two different realities this morning.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Yes, this seemed to be a strange and coordinated attack by not only the president but his team. So shortly after the three of them, the president, the mayor, and the senator left the hospital in Dayton, the president's social media chief Dan Scavino accused them of, quote, lying about what happened at the hospital. Then press secretary Stephanie Grisham joined in telling CNN's Jeremy Diamond that what they said was, quote, disgusting.

And then we had a tweet from the president himself who said that the visit had been totally misrepresented by the mayor and the senator and what happened bore no resemblance to what actually happened at the hospital. I should note that journalists we're not permitted to accompany them at the hospital so we don't have independent accounts. But as you showed, you know, they were overwhelmingly positive about the hospital visit. They said he was comforting, they said he was well-received.

And so when Mayor Whaley was presented with this tweet, she expressed some bewilderment. Watch the clip here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHALEY: I don't -- I mean, like I'm really confused. We said he was treated like very well, so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd love to hear what mis --

WHALEY: I don't know why he's talking about misrepresenting, so. Oh well, you know, he lives in his world of Twitter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DALE: So there was a little bit of criticism from both of them. Senator Brown said that some people had privately told him at the hospital they didn't -- they weren't great admirers of President Trump but he said even they expressed respect for the office when he was there.

Erica?

HILL: Interesting. Also a reminder for us, some words of the president in the past, what you're seeing and hearing is not really happening. Daniel Dale, always appreciate it, thank you.

Just ahead in our next hour, we will actually get new reaction. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, will join us.

John?

BERMAN: All right, joining us now to talk about stuff, David Chalian, CNN political director, Bianna Golodryga, a CNN contributor, and also with us is John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst. And friends, the people in El Paso this morning, I think are trying to figure out what the heck happened here over the last 24 hours. And yes, and Nan Whaley and Sherrod Brown and people on the ground here, they give the president credit for meeting with first responders and meeting with the families of victims.

But before and during and after, all this grievances from the president and the very real question, what on earth does the president complaining about Sherrod Brown and Nan Whaley and Julian Castro and talking about commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich? How on earth does that help the people of El Paso, Texas heal and get through this process?

David, this was a strange day in a cognitive dissident day even in the standards that we've come to expect from the president.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, no doubt, John. Not terribly surprising that he would still use the politics of grievance even if there was nothing to be aggrieved about at certain points. What was interesting to me was when I heard the president in El Paso talk about the great respect for the office of the presidency that was shown. He was able to separate himself out of the office, which on a day like this it's all about the office of the presidency, right? And yet he separated himself in ways that rebound against him because he thinks, oh, you can show respect to the office of the presidency, victims, family members, what have you, but I, Donald Trump, the president, can still go off and tweet grievance politics and be petty and inject small politics into a day that is obviously supposed to be one of mourning, of consolation.

BERMAN: Yes, he is the occupancy -- he is the occupant, I should say of that job right now in the White House. So that is what people are talking about.

Bianna, it strikes me that the victims inside the University Medical Center here in El Paso, there's reporting this morning that the victims themselves would not meet with the president.

[07:10:04] Now, they met with other politicians over the last few days, so it's notable, Bianna, that they chose not to meet with the president.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is -- and it's such a trivial issue when you think about it from a larger scale, John. I mean, I watched that press conference yesterday with the senator and with the mayor. They did speak kindly about some of the reception that the president and the first lady received and you played that clip. Obviously the majority of Americans didn't watch that though. So now that they're waking up to this as the nation is still healing and trying to piece together what happened after these tragedies, to once again find their president in this petty war of words, it's just ridiculous.

And once again, it sets the tone for what the president is supposed to be doing at a time like this. In the past we've always relied on our presidents to bring the nation together regardless of party, and then focus on how to prevent such attacks again. We have been behind, I would argue, the rest of the world when it comes to what steps can be taken to prevent future attacks. But we've always come together. We've become very good at a nation healing and in a president saying the right words at the right time. We don't have that right now.

What we didn't hear from the president is defending the Hispanic community. This Hispanic community in this country in El Paso was attacked. They are afraid. You have done pieces on this earlier in the show about the heightened sense of insecurity they're feeling.

We didn't hear or see any of that from the president yesterday and that's what's lacking right now. And you realize why it's so important to have the president, regardless of who's attacking, who's saying what, he's above it all, he's above the fray, he's the president of the United States. And the United States, what stands out from the rest of the world is that we are a nation of immigrants. We come together at times of tragedy, and I don't see the nation coming together under what this president has thus far done by his actions.

BERMAN: It was a glaring absence to focus on the Latino community, one is in El Paso and in his words of the last several days. That's a very good point, Bianna.

John, I think people will push back and say the president can walk and chew gum at the same time, but there are certain days and yesterday may have been one of them where you just want to walk.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. This is not a day where you want to indulge your pettiest instincts, even if you're in -- and especially if you're the president because it is about being the comforter-in-chief. But the president's got an empathy deficit. He's got a creditability chasm when it comes to confronting white nationalist terrorism and reaching out to the Hispanic community in our country.

And so that was, you know, clear for everyone to see. That's at the heart of some of the tone deafness and discords we saw yesterday.

But I want to bring something else into this too which is our friend and colleague Jake Tapper's reporting that the DHS is saying that the White House has been had idealogical blinders on when it comes to confronting domestic terror, when it comes confronting white nationalist terrors. And this has been a long standing problem. They want to focus solely on the other side of equation, Jihadi terrorism.

That is deeply troubling. When that kind of a political pushback instinct --

BERMAN: Right.

AVLON: -- idealogical blinders are stopping them from dealing with reality. That is a sign of an absence of leadership. That's a dereliction of duty.

BERMAN: Well, let's go back into that reporting a little bit, John, and I'll follow up with you on this. Jake reported yesterday that the White House rebuffed efforts from Homeland Security over the last year to put a greater emphasis on domestic terror and thereby white supremacy. And the feeling was among some who talked to Jake these were just issues you didn't want to bring up with the president because you know he didn't like to talk about it.

What does that tell you, John?

AVLON: What -- and what does it sound like? First of all, he prefers to be in denial about a real problem, perhaps because it makes him uncomfortable, perhaps because he's afraid of offending certain people. But what does it also sound like?

The reporting we heard about the DHS being told not to confront the president with questions about election security in Russia even though we know from Chris Wray, the FBI director and other folks, this is a real and ongoing problem. The chief of staff allegedly told the Homeland Security director not to bring that information to the president, similar ideological discomfort to dealing with another clear and present danger, white nationalist terrorism.

That is a glaring sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with the president's ability to assess threats and to address them proactively from the White House. He's putting everything through a personal and idealogical prism where you're whole fully blind to a problem that your top aides are coming and telling you we need to deal with to keep Americans safe.

BERMAN: David Chalian, what are your political antennae tell you this morning about the direction of the gun safety discussion in this country and in Congress specifically? I take the reporting from Brian Todd here that the mother of the shooter here called police worried about her son owning an AK weapon. It's the type of thing that maybe one of these red flag laws could stop.

Add that to the reporting that the president himself keeps talking about background checks.

[07:15:00] I'm not sold that he really feels this way because he said it before and I don't even know how much he understands about the discussion on background checks, David, but where is it going?

CHALIAN: Right. And we know he's also talked to Senator Pat Toomey on, you know, that background checks legislation, John. It is impossible to approach this in any way but with a really heavy dose of skepticism.

As you noted, he has voiced support for background checks before only to walk away from it. And in the intervening hours, it wasn't like Mitch McConnell was sort of taking that lead and driving to the Senate floor to get that through. So I don't have high hopes that there is going to be dramatic change to the gun laws. I just -- by the time that Congress gets back, you know how these things go, it dissipates from the headlines. They don't feel the pressure as much, and yet, there's clearly a call in the country for action.

So you pointed to the red flag laws. Maybe that is the beginning of a process. But I don't know if you look at the totality of the sort of gun violence epidemic that exists, that that is going to be solution enough, especially for the advocates of gun safety legislation.

AVLON: Right.

CHALIAN: So I would just say, cautious about thinking that this is somehow going to move Washington in the direction that it's been refusing to go for, you know, well over a decade now.

GOLODRYGA: And we still haven't laid out the parameters on how red flag warnings would work. I mean, it's still so vague. You all know people, we all know people that may be a bit disturbed or maybe loners or what have you. So, our authorities going to question every single person?

We know there are more guns in this country than there are people. So every single person that they maybe a bit suspicious then they're going to -- it just creates this other big question of how is this going to be implemented.

BERMAN: And different states already have laws in placed and they handle those questions in different ways. One of the discussions now is providing federal grants to states to do it in their own way. But you're right, Bianna, there are certainly questions about how it will be implemented nationwide.

John, Bianna, David, thank you very, very much.

Erica?

HILL: John, Joe Biden's toughest attack yet in the wake of the El Paso shooting and the shooting in Dayton, of course, coming yesterday. Accusing the president of embracing white supremacy. And he is not the only Democratic candidate on the attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:21:26] HILL: Former Vice President Joe Biden in a fiery speech, connecting President Trump's racist rhetoric with the mass shooting in El Paso.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation. His low energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him, condemning white supremacists this week I don't believe fooled anyone at home or abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining me now, Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, and Mitch Landrieu, former Democratic mayor of New Orleans and a CNN political commentator. Gentlemen, good to have both of you with us this morning.

Joe Biden, really coming out strongly yesterday, clearly getting the president's attention as well as he was tweeting about it in between stops in Dayton and El Paso. When you look at the Joe Biden, Paul that we saw yesterday, as we talked about earlier, for some Democrats this is the Joe Biden they've been waiting to see on the campaign trail.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITCAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, Erica. I've known Joe Biden -- I guess I don't have a candidate in the race, I really don't have a favorite. But I've known like everybody in Democratic politics for decades. And I've never seen him better.

This is Joe Biden at his best. I thought his debate performances were pretty uneven but being, you know, president is about rising to an occasion. And I think Democrats and most independents have given up on this president rising to an occasion. But there's been questions about Joe, can he rise to the occasion.

I thought the speech yesterday in content, in tone, in substance, and the political courage to say the things that he said about the president, that he fans the flames of white supremacy, I just think this is Biden at its best. I think this is what Democrats have been looking for out of Joe Biden.

HILL: Mitch, you also pointed out, it might be Joe Biden at his best but what's going to be really important for these candidates in 2020, especially as they are battling for that Democratic nomination, is to really listen to the voters. And voters I would say expect more because they can interact with candidates in a different way than they could even in 2016. Do you think he's listening to the voters with the words that we heard yesterday?

MITCH LANDRIEU, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that he is. I mean, the nation needed to be called into a moment yesterday. Whether you have a Democratic president or a Republican president, when a national catastrophe occurs, the nation really expects to take a moment and to stay focus on the victims, the thing, and then not only the short term solutions but the long term solutions. And of course, just oppose to the way the president acted yesterday, the vice president actually looked a lot more presidential and was a lot more on tone and on task for what it is that's ailing the country.

White nationalism and white supremacy are serious problem. It is a terror threat. We have to act like that so that we can honor the victims and hopefully never have although unfortunately you know that we are, a situation like we had in El Paso and Dayton.

HILL: When you look at the reaction of the president yesterday, Joe Biden was asked about it, asked what he thought of the tweet and he said the president needs to get a life.

LANDRIEU: Well, it's just --

HILL: Paul, is that the best -- oh, go ahead, Mitch. LANDRIEU: It's just crashingly painful. After Katrina, after the shootings that we've had across the country, the police officers that were killed in Dallas, the president whether they're Democrat or Republican show up and they're supposed to heal the country. And they're supposed to stay focus on the thing, not bring focus to themselves.

And so it really is just painful this morning that we're actually talking about the president rather than the victims or how to reduce violence on the streets of America. It's tragic for us and it's just -- it's not right.

HILL: And those are absolutely conversations that need to be had. We should point out Joe Biden not the only one calling out the president yesterday and not the only one in making a forceful speech. You know, Cory Booker, of course, was out there.

[07:25:02] We also have heard from Beto O'Rourke who, of course, is from El Paso over the last number of days.

See Paul, because, well, when you're looking at all these different reactions and specifically Cory Booker yesterday, Paul, do you think this is a new trend for these Democratic candidates? And that they are being more forceful, they're being pointed and will that continue.

BEGALA: I think so. I think that Michelle Obama said a very wise thing when her husband was president. She said the presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are. And earlier than I would have thought, the process is stripping the artifice away from the candidates and we're seeing them for who they are. I do -- I think Cory Booker spoke from the heart so powerfully at Mother Bethel Church, a sacred ground in Charleston where, of course, bible study parishioners were murdered by a white nationalist, white supremacist terrorist.

Steve Bullock was talking here in Washington said that the president abets our enemies abroad and encourages them at home or something like that where he conflated the risks of challenges to democracy.

This is I think what Democrats are looking for. And more importantly actually, if you think about it as a political analyst which is what I am, the presidency may likely be determined in the suburbs by a lot of white folks who do not hold those racially hostile views, who want their president to bring us together the way that President Obama did after those murders in Charleston or the way that President Bush did after 9/11, the way that President Clinton did after right-wing wide terrorism in Oklahoma City. That's if I'm working for Trump, I'm terribly, terribly worried that I'm going to lose the suburbs and therefore lose the presidency.

HILL: You -- go ahead, Mitch.

LANDRIEU: I'm just saying -- and besides that, what the American people want is to be safe. They want to be safe in their homes, they want their kids to be safe. It's not OK for them to send their daughter to Walmart to get supplies for school and to be killed or to have children killed on porches when they're at birthday parties.

And they want us to focus on what is the answer to dealing with the culture of violence in the United States of America, whether it's white nationalism, street crime or mass murders that we have. And right now we're talking about a lot of other stuff because you know this is going to happen again. And I just think the country is going to get really frustrated that we have yet to find an answer in this great country to this problem which in fact is solvable.

HILL: And I know you certainly have a lot of experience in that department so we're going to be calling on you more. Nice to have you in the family as well I should point out.

LANDRIEU: OK, thank you.

HILL: Mitch Landrieu, Paul Begala, thank you both.

BEGALA: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: The billionaire owner of Equinox and SoulCycle facing backlash this morning over a planned Hampton's fundraiser tomorrow for President Trump's re-election campaign. Stephen Ross also owns the NFL'S Miami Dolphins. News of the fundraiser prompting celebrities, among them Chrissy Teigen, to urge people to cancel their memberships.

CNN's Cristina Alesci joining us now with more reaction. I mean, once this picked up steam, it just took off.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the reaction, to your point, was fast and furious. Many consumers of Equinox and SoulCycle really feel like this fundraiser is a slap in the face. And that's because these two brands in particular, Equinox and SoulCycle, these high-end gyms really cater to a diverse, inclusive audience. And they make those messages part of their marketing.

For example, in June, SoulCycle hosted a series of pride rides to support and celebrate the LGBTQ community. So this was really seen is as a slap in the face. And now the company is taking a tremendous amount of heat.

To your point celebrities are weighing in, including actor and comedian Billy Eichner. He tweeted, "Hey Equinox, what's your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?"

We don't know what the impact of all of this Twitter backlashes but the companies have been added to an online protest called Grab Your Wallet. This was the same group that protested retailers who were selling Ivanka Trump's brand.

I've reached out to the company and asked them, have you seen an increase in membership cancel cancellations? I have not heard back yet. But Soulcyle and Equinox putting out this statement yesterday that says, "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 the politicians."

I just want to call out this statement because I think most viewers are smart enough to know that this kind of response does not hold any water. People are upset and they don't want to even indirectly support the company that is basically has a part owner that is going ahead and supporting President Trump whose policies are really seen as antithetical to what these companies stand for, Erica.

HILL: Interesting to see. What they say when they get back to you, hopefully that will happen soon and what this backlash leads to. Cristina, thanks.

ALESCI: Of course.

HILL: John?

BERMAN: Thank you so much, Erica. Yes, if your voice might face there.

Coming up, new fears in immigrant communities following the horrible massacre here in El Paso.

HILL: Just ahead, new fear --

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