Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Speaks to Reporters at White House; Trump Says NRA Will Get on Board or Be Neutral on Gun Measures & He Doesn't Care About the Politics; Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (D) Discusses ICE Raids, Calls It Dehumanizing. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I really think that they're looking for me to make -- give them a signal. And we're going to have great support. And I think we'll have support from the Democrats also.



TRUMP: No, no. I never said what I'm saying now.


TRUMP: What I'm saying -- what I said is you have tremendous opposition from many people on both sides. I see a better feeling right now toward getting something meaningful done. Meaningful.

And we did do things after Parkland. But it wasn't to the same level that I'm talking about now. We did do the Fix NICs and various other things, so we did do a lot of work after Parkland.

But I think now a chance to do something really much more meaningful.


TRUMP: Having to do -- having to do, as you know, with background checks.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- What is your message to young children and teenagers who are anxious or nervous about going back to school after these mass shootings?

TRUMP: My message to young children going back to school is go and really study hard and, some day, you'll grow up and maybe be president of the United States or do something else that's fantastic. They have nothing to fear. They have nothing to worry about.

In addition, we're in constant contact with states, with state governments and they are really doing a great job.

It's so much better than it was two and a half years ago. Two and a half years ago, when I came in, it was not a good situation. I think we have a good system right now.

That doesn't mean there's not going to be some crazy person. But that's what we want to do. We want to take the guns out of the hands of crazy, demented, sick people.



TRUMP: We're not looking at that right now. We're really looking at very meaningful background checks. I think it's going to happen. There's great, great support. But we're looking at very, very meaningful background checks.


TRUMP: Admiral, as you know, Maguire, Admiral Maguire is a very talented man. He's a great leader as an admiral. He was always a great leader. He is a man who is respected by everybody. And he's going to be for a period of time. Who knows? Maybe he gets the job. But he'll be there for a period of time, maybe a longer period of time than we think. We'll see.

We're dealing with Senator Burr. We're dealing with the committee. We're dealing with probably nine or 10 people that want the job very much. You know the name of almost every one of them. They're truly outstanding. Everybody wants DNI. Everybody wants it.

I will say that the admiral is such a great choice from the standpoint of now, and maybe he goes further. We'll see what happens.

But we're dealing with a committee and Senate Burr. We have people, all of whom you know, highly respected people, who will be making a decision in the not too distant future.


TRUMP: Eugene Scalia is a highly respected attorney in Washington. His father was the great, great, great Supreme Court justice. Even people without his views would say he was a great gentleman and man. Eugene Scalia, Gene Scalia, has had a fantastic career.

As you know, he's our appointment for labor secretary. So far, it's been received very well. He is a very -- he's one of the finest minds and lawyers in Washington. And I will say so far that's been received very well.



TRUMP: He gave me a great letter. I would love to give it to you but I don't think it would be appropriate. But it was a very personal letter. It was a great letter. He talked about what he's doing. He's not happy with the testing. It's a very small testing that we did. But he wasn't happy with the testing. He put that in the letter.

But he also sees a great future for North Korea. And so we'll see how it all works out.

In the meantime, I say it again, there have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-range, no ballistic missile tests. No long-range missiles.

We got back and we're getting back, as we speak, we're getting back a lot of our fallen heroes. You know that. They're coming back into and through Hawaii. And we got back our hostages.

So I thought the letter -- I just got the letter yesterday. It was hand-delivered. And it wasn't touched by anybody. They literally take it from North Korea to my office. We have a system. It's the old-fashioned system. You don't have to worry about leaks. Something nice about that system.



[11:05:11] TRUMP: No, he wasn't. He wasn't happy with the tests, the war games, the war games on the other side with the United States.

And, as you know, I've never liked it either. I've never liked it. I've never been a fan. You know why? I don't like paying for it. We should be reimbursed for it. And I've told that to South Korea. But I don't like it either.

But I said do this, because this was a big test. This was a turnover of various areas to South Korea. I like that, because that's what should happen.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- United States and Japan, everywhere in the U.S., what is your reaction to that?

TRUMP: I can't imagine that. But if they did, we would just reciprocate. We are a very reciprocal nation with me as the head. When somebody does something negative to us in terms of a country, we do it to them.

Look, our country has been taken advantage of by foreign countries, even allies, including allies, and in many cases, more than anybody else. We've been taken advantage of for many, many years and it's stopped. It stopped.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In your view, Mr. President, should Colin Kaepernick get an opportunity to play in the NFL?

TRUMP: Only if he's good enough. If he's good enough. Why wouldn't he play if he's good enough. And I think if he was good enough -- I know the owners and I know Bob Kraft and so many of the owners. If he's good enough, they would sign him. So if he's good enough -- I know these people -- they would sign him in a heartbeat. They will do anything they can to win games.

So I would like to see it. Frankly, I would love to see Kaepernick come in if he's good enough. But I don't want to see him come in because somebody thinks it's a good P.R. move. If he's good enough, he will be in.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you worried about global markets pulling back at all?

TRUMP: Well, the global markets are not as good as our market. Our market has been really good.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you worried about the effect --


TRUMP: It's never positive, although, you could say, it puts us in an even better position.

I view it differently. Most people would say that's a bad thing. I would say the fact that other countries aren't doing really well -- China, in particular. China is doing horribly, horribly. It's the first time that anyone can remember, they are having a year like they never had. Almost, go back 30, 40 years, they're having one of the worst years ever.


TRUMP: The numbers are phony. They're not doing 6.2.


TRUMP: They're doing a totally different --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think they're doing?

TRUMP: Maybe neutral.


TRUMP: Maybe even --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- white nationalists. Do you believe reporters calling you a white supremacist helps you?

TRUMP: I don't think it helps. First of all, I don't like when they do it because I am not any of those things. I think it's a disgrace. And I think it shows how desperate the Democrats are.

Look, right now I'm working with the Democrats on meaningful background checks. That's a big thing. Hopefully, we can do something. So I don't want to focus too much on that.

I will say this. For them to throw out the race word again, racist, racist, racist, that's all they used to anybody. They called Nancy Pelosi a racist. She's not a racist. They call anybody a racist when they run out of cards.

I'm winning in the polls, they're desperate, they've got lousy candidates. They've got bad candidates. I watch the debates.


TRUMP: I mean, I -- well, Joe Biden can't answer a simple question. Something is going wrong with him.


TRUMP: I mean, the only thing is, I mean, a lot of people think that he was the one that wanted Bob Mueller to testify because it made Joe look intelligent, OK.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is your base supporting -- is your base supporting background checks?

TRUMP: I think my base relies very much on common sense and they rely on me in terms of telling them what's happening.

I think meaningful background checks -- I don't just say background checks. We passed background checks a number of times, meaning the Democrats, but everybody knew they weren't that strong.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You want to expand the law?

TRUMP: I think meaningful background checks are a real positive.

Politically, I can't tell you, good, bad or different. I don't care politically. I don't want to have crazy people having guns.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was interesting. President Trump speaking to reporters as he's leaving the White House talking about quite a lot, as he usually does, when he's leaving the White House. He's now headed to fundraisers in the Hamptons.

[11:10:03] Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Let's get over to the White House once again. That is where Jeremy Diamond is standing by. Jeremy, you were in there during the 30-plus minute back and forth

with the president. It is interesting. He's making some strong statements on gun measures, specifically on background checks. Meaningful background checks, common sense, important background checks. Did he break new ground here?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, these were certainly the most extensive and forceful comments we've heard from the president so far in terms of talking about background check in the wake of the shootings we had in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.

But as far as specifics, you hit it on the nose, Kate, when you're talking about how he described the background check legislation that he would support. Again, intelligent background checks. We don't want guns in the hands of the wrong people, common sense, sensible, important. That was as specific as the president got in terms of explaining what kind of legislation he would actually support.

And that does leave the president a lot of wiggle room here in terms of what kind of action he can actually get through Congress.

But it was clearly the focus of the president's 30-plus minute remarks this morning.

He talked also about speaking with the Senate and House leadership, Democrats and Republicans, about taking action on background checks specifically, and he suggested that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is prepared to take some kind of action, again leaving a big question mark as to what specifically that would be.

And the president also talking about the NRA, which, just this week, after speaking with the president, the NRA put out a statement making very clear that they are not supportive of any additional background check measures.

The president, nonetheless, saying that he believes that ultimately the NRA will either get on board with his ideas, or, at a minimum perhaps, be neutral. Those were the words that the president used this morning to describe that.

So again, a big question as far as how far the president is actually willing to go.

And I asked the president whether he would call Congress back to act on this and also what would be different this time versus after Parkland when he did call for background check legislation. The president says he doesn't see a need to call Congress back into session because, in a few weeks, they will, indeed, be back.

And he also said that he believes this is different than after Parkland. He says he has a different feeling, particularly about how Republican Senators feel about the issue -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: So fascinating, when he says that politics do not matter to him at all. I'll let everyone be the judge of that.

Jeremy, thank you so much. Great stuff.

Joining me now to talk much more about this, CNN political analyst, Margaret Talev, CNN political commentator and former communications director for the Republican National Committee, Doug Heye, and Brendan Buck, who was a top aide to former Republican House speakers, Paul Ryan, John Boehner.

Great to have you guys here.

Let us start with guns. I've got more questions about the myriad of questions that the president brought up. Since Jeremy teed us off really well.

Doug, what do you make of what you heard from the president right there? Intelligent background checks, there's tremendous support for sensible, common sense, important background checks. Meaningful background checks. I don't care about politics. Everyone wants background checks.

Do you sense that -- do you sense that is real movement and real pressure on Republicans?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Potentially, yes. And it depends on how Donald Trump wants to use his leverage. He said one of the most-true statements he's ever said in his presidency in that gaggle right there when he says, my base relies on me. His base does rely on him.

BOLDUAN: Good point, yes.

HEYE: But it's up to him, then, to do something with that base. Instead of being beholden to it, to take his base somewhere. Because Republican base voters trust Trump in the way that they wouldn't trust a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio or a Scott Walker to cut the deal, the big beautiful deal on guns.

So if Trump leans in and not only weighs in but leans in and works Republican members, he can cut that deal with Republican and Democratic leadership that he can be and Democrats can be proud of, if he chooses to do so.

BOLDUAN: But there's a lot of big, big ifs on this because this is a lot of talk. And it does not sound likely at all that McConnell is going to be calling the Senate back or the House is going to be coming back either.

Can you just give me your gut on this? Because gun politics have been the way they've been for a very long time. Republican lawmakers in the House and the Senate right now, what are they hearing? Do you think they're hearing more pressure or more from the NRA? They see the president say this and what do they do?

BRENDAN BUCK, FORMER TOP AIDE TO HOUSE SPEAKERS PAUL RYAN & JOHN BOEHNER: There's a lot of pressure when something like this happens. It's intense pressure, too.

But let me take you into the room for something Mitch McConnell is probably thinking right now.


BUCK: Thank you for asserting that I'm for background checks. I don't think so. He's sitting there thinking -- if you're Mitch McConnell, there are maybe two or three things that are most important to him. One is he doesn't ever want to divide his conference. I've sat in rooms with him where he doesn't want to say, this cuts me down the middle, I don't want to divide the conference.

The other thing that's important to him is his vulnerable members. He cares about making sure they hold the Senate. So one thing is look for is their pressure on Corey Gardener, is there pressure on Senators in Arizona and Maine, who are coming back and wondering like, what are we going to do.

The real issue is Congress is not coming back for a month.

[11:15:20] BOLDUAN: Time matters here, right?


BOLDUAN: And when you hear Donald Trump say, I don't think we need to come back, they can do it when they get back. Can you just explain to people, every day matters when it comes to the urgency after a tragedy like this?

BUCK: Yes. I will be very surprised if, in five weeks, god forbid something else happens, we're still talking about this. A million things will happen from here to then. And pressure, it does release.

And the real issue, as Doug said, the president is the one who is going to decide whether or not this happens. And if we've seen anything, the president doesn't really have a long attention span. So the idea that he's going to be -- he's going on a vacation now for eight days and he's going to be playing golf with who knows who is putting stuff in his head.

And what is he going to be tweeting about over the next eight to 10 days. I doubt it's gun control the entire time.

HEYE: And part of the reticence from Republican members is they've walked the plank a little bit for Trump before and they've been cut off when he walks back from commitments he's already made.




BOLDUAN: Health care --

BUCK: And name me one example of a time where the president has pushed Republicans to do something they didn't want to do and follow through on it. He's said before, I'm different, I can take the heart, I will stand up to whoever and I will stand up to the base and make it OK for you. He says that and then it just fades away.

BOLDUAN: For all of your viewers, these two are really plugged in, also good friends of mine.

You guys are really plugged in. What I'm hearing from you is very well-deserved and healthy skepticism on, you do hear Republicans speaking out, but there's real skepticism what this is going to mean in five weeks, as you said.

Margaret, let me bring you in on this.

What do you make of the president here? He's saying that he's had great conversations with the NRA and the NRA is either going to get on board or be neutral. No one knows exactly. But if past is prologue that doesn't seem like that's going to be the case. What do you make of what the president's position is in this moment that he doesn't care about the politics of gun measures?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, of course, he cares about the politics. It's an election year. He's running for reelection.

But I do think that it is right to put that caveat at the end of this. If there were any other Republican president, if there were George W. Bush and he came out and made the statements that President Trump just made, any reporter would walk away from that situation saying, wow, major sea change, the president is going to circle up with his legislative team, we're going to see a package of gun control legislation that's going to be ready to go in September.

With President Trump, sort of we'll see where we are in a few weeks.

But strategically and tactically, what I saw him doing is try a test. And I think we'll see in the next few weeks him doing this, test whether he can change what the debate is about. From whether it is about the right to bear arms or pass your guns down to your children, to redefining this as a public safety around mental health issues kind of debate. And you saw --

BOLDUAN: Keeping guns out of the hands of quote, unquote, "bad people," in his view.


BOLDUAN: Not taking guns away from you and me.

TALEV: He said it again and again, in very blunt terms, h e's not going to win any nuance or finessing awards from the National Association of the Mentally Ill because he used the word "crazy" several times and "crazy and bad and mentally ill and crazy" interchangeably. So in terms of mental health advocacy, not necessarily using 2019 language.

But strategically, what he's trying to do, it seems like, is to see where he can sort of turn this away from a debate about whether or not people have this sort of like core right, like Second Amendment, like intertwined with what it is to be an American. Is this a Second Amendment debate or a public safety around mental health issues debate? And he may take his cues from whether he's able to successfully do that.

He also talked a lot about his self-awareness about his standing in the party right now. With 94 percent support from Republicans. He said that both the Senate and his base, and maybe the NRA, will take some cues from him.

For the president politically, his concern has got to be, does he lose that 94 percent standing if he does what would be a major shift for him. And on the flip side, could he lose the Senate. Could Republicans lose the Senate if they don't do something on gun control?

We heard him talking about background checks. It seems clear he's not interested in going any farther, i.e., assault weapons ban.

We also heard him talk about some legislation involving red flag, federal grant or whatever it would be for the states. And we heard him talking about age. And I would like to hear more on that. He did not really sus that out. But the idea of using --

[11:20:01] BOLDUAN: That seemed confusing. Yes, I agree. That seemed a little bit confusing on what he was getting at. When people refer to age, they often are referring to the age you must be in order to purchase a gun. It doesn't sound like that's what he was going at.

TALEV: That's not. That's not was he was talking about. He was talking about the idea that you would be a high school student with a bunch of red flags or risks that your teachers, educators, principals would be aware of, and that when you turned 18, magically that would disappear and it would not stand in the way of you being able to purchase or carry a weapon.

So what is it that the president is prepared to do? We've been talking a lot about executive action, is the president going to take executive action. It seemed during this half-hour monologue before his departure that he is talking about legislation. So we'll see.

He gave us a lot to think about. But I think he's on a plane now and he's going to have Lindsay Graham in his ear and he's going to land and he'll be in the Hamptons and he'll have some of those donors, who really differ, a lot of blue-state Trump supporters in his ear.

BOLDUAN: I also think -- you guys tell me if I'm wrong -- I still think the equation is where it was before. All eyes still are on Senator McConnell and what his decision and his calculus is.

Do you fundamentally think that Senator McConnell -- you listened to the three important things he watches for in his calculations. Do you think that they have fundamentally shifted since this past weekend's horrific shooting and where he stands?

BUCK: There's one way you can look at how things are different now. That is, if you look at the politics over the last few years, Republicans have been getting killed in suburbs. Every election we've had, ever poll you see, the places that we're losing are with women, educated women and in the suburbs. At this point, if we continue to go down that path, we'll become a rural white party and that's not a national party.

I think Mitch McConnell understands enough that perhaps we are hurting so bad in the suburbs that maybe it's time to do something, where this is one place we can make up some ground. If the president takes almost no action --

BOLDUAN: I think we still have the soundbyte.

To that point, Tim Ryan, Democratic Congressman from Ohio, who is running for president. He said something that got to this point this morning. For our viewers, I want to play it for you. I found it really interesting. Listen to this.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm telling my Republican friends very clearly here, this is not like all the rest. When a congressman from Youngstown, Ohio, can say, hey, we're going to meet you in Louisville Kentucky in 24 hours and 1500 people show up from five states, Moms Demand Action organizing it, you know something is happening. I would just tell them be very careful.


BUCK: Let me give you a good example. I'm from the Georgia 6th congressional district. It's typically a conservative district. Tom Price was their representative. Newt Gingrich was a representative.


BUCK: That is now held by a Democratic and a gun activist Democrat, whose son was tragically killed in gun violence. And that is a suburban Atlanta district. It's the classic area where you've got educated, sort of upper middle-class voters that we are just losing right and left. And if that's the trend that continues, we will be a minority party for a very long time.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting.

Margaret brought up something interesting, executive action. Donald Trump has had no hesitation using that in the past. He did it with bump stocks, basically, that's kind of how they acted.

If the president would go the route of executive action, do you think that takes the pressure off Congress or do you think it's something different, that it actually provides Congress cover so they could do something more?

HEYE: The answer is a little bit of both.

BOLDUAN: Yes. HEYE: If Donald Trump acts immediately, he -- he's somebody that likes to sign an executive order and hold it up so we all see he's accomplished something. This allows him to do so and takes a little pressure off Congress.

But it also depends on the time frame and how much longer, if something is to happen, if he signs something and something happens two weeks from now, that's still a real problem.

But again, I don't think we can underestimate the power that Trump has with his base. If Donald Trump goes to his base voters and says, I will not take your guns, they know he's not going to take their guns. If a Jeb Bush or Scott Walker would not have that credibility with a Republican base.

Trump -- Mitch McConnell is going to run this in the Senate, but Donald Trump is the ultimate decider.


HEYE: But it's going to require a sustained effort. And he doesn't do a lot of sustained efforts.

BOLDUAN: Not in the slightest. When you're looking at -- again, I'm crazy about the calendar because I think timing really matters here. Let us see what the next 12 hours brings because this could shift very quickly. But right now, it's a very interesting place.

Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

Margaret, thanks so much. It's great to see you.

Coming up for us, President Trump, this morning, he says massive ICE raids in Mississippi will help curb illegal immigration. That is a harsh reality to be facing when you see the faces of crying children who were deserted begging for any information on their parents who have been picked up on these raids with no announcement. One mayor of Mississippi calls the raids dehumanizing. He joins us next.

Plus, another shakeup at the nation's top intelligence agency. The number-two top official resigning. What does this mean for the nation's intelligence apparatus? And what about the reports the president even refused to allow her to brief him before she headed out?

[11:24:13] Stay with us.


[11:30:04] BOLDUAN: President Trump, moments ago, saying immigration raids in cities across Mississippi will deter illegal immigration.