Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Norway Mosque Shooting: Gunman Opens Fire In Oslo Mosque, One Injured; AG Barr: Epstein Death Raises "Serious Questions"; America in Crisis - Dem Presidential Hopefuls Pitch Gun Control Plans; Michael Bloomberg One-on-One Talks Guns & Gun Control; El Paso Marches for Unity While Police Say Gunman Confessed to Targeting Mexicans; Potential Impact of Firearms' Legislation on Actually Reducing Gun Violence & Gun Deaths. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 10, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): OK. Salma Abdelaziz, thank you for that reporting.

You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Public and political outrage is growing at this hour over news convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, apparently managed to take his own life in a New York City jail cell this morning as he awaited federal trial on charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls.

CABRERA (off camera): Now, Attorney General Bill Barr said he was appalled to learn the news and that Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered.

TEXT: " 'Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI's investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein;s death.' William Barr, Attorney General."

CABRERA (off camera): Senator Ben Sasse goes further. He sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding an investigation saying obviously heads must roll.

TEXT: "The Department of Justice failed, and today Jeffrey Epstein's co-conspirators think they might have just gotten one last sweetheart deal," wrote Sasse. Every single person in the Justice Department" from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night- shift jailer" knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn't be allowed to die with him. Given Epstein's previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll."

CABRERA (on camera): Also today, the former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tweeted this:

TEXT: "Pedophiles facing federal criminal charges are at high risk for suicide. It happened in several of my Maryland cases when defendants were released on bail. Detained pedophiles require special attention. Stopping people from harming themselves is difficult."

CABRERA (on camera): CNN's Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, joins us now with the latest. Shimon, we've learned Epstein was taken off suicide watch in late July. Why?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER (on camera): That is the critical question now on what happened. It was after that first incident that we've all reported on in July, on July 23rd, where he was found injured in his jail cell with marks on his neck. It is after that time that he was placed on suicide watch.

For whatever reason, the psychologists, the staff at the jail, decided by the end of the month, in just a week, to take him off the suicide watch. They interviewed him. They, almost on a daily basis we're told, interacted with him. They assessed him on a daily basis. They communicated with him.

TEXT: "EPSTEIN TIMELINE. JULY 6 - Epstein arrested on child sex trafficking charges. July 23 - Epstein reportedly found in jail cell with marks on neck. Friday - Unsealed court documents allege new details about claims of sexual abuse against Epstein and several prominent associates. Today - Sources: Epstein dies by suicide."

PROKUPECZ (off camera): They did all sorts of things that you would expect psychologists to do in this kind of a situation. And at some point towards the end of the month, just a week after he had injured himself in this jail cell, they decided that they were going to take him off suicide watch.

PROKUPECZ (on camera): And they placed him back in the Special Housing Unit of the jail. He was segregated from the general population, because of the nature of this case, because of the publicity that this case has received. They put him in the Special Housing Unit and it is there we're told, this morning, early this morning, that he was found unconscious just about 6:30 in the morning, and about 10 minutes later he was taken to the hospital and that is where he was pronounced dead.

But that is the big question, Ana. What happened in that week? Why did the officials at the jail decide to take him off suicide watch?

CABRERA: We know Jeffrey Epstein was willing to pony up $100 million in bail to get out of jail. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize here is a guy desperate for a way out. So where does this now leave the investigation? Will prosecutors go after Epstein's associates who allegedly helped procure and abused these girls?

PROKUPECZ: Well, they've said in a statement, the Southern District of New York, Jeffrey Bergman, the U.S. attorney there, let me tell you has been very active in this investigation. He's showed up. He is the man who is running that office, the Southern District of New York. He showed up at every court hearing, at the arraignment, at the update. He would come himself.

It's rare that you see a U.S. Attorney appear in court during an investigation, during the pending case. That's how significant this investigation has been for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. That's how significant it has been for him as the U.S. Attorney. And he issued a statement today saying that this is not over. Obviously, the case against Jeffrey Epstein, that's done with.

But it's a conspiracy case. Anyone else tied to this conspiracy should be worried. His statements that the investigation is going to continue as it relates to the conspiracy. We have yet to know who has been cooperating in this investigation. The complaint that the U.S. Attorney's Office puts out, the information, is that they have had people cooperating, it would seem. They don't name them. We don't know enough yet in terms of who else was involved that they were looking at.

But it's very clear based on the statement from the U.S. Attorney this morning that they do intend to pursue other charges if they exist and that this investigation is not over. That is very significant certainly for the victims in this case and for anyone else who may have helped Jeffrey Epstein, anyone else who may have hid these horrific crimes that he committed. All of that is still going to go on. That investigation is still going to go on by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. It's not over then. OK. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for that. Epstein apparently killed himself less than 24 hours after thousands of pages of revealing documents were unsealed in a case from an Epstein accuser against one of Epstein's former associates.

[17:05:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The 2015 defamation suit was filed by Virginia Giuffre, who says she was under age when Epstein allegedly kept her as a sex slave for years, flying her around the world. She alleges to have sex with powerful men. And among the men she claims she was trafficked to have sex with was Britain's Prince Andrew in 2001.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson denies her claim, saying in response, "This relates to proceedings in the United States to which the Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue."

TEXT: "NAMES REVEALED IN EPSTEIN DOCUMENTS. 'This relates to proceedings in the United States to which the Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.' Buckingham Palace Statement."

CABRERA: Now, Giuffre also says she was instructed to have sex with former New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson. A spokeswoman calling the allegation completely false and saying, quote, "To be clear, in Governor Richardson's limited interactions with Mr. Epstein, he never saw him in the presence of young or underage girls. Governor Richardson has never been to Mr. Epstein's residence in the Virgin Islands. Governor Richardson has never met Miss Giuffre."

TEXT: "NAMES REVEALED IN EPSTEIN DOCUMENTS. 'To be clear, in Gov. Richardson's limited interactions with Mr. Epstein, he never saw him in the presence of young or underage girls. Gov. Richardson has never been to Mr. Epstein's residence in the Virgin Islands. Governor Richardson has never met Ms. Giuffre.' Spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Richardson."

CABRERA: Now, many, including law enforcement, credit journalist Julie K. Brown for the fact that Epstein was even arrested and facing charges. Now, Brown began investigating Epstein in 2017 and she refused to stop chasing this story. She has been relentless in exposing Epstein and finding justice for his victims.

And Julie K. Brown of the "Miami Herald" joins us now. Julie, thank you. Just hours before Epstein's apparent suicide, there was that massive document dump in this case. We just went through some of these accusations that were revealed. Do you think it's a coincidence that Epstein's death happened so soon after the release of those documents?

JULIE K. BROWN, MIAMI HERALD INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I don't think anything in this case is a coincidence. I think everything that's happened, happened in the order, and as the evidence came out. I'm sure that he could feel things, kind of, closing in around him. He had known, I'm sure for quite a while, that these the release of these documents was imminent. And, you know, that they were going to be pretty brutal.

And they were, I mean, they are, they tell a story about his sex trafficking operation, and how he and other people really went out of their way to prey upon vulnerable girls and young women for years. And, you know, so I think that I'm sure that he felt like this was going to be a really hard one to beat.

CABRERA: Julie, earlier I spoke with Mike Fisten. He's a private investigator. He worked with attorneys for Epstein's accusers.

And let me just read you a quote from what he said. He said, "Epstein lived his life not in a four by four cell, and he knew he only had two options, if he turned and cooperated against every person that indulged in his illegal behavior, and he became a witness against these people, or he was going to spend -- he knew he was going to get convicted, spend the rest of his life in a jail cell. And there was no way this individual, knowing who he is and how he's lived, was going to do that.

So let me ask you. You spent the last two years investigating Epstein. Would he be the type of person who would have killed himself without going to the Feds and saying, "I'll give you all these details about others involved or some kind of a plea deal?"

BROWN: I mean, it's hard to say what was really going through his head. I think that probably would have happened, he wouldn't have had a choice about that. I think that other people around him were probably going to cooperate or are probably cooperating. So even if he had started to name names or if he decided not to name names, it sort of got to the point now where the case was bigger than he is.

And, you know, especially with a U.S. Attorney Berman in New York, he was really determined, I think, to take this case as far as he can take it, and hopefully find justice for these girls. And, you know, when you have a prosecutor like that that is so dedicated, I mean, that's sort of the opposite of what happened here in Florida. You know, they they hid this case. They tried to sweep it under the rug here. And Berman from the outset was right out there in front of the cameras announcing that he was going to really do everything in his power to find justice for these victims.

CABRERA: And when Epstein was first arrested, you said there were powerful people sweating. Do you think those powerful people are breathing a sigh of relief today? Or based on what we're learning about the ongoing investigation, do you think they're actually even maybe more concerned?

BROWN: They're not breathing a sigh of relief. I know I wouldn't be I mean, this is serious, very serious. And, you know, I just think that everybody who even, you know, looked the other way. Even people who weren't involved should really do some soul searching. And, you know, I just think, you know, we'll see where the evidence leads.

[17:10:00]

JULIE K. BROWN, MIAMI HERALD INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: But there were plenty of other people that knew about him and there were plenty of people that made a lot of money off of helping him.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: What does this mean for Epstein's victims?

BROWN: Well, you know, I think probably today they're not sure. You know, I think that they're still processing what this means and, you know, they're very emotional. I've spoke with several of them this morning and they're emotional. They're crying. They're angry. They feel like they've been robbed to some degree of the justice that they have fought for all these years.

And they felt so close, you know, because they never thought and even I, never thought that he would have been -- I mean, people said all the time, he's never gonna get arrested. You know, he's never gonna get arrested. And he got arrested. And, you know, and the charges seem very serious. And it looks like there's going to be a good case made against him or there was gonna be a good case made against him.

So I think that, you know, I think that they're hoping that maybe they can find another justice by helping to prosecute -- you know, hoping to see the prosecution of other people who helped him.

CABRERA: OK. Julie K. Brown, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for your dogged reporting. It's been really impressive.

What does Jeffrey Epstein's death now mean for the investigation into his alleged actions? Talk more about that. There are still a lot of questions about, what he's accused of doing? Who else might have been involved? We'll talk live with a former federal prosecutor next.

And later, Democrats running for president lay out their plans for gun reform. You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We are continuing to follow the breaking news out of New York. Convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, is dead. Sources telling CNN the 66 year old was discovered in his jail cell early this morning where officials believe he hanged himself.

CNN Legal Analyst and Former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti, is joining us now. And Renato, Epstein was placed on suicide watch, we know, and he was found with marks around his neck last month. But at the end of the month, we're told he was taken off that watch. What's your biggest question given that information?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: My biggest question is, why did that happen? And I would like to see the written documentation that is supposed to be created when that happened. So there is going to be a memo or documents somewhere that's going to explain why that took place. I suspect that memo is going to be very carefully scrutinized in the days to come.

CABRERA: I mean, given his status, I know you've represented other clients who have taken their own lives in prison. I mean, how would you have expected him to be treated behind bars?

MARIOTTI: Well, I would have expected a lot of attention to be paid to Mr. Epstein, seeing, you know, here's a man who's a very high-profile defendant in a facility that has housed many high-profile defendants. He's someone you know, people who are accused of child exploitation often are the victims of violence. They have statistically a higher rate of suicide. So you would think that there'd be more attention paid to him for that reason as well. And then obviously, we have this prior incident that occurred and it would appear to be an attempted suicide by Mr. Epstein.

So a whole lot of reasons why we would expect that a lot of attention will be paid to him. So I'm very surprised that this happened. It's not only a head scratcher. It raises a lot of very disturbing questions. And that's why everyone, I think, is very concerned about this.

CABRERA: The attorney for Virginia Giuffre and another accuser of Epstein's had this response, "This is the end of one chapter, but only one chapter of the battle to bring the sex traffickers to justice. Jeffrey Epstein did not act and could not have done what he did, alone. Justice demands that those who acted with him also be held to account."

TEXT: " 'This is the end of one chapter, but only one chapter of the battle to bring the sex traffickers to justice. Jeffrey Epstein did not act and could not have done what he did, alone. Justice demands that those who acted with him also be held to account.' David Boies, Attorney for Virginia Giuffre." CABRERA: Renato, how does Epstein's death now impact the ongoing investigations and these outstanding lawsuits?

MARIOTTI: Well, great question. So as to the investigation, one issue is that there's no longer anyone for his accomplices to flip against. Now, the focus is going to be on those accomplices. And really, the question is, will there be sufficient evidence to charge any of them? With him alive, there was definitely going to be a public criminal trial. There would be a lot of witnesses being prepared for that and evidence being assembled for that.

Now, the question for the southern district is, will they have enough evidence to charge one of these accomplices. As to the civil cases, one big issue is that, you know, previously they would have tried to seek the testimony of Epstein. Epstein would have to take the fifth, almost certainly. And if that happened, they could use that taking the fifth against him in a civil proceeding.

Now that is gone. They'll have to make do without his testimony. There's still obviously an opportunity for a lot of big revelations out of the civil cases. We've had those already in the civil cases thus far. Big names have been mentioned and evidence uncovered. But it's going to be, I think, a more narrow and longer road for victims to seek justice.

CABRERA: I mean, we talked about yesterday how hundreds of pages of additional court documents were unsealed in New York federal court and they contain new details of alleged sexual abuse, not only committed by Epstein, but they also implicate several of his associates. We talked about naming names and some of them are big name politicians from a prince. What does this mean for those people specifically? Does this death have an impact on potential, I guess, litigation against them potentially?

MARIOTTI: I think that some of those people -- I mean, they're not out of the woods yet. Some of the names that we've heard a lot about. They are still going to potentially be named in private suits. They still could potentially be witnesses in private suits. But I have to think some of them are breathing a lot easier now that they know that they won't have to potentially be called as witnesses in a public criminal trial.

Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, some of these other individuals that have been associated with this, I think have to be breathing easier. Although, obviously, I'm sure no one's happy about the death of anyone.

CABRERA: All right. Attorney General William Barr is reportedly livid. In a statement, he said that Epstein's death raises serious questions. He's also saying he will work with the Inspector General who is opening a separate investigation.

TEXT: " 'Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI's investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein;s death.' William Barr, Attorney General."

[17:20:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: How do you see that investigation differing from the FBI investigation? Will they be looking into different things?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think what the OIG is going to be looking at is potential misconduct, or malfeasance, or lack of diligence on the part of DOJ personnel. That is, I think, going to be the focus of the OIG investigation.

The OIG is a quasi-independent body within the Justice Department. Well-respected, nonpartisan organization. That said, it's not a full- blown criminal inquiry. I do think the FBI investigation into this will determine whether or not there's any public corruption, which I think is a question that is raised by this, whether or not a guard or someone else was potentially influenced by Jeffrey Epstein, given, of course, his influence of state guards during his prior criminal sentence.

I will say, you know, it's unfortunate. I'm sure, to the Attorney General is upset as well, because as you know, Ana, there's been a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories going around.Concerns about whether or not, you know, the president or the attorney general, you know, benefited from this. So I'm sure that this has got to be very frustrating to Attorney General Barr.

CABRERA: All right. Renato Mariotti, good to have you with us. Thank you.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

CABRERA: In the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, in Dayton, Democratic candidates for president are laying out their gun control policies. They've gathered today in Des Moines, Iowa. What they're saying next. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Today marks one week since 22 people were shot and killed while shopping at Walmart. Just hours from now will mark one week since nine more were shot and killed in a restaurant and bar district in Dayton, Ohio.

Now, these two back-to-back mass shootings, first in El Paso, Texas, and then in Dayton, have left the country shaken, but also determined to create change. We've heard chants of do something. We've seen some Republicans change their stance on gun control. And even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's spent the past year or so blocking legislation, has said the Senate will consider new gun control legislation. He is refusing, however, to bring Congress back into session early.

Today, more than a dozen presidential candidates are in Iowa speaking at a gun control forum. And CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us live in Des Moines. Arlette, what events -- some of the breakout moments you've seen there?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Ana, the course of this day, you've heard from 16 of the Democratic presidential candidates here in person at this gun reform forum, And really they've been laying out their vision for how to solve this issue relating to gun violence in this country.

And Senator Kamala Harris was one of those lawmakers who just recently spoke. And listen to this new line that she had talking about President Trump and those shootings that occurred just about a week ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: People say to me, did Donald Trump cause those those folks to be killed? Well, no, course, he didn't pull the trigger, but he's certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: That's a similar message that's been relayed by other Democratic presidential candidates who have said that the president's words have, kind of, sparked some of this animus across the country. And then there was also a very emotional moment just a short while ago with Andrew Yang when a woman asked a question and noted that her young child was killed by a stray bullet. Take a look at that moment that happened just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW YANG, FOUNDER, VENTURE FOR AMERICA: I have a six- and three- year-old boy, and I was imagining [crying] -- I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw [crying]. That scene that she described, I'm sorry. It's like very, very effecting.

You're right that when there's a gun in the household, you're more likely to have a child get shot or the owner get shot than to kill, let's say, an intruder into the house. Those are just numbers. Those are just the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

So there were clearly some very emotional moments here at this forum as these Democratic presidential candidates are trying to relay how they would try to solve and stem this crisis of gun violence in the country, Ana.

CABRERA: Yes. It affects all of us. I think a lot of parents are feeling the way Andrew Yang expressed himself. Arlette Saenz, thank you for covering this for us. Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, founded the group

behind today's gun forum. And I asked him about the possibility that U.S. gun laws could change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: The NRA does not have the power that they had before by any stretch of the imagination. And it, sort of, defies logic as to why the president and Mitch McConnell seem to still be somewhat influenced by the NRA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

More of my interview with Mayor Bloomberg when CNN Newsroom returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:32:29] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Welcome back.

Today's gun forum is being hosted by Every Town for Gun Safety, the non-profit founded by former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has personally invested tens of millions into gun control advocacy and research, into gun violence and prevention.

And he joined me just a short time ago to talk about whether things are different this time when it comes to actually seeing tangible changes at the federal and the congressional level on gun violence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: So when we talk about that sense of hopelessness or cynicism or skepticism about anything being done when it comes to gun violence, you know, there was a crowd of people who fled Times Square this week because a motorcycle backfired, and their first thought was that it was someone shooting.

What did you think when you saw that video --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: -- of people running for their lives because they heard a loud sound?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D), FOUNDER, EVERY TOWN FOR GUN SAFETY & FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, it's not unexpected that when you read about the chaos that's been going on elsewhere in this country that your first thought might be, I wonder if it's happening here.

I think it's also true that we tend to overdramatize that. Not everybody in Times Square ran. It was one bang, and it didn't sound like a rifle bullet or anything from what I read. I wasn't there. That's what people said, they thought it was a car or bike backfiring.

Let's not say that the whole world and America is ready to commit suicide --

CABRERA: No.

BLOOMBERG: -- because they think they're going to get killed. That's not true.

CABRERA: But it is true, people are on edge and people are scared. That's a reality right now for people right now who think it could happen anywhere.

BLOOMBERG: I think that's true. But what do you mean a lot? What percentage of the public do you think is worried? I don't get that when I talk to people. I think they understand that it's a dangerous world. But if you live in cities with good police departments that are in control, you're pretty safe.

And if you live, for example, in New York, and in New York City, the crime rate is so low, it's almost impossible to measure compared to any other city. We still have crime in New York. A little under 300 people get killed every year, but that's a very negligible number compared to any place else.

So where you live should impact your interest in jumping or getting out of the way. If you live in some of these cities with a very high crime rate and you hear a gunshot, or it sounds to you like a gunshot, it probably is. And if you live in a city with a very low crime rate, it's probably not.

[17:35:05] CABRERA: But I don't want to downplay the fear, and I understand what you're saying. But if it could happen at a Walmart, a concert, a bar, a school, all of these places where we've seen mass shootings now, I think the feeling is it could happen anywhere, even in cities where there isn't a high crime rate. That is why people are so jumpy.

And that is perhaps why there's this new sense of urgency to accomplish something when it comes to gun control or gun violence safety.

BLOOMBERG: I agree with you. There's a new sense of urgency. And it's wonderful it's happening because maybe we finally will get the legislation we need. If we do, your coverage of these events will have been helpful.

But it's also true that we live in a society where there's a small number of people who have access to guns, and if we could take away their access to guns, we will all be a lot safer.

CABRERA: And let me ask you about that specifically because, in the cases of El Paso and Dayton, background checks wouldn't necessarily have prevented those shootings because the two people who are either dead now because they committed the crime or accused of the crime, as in El Paso's case, they were able to get guns -- they passed background checks.

What would be the solution in those types of cases?

BLOOMBERG: There's nothing that is going to guarantee 100 percent safety in life. Life isn't that way. But background checks would reduce dramatically the number of suicides and significantly the number of murders.

Red flag laws don't always make a difference. But if you save one life, isn't it worth it?

I think you got to be careful here in saying, oh, there's no solution because nothing works all the time.

The bottom line is, you can, if the public gets behind their city government and their police department, bring down the crime rate such that most people don't worry about it.

And if you look at New York 20 or 30 years ago compared to today, I think most New Yorkers will tell you that they feel very safe and that crime is not one of the things that they worry about generally.

CABRERA: And there's overwhelming support across the country for some gun control measures. Recent polling shows 94 percent of Americans support universal background checks. And that includes nine in 10 Republicans and nine in 10 gun owners. And more than half of Americans support a ban on assault weapons.

BLOOMBERG: Right.

CABRERA: So when we talk also about how the NRA has so much power over the president and others who may be afraid of their political future for acting in, you know, some capacity on gun control, should they be more afraid of not doing something than of acquiescing to the demands of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA?

BLOOMBERG: Ana, in 2018, I supported 24 congressional candidates who were good, my definition, good on guns and good on climate. And 21 of them won and beat almost in every case an A-rated Republican, A-rated by the NRA. That goes to show you that the NRA does not have the power and not everybody is running away from them.

And now, you you're starting to see more and more Republican congressman and Senators saying, I don't want to be on the wrong side of this issue.

If you survey NRA members, as you yourself said, the NRA members want background checks.

And the NRA does not have the power that they had before by any stretch of the imagination. And it defies logic as to why the president and Mitch McConnell seem to still be somewhat influenced by the NRA.

CABRERA: I want to get your reaction to this news, this breaking news, apparent suicide of accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein. Multimillionaire with a New York apartment who associated with many of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country.

What was your reaction when you heard the news?

BLOOMBERG: It was interesting. I think I met him once 30 years ago. I certainly haven't seen him sense then.

And I don't know what happened. You'll have to ask the government. He was in a federal penitentiary or federal jail, as I understand it. And they'll have to do an investigation and see what happened. And I'm sure they'll do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Our thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for taking the time to join us.

Police say the man accused of opening fire at an El Paso Walmart admits he was targeting Mexicans. We'll have the latest on that case, next.

Plus, the connection between gun laws and fatal shootings.

[17:39:54] Your live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: El Paso has now joined the group no one wants to join. Parkland strong. Vegas strong. Orlando strong. Sandy Hook strong. The list goes on. It's the call for resiliency at a time of unimaginable grief that follows being victimized by a gunman intent on killing as many people as possible. As of one week today, El Paso strong.

CNN's Natasha Chen joins us now from El Paso.

And, Natasha, El Paso has to deal with the suspect's alleged confession to police that he targeted Mexicans. What are you hearing from people there?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Absolutely, Ana. So when they say El Paso strong here at the memorial behind me or at the march today, they are talking also about responding to that, responding to racism and hatred and saying they will not take that. Enough is enough.

The memorial behind me has grown significantly over the past week from my right to my left and you can see there's new green fencing that's gone around the crime scene and around the parking lot of this Walmart. So people are still coming through at a steady pace, paying their respects.

[17:45:07] And this morning, there was a march from a downtown park all of the way to a courthouse, where presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke, marched with them and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

They talked about this hatred and racism. This notion that this shooter allegedly told police that he drove all of the way from the Dallas area here to west Texas, about a 10-hour drive, just to target Mexicans. And this, of course, hits very strongly with this community that is majority Hispanic. I want to also point out that I came to cover this story from the

Mississippi ICE rids where I spoke to teenagers there in Mississippi whose parents were detained.

And those kids were very vocal in telling me, referencing this shooting when talking about that incident. They said this is now personal. They feel targeted. And they wanted people to know that their parents and immigrants came to this country, work hard and don't harm anyone. And they contrasted that with the shooters that they see, who they say are from the U.S., who are actually injuring others.

So, Ana, the ripple effects of this El Paso shooting is being felt in many parts of this country right now.

CABRERA: All right. El Paso strong. We are with them today.

Thank you, Natasha.

Let's not forget Dayton, Ohio, the other U.S. city grieving after a mass shooting last weekend. Today, the first funerals for the victims who died there. Friends and family gathered today for services for Beatrice Warren-Curtis, Derrick Fudge, Nicholas Cumer, Logan Turner, Monica Brickhouse and Saeed Saleh. More funerals are scheduled for Monday.

America's gun laws in the spotlight after two mass shootings in just the past week in El Paso and Dayton. People all across the nation are having intense debates on gun violence and what to do about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: We're hearing lots of talk from Washington politicians and some proposing significant changes to U.S. gun laws. And President Trump is weighing in with plenty to say. But what's the potential impact of firearms' legislation when it comes to actually reducing gun violence and gun deaths?

With us now is Dr. Eric Fleegler, firearm researcher and an emergency room physician at Boston's Children's Hospital.

Dr. Fleegler, so glad you could join us.

You've studied the associations between state gun laws and gun deaths. You have found states with the most gun laws have fewer gun deaths. Just how strong of a connection is there? Is it enough to say more gun control works?

DR. ERIC FLEEGLER, E.R. PHYSICIAN, BOSTON'S CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: I think there's a very strong relationship between, both the relationship of the number of gun laws that there are, and the number of guns that are owned in the state, and the fatalities that occur. In the United States, there are, in 2018, there were up to 40,000

deaths from firearms and 22,000 suicides and about 14,000 homicides. And we see states that have the most laws are most states that have the fewest fatalities, approximately 40 percent fewer.

CABRERA: Wow. We're hearing a lot of talk in Washington about universal background checks. The House, we know, already passed a bill requiring background checks on all gun sales. including those at gun shows and with online retailers, but the Senate hasn't done anything with it.

There does seem to be bipartisan support also for red flag laws, which would enable family members who are concerned to get a court order preventing a potentially dangerous relative from getting a gun.

Do you think those proposals could significantly impact the nation's gun mortality rate?

FLEEGLER: There are dozens of different types of firearm laws. The ones that I thought would probably make the biggest difference are the ones that you mentioned. They have the universal firearm background checks. Right now, in the United States, between 30 percent and 40 percent of gun sales occur outside of the background check system. And that's obviously a huge hole.

Laws that do things such as removing firearms from people who are dangerous, who are threatening violence, including people involved in domestic violence, that's a way to reduce fatalities. And laws on how guns are stored are laws that could probably make a difference when it comes to fatalities involving children.

CABRERA: We've also talked about a how a federal universal background check law would not have stopped the gunman in El Paso and Dayton in those mass shootings. Are there any other state law you've studied that might help in those situations?

FLEEGLER: It's a very challenging situation. We already have in the United States approximately 350 million guns and we have approximately 15 million automatic military-style, semi-automatic military-style rifles. So none of the laws will prevent those from being present.

But laws that are required about how people store them and how they're resold, I think those are all laws that could potentially make a difference.

[17:50:01] In addition, the laws, as you mentioned, such as the red flag laws that say, hey, there's an individual who is suggesting they want to harm someone or suggesting other types of violence, that would allow those guns to be removed at least temporarily. They are an important part of the equation.

CABRERA: Some of your research shows there are actually three state laws that most strongly are associated with lower gun mortality rates: universal background checks, ammunition background checks, and identification requirements for firearms. I know you've touched on all of those. I just want to reiterate that for our viewers. You say you can't be sure there's a direct cause and effect, so how do you explain the connection?

FLEEGLER: Yes. The relationship is kind of a triangle. There are the laws. There are the number of guns that are available in the state itself. Then there are the fatalities.

We know that states that have the most guns are also the states that have the highest levels of killings. We know that states that have the fewest laws are also the states that have the most guns.

While we can't always prove one thing leads to the next, the data suggests that if we had more of a universal approach to our firearm laws that we would see reductions in fatalities, not just homicides, but suicide as well.

CABRERA: Dr. Eric Fleegler, thanks for bringing us the facts. Thank you for the research you're doing to shed light on this discussion. We appreciate it.

We're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:55:05] CABRERA: Welcome back.

As we enter the hottest month of what forecasters expect to be a perilous fire season,, thousands of people in Paradise, California, are still reeling from last year's historic and deadly Camp Fire. Like many of us, this week's "CNN Hero" saw news of this fire unfold on his TV. He was inspired to do something to help. Meet Woody Faircloth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODY FAIRCLOTH, CNN HERO: As news of the fires broke and we saw more of what happened to people and the fire and how many people were impacted, that's when it really kind of hit home. Wow! This is a really big deal.

Tens of thousands lost their homes and entire families were sleeping in their cars in parking lots. It was total chaos. Today, the majority are still displaced.

When we actually hand over the title and the keys of an R.V. to someone who doesn't have a home any longer, such a powerful thing to provide to someone in need. How could we not be in a position to help?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To see Woody change the life of a Paradise grandmother, go to CNNheros.com.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll see you back here in an hour.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp, continues our coverage of today's news right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:00:00]