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FBI Arrests Teen for Threats Against Federal Agents, Authorities Find Massive Weapons Cache; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is Interviewed About Talks Underway Between White House & Key Senate Aides on Guns. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 14, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's better to take on these issues head on than stay at home and do nothing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Andy Scholes, thank you very much.

And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN Newsroom with Max Foster is next. For our U.S. viewers, we have economic news out moments ago driving the markets down and raising serious questions about the possibility of a recession. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The surveillance video is dramatic and disturbing. This was a deliberate and planned act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't see anyone assisting in committing this horrendous crime.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm talking to Mitch McConnell. He wants to do background checks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president says the same thing, but nothing happens. It's different this time. The American people are fed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your tired and your poor who will not become a public charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need people who want to show that they've earned a place in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not new. Putting a target on legal immigration has been something that was going to be a mission of his.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, August 14th, 8:00 now in the east. And new this morning, a sign that the gun violence epidemic may be

having an impact. CNN has learned that early stage talks are under way between the White House aides and staffers for several key senators over legislation that would expand background checks. But CNN sources are skeptical. So far only one Republican, Senator Pat Toomey, is involved in these discussions. President Trump claims that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supports the measure, but he has not committed to taking the bill up or bringing the Senate back from the recess. So White House aides are expected to update President Trump at his Bedminster Golf Course later this week on all of that.

BERMAN: President Trump's claims are news to Mitch McConnell. If Mitch McConnell support expanded background checks, that's news to Mitch McConnell.

Meanwhile we have breaking economic news. We're just about an hour away from the opening bell, and U.S. stock futures are down, and they are down sharply. Why? There are new real recession fears. Now, follow this. On Tuesday President Trump backtracked on his promise to raise tariffs on China. He delayed some of these tariffs until after the Christmas season. The president acknowledged for the first time the tariffs do have an impact on American consumers. And the news this morning is there was an inversion in the yield curve. So sit tight, we'll tell you what that means and why now you're hearing people talk about the possibility of a recession and what the political impact of that might be. So stick around for that.

CAMEROTA: You're going to explain the inversion in the yield curve.


CAMEROTA: I mean, does he get sexier?


CAMEROTA: OK, so joining us now to discuss all of this, John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst, Dana Bash, CNN chief political correspondent, and Alex Burns, national political correspondent for "The New York Times" and a CNN political analyst. Do you want to go right there?

BERMAN: Talk about guns first.

CAMEROTA: So, Dana, listen, we've been fooled before. The president has talked about expanding background checks before, and then the NRA calls and it just falls right off the table. We have the list of the 10 deadliest mass shootings. Four of them have been on President Trump's watch. It is not getting better. It is accelerating. Is there any reason from your vantage point to believe that the groundswell of anger and frustration about all of this will change something this time?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's one data point that strikes me as perhaps significant more than what we've seen in the past during the Trump years, never mind the Obama years and before that, because that was a different dynamic. The main reason everything fell apart when the president was in serious discussions one of the other times there was a horrible mass shooting is because he was convinced, he sat in publicly and the White House, talked about the need for more gun control, maybe background checks, universal background checks, and he was convinced otherwise by the NRA.

So the data point that I am focused on is the fact that he, the president, is telling aides that the NRA isn't so strong anymore. It's weak because of a lot of very real internal fighting at the top. And if the president perceives this critical gun lobby as not strong enough for him to have to listen to, and on the other side of the political ledger he is obviously hearing a lot of people saying you've got to do something, maybe he has the fortitude to stick with it longer than they did before.

But I can tell you, you alluded to this, John, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republicans, they're not going to do anything until they know in an iron clad way that the president is onboard with something.

BERMAN: And his words are confusing and can't be trusted, and I say that not pejoratively, if one can say that. But it can't be trusted because he has said he supported background checks before and then backtracked on it. So how do you know he's serious about it this time?

John, there is something that can clear this up, which is leadership, right. Leadership from Mitch McConnell --


BERMAN: Leadership from Mitch McConnell and the president. Mitch McConnell could flat out come and say this is background check measure I would support. Donald Trump could come out with specifics. I'm not even convinced he fully understands the nuances of what background checks are because he's never spoken about them. He could come out and say this is background check.

AVLON: Yes, I wouldn't hold your breath for specifics from Donald Trump on any policy position. But it's clear it is his impulse. It is his impulse. He's raised it before. The problem is the stick-to- itiveness. But there are two issues here. One, as Dana said, the NRA far from being an imposing figure right now is a dumpster fire of internal intrigue and scandal and investigation. They're not as strong as they once were.

The second thing is political reality. 2018 midterm elections, Republicans got their clocks cleaned in the suburbs, particularly in the south and Midwest. That's a problem. And I think the fact that Mitch McConnell opened the door in that Louisville radio interview just to having a hearing. Remember that's all he's endorsed. He hasn't supported background checks. He's supported having a debate when the Senate comes back in session in September. That's because of that political pressure.

So those two factors are different if the president can stay focused. And what Mitch McConnell did say is he floated again the Manchin- Toomey bipartisan bill which he helped defeat after Sandy Hook. If he wants to back it this time around, that's something, again, supported by over 90 percent of the American people. It should be a no-brainer.

CAMEROTA: After Las Vegas another thing that should have been a no- brainer was the bump stock ban. The president immediately said that he should probably do that. It took a year. But he still did it, took a year, but with executive action, did it. And maybe there's something on the margins, baby steps that if the president feels strongly about we could see some movement.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe. But as you say, it took a year, and it was executive action. Anything at this point that is going to take a year to move through Congress, it's a pretty safe bet that it is not going to happen, right, that Mitch McConnell indicating that he's open to having a debate. Extended debate in the Senate is where legislation goes to die. It doesn't mean it's will happen this time, but saying we're open to having this conversation, that's what the Senate does, it has conversations, and it has conversations until the Congress is over, and then you have to start the conversation all over again next time.

So I think Dana and John are absolutely right, other John as well.


BURNS: It genuinely would take the president and Senate leadership saying not just we're for this in concept or we're for a conversation about this, but these are the specific provisions and the specific measure that we're going to throw our weigh behind.

BASH: I want to say one other thing that kind of backs up the fear among Senate Republicans that the White House and the president himself is saying one thing today and might change his mind in five minutes. A Senate Republican source sent me a reminder late last night of the fact that the White House has issued a veto threat on a couple of House passed bills doing exactly what he's saying that they want to do now, and that veto threat was not issued very long ago.

BERMAN: All right, why --

CAMEROTA: Fasten your seat belts.

BERMAN: Fasten your seat belts here. Why are people talking about a recession? Why is the word "recession" even in the conversation today?

CAMEROTA: Because of the inversion in the yield?

BERMAN: Hang with me here. Hang with me. Over the last day, first of all the president retreated on tariffs with China. He backed off implementing new tariffs on consumer goods with China. Why? He says he didn't want to raise prices on consumers during the Christmas season. I think he was scared about the economic impacts there. Adding to this breaking news this morning, which is that markets are way down in futures because of an inverted yield curve, which is that the yield on the 10-year treasury has fallen below the yield on the two year treasury. All you need to know is two things. Number one, that indicates people have long-term fears about where the economy is headed, and, two, that whenever that has happened in the past, or when that happens, typically it leads to a recession. The last one was prior to the great recession in 2007.

So my question now, Alex, is in political terms, as we face a reelection campaign for the president, have they taken into account the possibility that the economy, which is his strongest calling for reelection, may not be as strong as he thought it would be?

BURNS: I think they're bracing for that possibility. I don't know they feel there's a whole lot they can do politically on the messaging side as opposed to the policy side to mute the impact of a recession if that happens. That would obviously be very, very politically bad for the president, which is why you hear them going after the Federal Reserve more days than not it feels like at this point.

I do think there is even absent an actual, factual obsession, a political risk to the president in that word just being in the air. The kind of uncertainty day to day that people feel when that's hanging over their heads when the stock market is sort of yo-yoing the way it is. The economy is his strongest suit right now, but if there is just a mood of even of apprehension about what the economy is going to look like over the next 18 months, let alone four years, that does complicate the president's ability to deliver a happy days are here again message in 2020.

[08:10:17] CAMEROTA: John, also voters for to decide if they think this president has some sort of secret Midas touch that only he can keep this economy galloping, or if they think that there are possible ups and downs in the economy and that all presidents have to shepherd them.

AVLON: All presidents try to take credit for the economy and the stock market and all of them recognize that they're somewhat powerless against larger forces. We've had a massive historic economic expansion. And I think what you're seeing is that a lot of the chickens coming home to roost is a lot of the chickens coming home to roost with regard to the policies that the president embraced to goose the economy with tax cuts that have led to these deficits and debt increasing that doesn't end well. This inverted yield curve that may be a term that freaks people out and is the least sexy dance move of all-time, but its' also a really bad sign historically --

BERMAN: You have not seen mine.


AVLON: -- because, look, whenever anybody comes to you and says this time is different in the economy, they're always wrong. If this has always led to a recession most times, watch out. And the president we know, his approval numbers are under water, but they've been fairly steady at 44 percent. If the economy falls away, his strongest suit, the only one which he's above water, that could very well be a ceiling, not a floor. BERMAN: I have to say, again, take into account what happened

yesterday, which is the president backed off on tariffs because of the impact they were having on consumers who vote. It's a big deal. Why? To me that indicates there are nerves. The White House is getting nervous about this. And Dana, the way I look at it, if there's one thing, who knows what's going to happen in this election. The president's approval rating is low, be he won election the first time with a low approval rating. But if there's one thing that could throw everything up in the air all at once and jumble it, it's an economy that is shaky.

BASH: No question, and you're right to underscore how big a deal it is, because the president has been on this tariff war track for a long time, even in the face of warning after warning after warning that it is hitting the people who he has relied on and is going to rely on again to vote for him.

And anecdotally, people I talked to in Iowa and other places where the farmers have been hit, in red states even like North Dakota I was there during the 2018 election, they say you know what, it stinks but we're going to give it some time. Well, time might be up, and that's the big challenge for this president. And so the fact he did back down on something that is so -- there are a lot of things that he might stick his finger in the wind or might change every day. Tariffs and trade, this has been something that has been his calling card for decades and decades. And he thinks it's incredibly important, but he also sees that, again, the economy is the tide that is lifting his boat, full stop.

BURNS: It is dynamic that could affect the Democratic race as well, that the biggest challenge is clearly for the president who is seen as the shepherd for the economy. But in a Democratic race where you already see candidates rising quickly on this message that regular people are getting screwed in this economy and we need to do giant things to transform the economy from top to bottom, just in my view and based on the reporting I've done with other campaigns and with voters around the country, there is this mood out there that, I think, it's very easy to see getting kind of turbocharged in a situation where the economy actually isn't doing well.

BASH: Which, ironically, is the mood that sent President Trump into the White House.

BERMAN: I told you there's something going on here.

CAMEROTA: You told me this was juicy and you delivered.

BERMAN: And look, you talk about juicy, look at the DOW. Let's put up Dow futures as we go to break here, because they're down, they're way down. Its' 386 right now, and this is on top of a whole bunch of days that have been topsy-turvy. So keep that in mind as this morning continues. John, Dana, Alex, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

BERMAN: Other John, I should say. (LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: So just days after the mass shooting in Dayton, authorities arrested another Ohio man who had amassed dozens of weapons and a huge amount of ammunition. We'll let you know who police say he was planning to target, next.


[08:18:28] CAMEROTA: Not far where the Dayton massacre happened, the FBI has arrested an 18-year-old who they say threatened to kill federal agents. Authorities found dozens of guns and massive amounts of ammunition in his home.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is live in Washington with more.

So, what do they know about this guy?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, authorities say that this 18-year-old had been using the online app called iFunny to make threats supporting mass shootings and encouraging full-scale attack on federal law enforcement agents.

Now, this was something that FBI agents were actually monitoring for months and it was just last week, just few days after the mass shooting in Dayton that FBI agents conducted a search of this teenager's car and his bedroom.

And this is what they found. They found a machete, 15 rifles including assault rifles, ten semiautomatic pistols, 10,000 rounds of ammunition and camouflage clothing and backpacks.

So, when agents actually confronted this 18-year-old Justin Olsen, he said that his comments online promoting violence were just a joke in his words. But authorities are taking this very seriously. They charged that teenager with threatening to assault a law enforcement officer and he remains in custody after that initial court appearance on Monday and he's going to be set to attend a detention hearing on Friday.

And this arrest really, it does show just how seriously authorities are taking online threats and the stockpiling of weapons in the wake of those two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, and the Dayton shooting notably happening just about 200 miles from where that teenager was found with his arsenal. Now, in this case, the charges right now are for threats against federal officers.

[08:20:04] But it is possible that this teen could face even more charges as this investigation goes on. And we'll see him back in court on Friday -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Jessica Schneider, gun and ammunition stockpiling and threats of violence.

So, CNN has learned that early stage talks are underway between the White House and several key Senate aides on both sides of the aisle over a possible background check bill expanding background checks. But will this lead to change?

Joining us now to discuss, Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono.


BERMAN: Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

So, CNN's reporting that today (ph) Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, and they had a bill on expanding background checks.


BERMAN: They've been talking to the White House. Chris Murphy's team has been talking to the White House.

Do you have any updates or any knowledge about where these discussions are?

HIRONO: Well, we all know that the key is whether the president is actually going to do what he says he wants to do, which is to sign a background check to law -- into law, a bill into law. So, even though Republicans are apparently saying that unless he iron clad says that I'm going to do it, then why should people really proceed?

But you know what, you just hope that it can happen because that's minimum. To me, closing the background check loopholes, because that's what it is. It's not expanding some background checks, it's closing some loopholes that we have on the current law. And that's -- to me, that is minimal of what we should be doing.

You just did a piece right now on this young man who has stockpiles of all kinds of weapons. Well, we need to look at all the assault weapons that are floating in our country by the millions.

BERMAN: To be clear: HRA, which passed the Democratic House, would close some of those what you call loopholes.


BERMAN: Other people say would expand background checks. That has passed the House. It's sitting in the Senate waiting.

HIRONO: And so, the other key person is Mitch McConnell, who refuses to bring this bill to the floor of the Senate. And he prides himself on being the Grim Reaper, holding back all kinds of bills that have already been passed by the House. This is one of them.

BERMAN: When the president says he likes background checks vaguely speaking. Why don't you -- it doesn't sound like you believe him?

HIRONO: Didn't he say that before?

BERMAN: He did say that before.

HIRONO: We've been here before. So, I call it the Tuesday/Thursday Trump.

I was at a meeting at the White House and (INAUDIBLE) DACA. That was on Tuesday when he said, bring me a bipartisan bill on DACA to make sure that we don't start deporting 800,000 DACA participants. That was on a Tuesday. By Thursday, it's all off the table.

So I call him the Tuesday/Thursday Trump. And he can say something on Tuesday, and next thing you know, it's all off the table.

BERMAN: What could he show you? What could he show you? How could he prove that he means it to you?

HIRONO: It's not just proving it to me. Obviously, even Republicans aren't sure that he's going to sign a background check law. So, I don't know what the president can do at this point because he lies to the American public every single day. We can't rely on what the president says, and I know that often he contradicts himself on a regular basis, not only just the lies but the contradictions.

And that's why when you have a president who's that mercurial, who changes his mind at the drop of a hat, you have a very unstable situation in our country.

BERMAN: It creates uncertainty certainly when you're talking about something like this, expanding background checks or closing loopholes, because we don't know where he stands or Mitch McConnell stands exactly.

Listen to what the president said yesterday about Mitch McConnell.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am convinced that Mitch wants to do something. I've spoken to Mitch McConnell. He's a good man.

He wants to do something. He wants to do it, I think, very strongly. He wants to do background checks -- and I do, too -- and I think a lot of Republicans do.


BERMAN: He says he thinks that Mitch McConnell wants to do something.

HIRONO: Well, maybe the Republican should have faith in the president that they have been supporting and propping up all this time. Maybe they should have faith in the president and go ahead and bring this bill to the floor, and let's see if the president signs it.

BERMAN: To be clear, Republican aides tell us that McConnell hasn't come out in support specifically of any background check measure, which is why it was so odd yesterday to hear the president say, I've talked to Mitch, I've talked to Mitch. He's for this.

We don't think that's true. And that only makes this more confusing as you are negotiating.

What will Democrats -- and I ask this to every Democrat here and I understand you want to push for bans on assault weapons.

HIRONO: Uh-huh.

BERMAN: I understand there are a lot of things that Democrats want.


BERMAN: A different way of asking, though, is what would you accept? What would you accept? Would you take closing the loopholes? Would you take red flag laws and consider that progress?

HIRONO: Of course they'd be considered progress because any step that we take along these lines towards gun safety would be progress. But that can't be the end of it. Because at the same time, we have domestic terrorism that's going on.

We have -- we have people who are motivated to act individually or otherwise. And we do not have a law that makes domestic terrorism a crime. And we've just seen these horrible, horrible shootings, which by the way are only the latest of a whole series of these kinds of horrible events.

[08:25:07] And when are we going to accept that our country is awash in guns and the majority of the people in our country want us to provide gun safety laws? And we're not doing it. And I don't know. For the Republicans, is it going to take them losing in the polls? Because if that's what it's going to take, then that's what should happen.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about the economy. Yesterday, the president retreated on imposing tariffs on a lot of consumer goods that are manufactured in China.


BERMAN: He says, basically he doesn't want to do anything that would raise prices for the Christmas season. What does that tell you about where the economy is right now and what the president might be thinking about it?

HIRONO: He's finally connected the dots that all these tariffs that, by the way, he pretty much springs on the American people in a very whimsical way apparently. He's finally connected the dots of who's paying the price for these tariffs -- it's the American people.

And so, maybe it's sunk in with him, and especially as we near the Christmas season, and maybe he's hearing our economy is slowing down and he wants to encourage spending. And so, yes, he's connected those dots but it took him a long time.

Meanwhile, he's very erratic with his dealings with China. We're at the point where his international dealings with China, with Russia, with Japan, with North Korea, they're very -- in my view , they're not based any kind of a sound reason. It seems to be just whatever strikes his fancy and in his mind.

And this is really leading to an unstable situation, and we do not have the kind of power now and influence that we have with what's going on in so many parts of the world -- Hong Kong.

BERMAN: You admit that China needs to change its trade practices, correct?

HIRONO: I think that we should all be working toward making China or having China change its trade practices.

BERMAN: The question is --

HIRONO: I don't think we can just do it by unilaterally imposing tariff that's going to hurt our farmers and our consumers.

BERMAN: The question is, how do you think China reads the president's retreat on these tariffs?

HIRONO: I think they read him as very changeable. And you put pressure on him and he'll change his mind.

So, that just leads to a very unstable kind of a standing in the world for our country.

BERMAN: Senator Mazie Hirono, great to have you here with us in New York. Hopefully, we'll come with you.

HIRONO: Good to be back.

BERMAN: Let's do this next time in Hawaii.

HIRONO: Come on over in Hawaii.

BERMAN: All right, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

HIRONO: Aloha.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: All right, John. There are disturbing new details this morning and video of the Dayton mass shooting and how many people police say were shot in just 30 seconds. We talk to a survivor of the attack of what those 30 seconds were like for her.