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THE SITUATION ROOM

Markets Plunge over Recession Fears as Trump Blames Federal Reserve; Interview with Tom Steyer (D), Presidential Candidate, on His Campaign Platform; Several Police Officers Shot in Philadelphia; Interview with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Presidential Candidate, on her Gun Legislation Plan; ; Police: Several Officers Shot in Philadelphia Standoff; Aides Express Doubt Congress Will Pass Background Checks, Gun Control Bills. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 14, 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]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching. We'll see you tomorrow.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, recession fears: the stock market nosedives after new signs point to a looming recession brought on by President Trump's trade war.

Is the president about to lose his best argument for re-election?

Blaming his team: as the markets plunge, the president takes to Twitter, heaping blame on the man he appointed to head the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell.

Is the president undermining confidence in his economic team?

Lack of action: we're learning about behind-the-scenes talks among White House and Senate staffers about expanding background checks for gun buyers. But after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, we're also hearing urgent demands for quick reaction.

This hour, I'll speak with two Democratic presidential candidates, including one who just put out a detailed gun plan.

And nuclear cover-up? In the aftermath of a deadly explosion and reported radiation leak, experts worry Russia may be covering up what could be the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Is the Russian government risking lives of its own people to satisfy Vladimir Putin's military ambitions?

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news as fears of a new recession spark a selling spree on Wall Street. The Dow Industrials closes down 800 points, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also closed sharply lower, all because of new signs pointing to a looming recession.

President Trump spent the day blaming everyone but himself, singling out his hand-picked Federal Reserve chief for special criticism and also defending his own tariffs on imports, especially from China, just a day after seeming to admit that they really are hurting American consumers. That is something the experts have been saying all along.

This hour I'll get reaction from two Democratic presidential candidates, business man Tom Steyer and Senator Kamala Harris. And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the top stories. Let's begin with our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He's outside of the president's resort in New Jersey.

Jim, the president isn't taking any responsibility for today's huge market selloff.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. With the stock market reeling from fears of a looming recession, the president and his team were busy trying to shift the blame today. But the White House blame game was undermined by top administration advisers, who have assured Americans the president is winning on the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): While the stock market was tumbling, President Trump was tweeting, blaming the Federal Reserve for new jitters on Wall Street that a recession could be around the corner, complaining that the Federal Reserve acted far too quickly and now is very, very late on lowering interest rates, yet another attack on Jerome Powell, his hand-picked chairman for the Federal Reserve this week.

TRUMP: This guy has made a big mistake. He's made a big mistake, the head of the Fed. That was another beauty that I chose.

ACOSTA (voice-over): White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also pointed fingers at the Fed on FOX.

PETER NAVARRO, TRUMP TRADE ADVISER: The underlying fundamentals of the U.S. economy are solid as a rock. All we need to do is get the Fed basically to get the right interest rate policy. Yes, this is the Fed's slowdown.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But here's what really worries Wall Street, something called an inverted yield curve, which happens when yields on 10-year Treasury bonds dip below two-year Treasury yields, a highly technical but accurate warning sign of past recessions.

It caught the eye of the president, who called the inverted yield curve, "crazy," blaming it on the Fed. But that didn't stop the Dow from plummeting, despite months of rosy projections from White House economic advisers like Larry Kudlow, who could barely contain his enthusiasm just last May...

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Wow, low unemployment, high jobs, high wages, big consumer confidence, major productivity and no inflation. It's totally awesome. We're killing it on the economy.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- which may explain why the Trump administration is dialing back on its trade war with China. As Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross praised the president's move to delay new tariffs on Chinese products, to spare U.S. consumers during the upcoming holiday shopping season...

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Nobody wants to take any chance of disrupting the Christmas season.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- just one day after the president also appeared to acknowledge what critics have said for months, that the Trump tariffs are hitting consumers.

TRUMP: We're doing this for the Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. consumers but so far there's been virtually none.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump's potential 2020 rivals warn the president's policies are coming back to haunt consumers...

[17:05:00]

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The bottom line is the tariff is a tax. We pay it. And if they continue doing this with no strategy, it will continue to come down on the backs of American families and American farmers.

ACOSTA (voice-over): -- and potentially future generations as the deficit is skyrocketing.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have never seen more fiscal hypocrisy than what the Republicans have delivered.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what about --

BENNET: The Trump-McConnell era is the most fiscally irresponsible era in American history.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrat Julian Castro bought ad time in New Jersey so the president could catch the contender's latest spot while on vacation at his golf club.

JULIAN CASTRO (D-TX), FORMER HUD SECRETARY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because as you saw in El Paso, Americans were killed because you stoked the fire of racists. Innocent people were shot down because they looked different from you, because they looked like me. They look like my family.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The president is also facing stinging criticism for not coming down hard enough on China over its crackdown on Hong Kong. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross described the protests in Hong Kong as a, quote, "internal matter," but even fellow Republicans are arguing, the president must do more to stand up for democratic freedoms in Hong Kong as his predecessors have done in the past. Presidents have been doing it for a long time, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much for that report.

Also tonight we're hearing discussions are now underway among staffers from the White House and some senators about the possibility of expanding background checks for gun purchases.

Let's go to CNN's Phil Mattingly here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us.

In addition to being called these informational discussions, we know that the president's senior adviser, his daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been working the phones as well.

What are you hearing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are competing views in the White House according to people involved in the discussions and the discussions that are going on right now are between three of the staffs of three senators -- one Republican, Pat Toomey and two Democrats, Joe Manchin and Chris Murphy, all involved in gun issues before.

Toomey and Manchin sponsored a background checks bill that failed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, trying to figure out if there was some way to bridge the gap that has been so divisive over the course of the last several decades when it comes to gun policy.

I'm told there has been no significant breakthrough and Democratic aides involved say there is still significant skepticism as to what will happen going forward.

The big question now is where will President Trump end up?

For Democrats' purposes, one Democrat told me today, time is our enemy and that means they're ramping pressure up. Just take a listen to what speaker Nancy Pelosi had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We've sent our legislation to the Senate, we sent our legislation to the Senate. Moscow Mitch says that he is the Grim Reaper.

Imagine describing yourself as the Grim Reaper, that he's going to bury all of this legislation. Well, we have news for him. All of this legislation is alive and well in the general public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Wolf, the Speaker targeting Mitch McConnell with a moniker and nickname trending on the liberal left side of the Twittersphere and something he doesn't appreciate at all, took to the Senate floor to rebut in terms of his relationship with Russia but also underscoring the point here, the Democrats are frustrated and House Democrats who have passed their own background check legislation want to see action in the United States Senate.

And the reality is this, Mitch McConnell has made clear, the Senate will not be called back and he has tasked three committee chairs to work on their own proposals and he's also made clear he needs to see what the president will say or get behind before anything moves forward.

Again, at this point in time, a lot of skepticism about significant substantive changes but talks on the staff level are ongoing.

BLITZER: Given the history, that is totally understandable, all of that skepticism. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for that report.

Joining us now, Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

Mr. Steyer, thanks so much for joining us.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wolf, thank you very much for having me.

BLITZER: Let's start with the economy a subject you know well. You're a business man. We got a warning sign from the bond market today with 10-year bond yields briefly falling below two-year yields. You're a former hedge fund manager.

How worried should Americans be right now about a recession?

STEYER: Well, Americans should be worried because our president is a fraud and a failure when it comes to business and when it comes to managing our economy. If you look at the policies that he's enacted so far as president, he's run up a huge deficit and given all of the money to corporations and the richest Americans.

He's got an economy that way over-rewards the highest earners and a tariff policy attacking people, other countries around the world, that is ineffective and hurts them and also hurts Americans. So Americans should be very worried when the president doesn't have a plan or a clue about what he's doing economically.

BLITZER: But what would you say to those American families, who are feeling rather optimistic about this Trump economy?

STEYER: I would say this: what Mr. Trump has done is what he did when he was running Atlantic City --

[17:10:00]

STEYER: -- casinos into the ground. He's over-promised and leveraged up a ton of money. It feels very good in the short run. But long- run, he's not doing the things that actually make Americans safe, prosperous and well-paid.

He's not investing in education; he's continuing to favor only the richest Americans. Actually more equal societies where the money is spread more evenly throughout are much more stable. And in fact he's leaving us in a position, when if we get into a recession, we don't have a response because he's already spent the money that you would normally use to boost demand at the bottom of a recession.

BLITZER: If the country goes into a recession, why are you the best candidate to handle the economy?

STEYER: Well, Wolf, I started a business from scratch in one room that didn't include a window or anybody else in the business. And I built a big international business over 27 years. So I've spent literally decades of my life figuring out what makes companies work, what makes industries work and what makes countries work in terms of creating jobs, creating prosperity and sharing that prosperity widely.

So there is really -- I don't know if there is anyone else in this race who has anything like my history of not just doing the work but doing it really successfully and on an international basis. So honestly, this is the meat and potatoes of what I've done for decades.

BLITZER: Do you agree with President Trump that the Federal Reserve is holding the country back?

He tweeted today that the Federal Reserve chairman whom he appointed, Jerome Powell, in his word, is "clueless."

STEYER: Well, I think that what Mr. Trump is doing with regard to the Federal Reserve is absolutely wrong. The Federal Reserve is supposed to be independent of politics, Wolf. That is an important part of their charter because every politician like Mr. Trump is always going to want the Federal Reserve to pump out as much money as they possibly can every single day of the year, every year.

So what he's doing is, in and of itself, wrong but the other thing that is true is he's trying once again to get the Fed to use all of their bullets right now so that, if we go into recession, there is nothing they have left to do. That is exactly what he always does.

That is how he drove those Atlantic City casinos into bankruptcy and he's treating the United States of America like the Trump Taj Mahal, like we're just going to borrow and borrow and borrow and then, when the bills come due, he disappears and blames somebody else, which is exactly what he did today.

BLITZER: As you know, the trade war with China is putting an enormous amount of stress on the markets. But yesterday President Trump delayed the implementation of more tariffs until at least mid- December.

Does this make a deal more or less likely with China?

STEYER: Look, I think that you can see the cracks in the international economy being caused by Mr. Trump's tariff wars and trade wars. You can see them when you go to Iowa, where I was last weekend, in farmers who are being -- their basic market is being attacked by Mr. Trump knocking out their best customer.

So do I think that he has a failed plan?

I don't think he has a plan, Wolf. I think that he has an attitude, which is belligerence, and I think he has a hope, which is that people around the world will give into his bullying.

And I don't think he has the comprehension or the attention span to do the kind of work necessary to work with other countries, who often don't have our best interests at heart but who we need to work with in a granular and intense way to get -- to give them an incentive for them to do the right thing by us but also to give them a chance to do well.

His attitude is, I will beat you up until you submit. That is not a plan. And it is obviously not working. It is hurting Americans.

BLITZER: You're right now on a political -- one poll away from qualifying for the September Democratic presidential debate. You've already met the donor threshold. One of your rivals for the nomination, Governor Steve Bullock, said the DNC rules mean, in his words, "billionaires can buy their way on to the debate stage."

How do you respond to the governor?

STEYER: Look, the goal for every person who wants the Democratic nomination is to have a vision that connects with Democratic voters. That is the only thing that can possibly work.

I've been saying to people around the country that we have a broken government, that it has been purchased by corporations, that we need to get back to democracy of, by and for the people, and as an outsider I spent 10 years --

[17:15:00]

STEYER: -- organizing coalitions of American citizens against unchecked corporate interests and beating them.

And that is a message, Wolf, that people are responding to and you can look at my record over the last 10 years and, see, I've taken on the oil companies, I've taken on the tobacco companies, I've taken on the drug companies and won.

So if you're worried about the fact that we have a broken government and the evidence of that is in front of all Americans and four out of five of them agree that the corporations have bought our government, that message seems to be resonating.

BLITZER: Tom Steyer, thanks so much for joining us.

STEYER: Wolf, thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following some breaking news out of Philadelphia, disturbing news indeed, where police are now responding to an apparent shooting. Our justice correspondent Evan Perez is working his sources.

What are you hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this point it appears there is a standoff between police and either a suspect or a number of suspects. Here is what we know.

The police are telling us that there is multiple officers injured in this shooting situation. We have pictures; we were able to see some of the police activity. There seems to be dozens of police cars responded to the scene. This is an area north of downtown Philadelphia near the medical centers, near the hospitals. Temple University Hospital is in this area.

Right now police officers wearing tactical gear, SWAT teams wearing -- hiding behind shields or anything they could hide behind, including cars, trying to take cover as part of this response to what they say was a shooting incident. People were shooting at these police officers.

Not clear exactly how this began, what exactly precipitated this. But at this point, Wolf, the information is there are multiple -- several police officers who have been injured as part of this incident. And now there is, of course, a lot -- a big police response and you have a number of nearby hospitals and so on that have been put on lockdown.

That includes Temple University Hospital, which has been put on lockdown as a result of this incident. Right now again, we have some shots that we can't show you because they appear to show some of the positions of the police officers and, of course, we're trying to make sure that we don't put anybody in danger.

Right now the police -- the Philadelphia police is asking the media helicopters to pull back from the scene, partly because they're concerned that the positions of these officers could be shown to some of the suspects, who appear to be still trying to shoot at the officers that are responding to the scene, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I just want to read the tweet that we got from Temple University. As you point out, it is a very disturbing tweet indeed.

"Lockdown is in effect for Health Sciences Center Campus. Seek shelter, secure doors, be silent, be still. Police are responding."

There is one affiliate report I see here, Evan, that at least one police officer has been shot in the standoff?

PEREZ: That is right, Wolf. We are not showing video of exactly how this is happening, again, to try to protect the safety of the officers. But we're told that there are multiple officers who have been injured in this scene, at least one officer has been shot. Right now the police are telling us this is still very much an active situation, certainly from the video that we're getting from the scene. We're not able to show you some of the video. We can tell the

position of the officers, the way they're behaving on the scene, tells us there is very much an active situation. They're expecting probably this situation to continue because, again, the reports were that there was either a shooter or multiple shooters, who were shooting at the police officers, who were at the scene.

Again, this is an area north of downtown Philadelphia, near some of the hospitals there, including Temple University Hospital, which as you pointed out has now told the public essentially they are on lockdown to avoid the area because of the police presence, because of the danger from this active -- what the police are now saying is still an active shooter situation.

BLITZER: Evan, I know you're working your sources. We have our other reporters and producers working on sources, a very disturbing development in Philadelphia. We'll have much more on the shooting in Philadelphia in just a moment.

It comes as Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is rolling out her plan to end gun violence. Senator Harris is standing by live. She'll join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask her about the ongoing situation in Philadelphia and a lot more. That is coming up next.

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[17:20:00]

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BLITZER: Following breaking news, police in Philadelphia say several police officers have been shot and an ongoing standoff continues with a gunman or gunmen. Evan Perez is tracking the story.

What else are you learning?

PEREZ: At this point it appears this began as a narcotics -- this is reporting from KYW-TV in Philadelphia and they are citing some of their police sources and so that explains why police were at this location. Again, this is a location north of downtown Philadelphia.

[17:25:00]

PEREZ: It is near the medical centers up there and police were responding or were trying to go to this address because of a narcotics incident and that is when the shooting began.

According to the police, they have told us they were under fire, that, at this point, three officers have been shot, according to a federal law enforcement official, who has been talking to CNN. So at least three officers have been shot as part of this police response.

Now as you can see, Wolf, just from the wider shot we're showing, there is a big police presence in this area. We're not showing you some of the closer shots of this scene in part to protect the lives of the police officers.

But you could still see that this is an active situation; police are crouched behind shields and crouched behind cars, pretty much anything they can take cover from and police are still describing this as very much an active incident. So we don't know exactly how many suspects there are.

But the police are saying that at least one and possibly more than one suspects opened fire on police officers and the latest reporting we have again from KYW-TV in Philadelphia is this began as a narcotics call that police were responding to in that area,, again, north of Philadelphia downtown.

BLITZER: Evan, I know you're working sources. We'll get back to you. This is a very disturbing development.

The situation in Philadelphia is hours after Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris released a details plan to expand gun background checks and fight white supremacy and domestic terrorism. Kamala Harris serves on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

Very disturbing development. You're former attorney general of California, what is your reaction to the initial reports -- and I stress the words initial reports?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When will it stop, right?

Part of my focus on what we need to do around smart gun safety laws is recognize we have to have more enforcement around gun dealers.

Wolf, 90 percent of the guns that are associated with crime are sold by just 5 percent of the gun dealers in the United States. And so among the many plans that have I both in the form of executive action and also in the form of legislation, one of them is to put more resources into the ATF to take the licenses of gun dealers who violate the law.

And that includes a number of things, including when they are responsible for doing background checks, not doing them.

BLITZER: So but does your plan go, from your perspective, far enough?

HARLOW: Well, there are a variety of things. Let's be clear, I have -- I have hugged too many mothers of homicide victims over the years. I have looked at more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you of people whose lives have been ended because of gun violence.

We need Congress to act. We do not lack for good ideas. We do not lack for tragedies. The failure of Congress, however, the United States Congress, to act on passing smart gun safety laws is the issue.

So when elected, I'll give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together and put a bill on my desk for signature and if they do not, I am prepared to take executive action, to, one, put in place a comprehensive background check requirement to put the resources into the ATF to take the licenses from gun dealers who violate the law and, three, to ban the importations of --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Just to be precise, you want to give Congress 100 days and then take executive action. Some people say Congress, you know what, given the 60 votes needed in the Senate, not going to do it.

Why not take executive action on day one?

HARRIS: Well, I believe in giving people a chance, especially when they know what is coming if they don't act. But the other piece of my focus on this is, as you said, it is about dealing with the white supremacist issue that we have and the domestic terrorism that is resulting from it.

BLITZER: Because people are going to be killed in those first 100 days.

HARRIS: Well, there is no question we need to act immediately. And the failure of Congress to act over these decades is also a point that you should make in terms of what we're seeing now and what we've been seeing, from Charleston and Mother Emmanuel Church to El Paso.

So part of my focus is not only dealing with gun sales and background check requirements but addressing the issue of domestic terrorism. So I'm going to tell you a couple of things.

One, I'm prepared to require online background checks. So there is an organization that sells online, armslist.com. And Arms List is like the craigslist of gun dealers. They're not required to do background checks. So what I'm prepared to do is require that they have to do background checks before they could --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And this would you do through executive action, assuming Congress doesn't act.

HARRIS: Correct.

BLITZER: Because Joe Biden, the former vice president, one of your rivals for the nomination, he responded to your approach, and I'll quote him, by saying, "What happens if the next guy comes along and he wipes it all out?"

In other words if you take executive action, the next president, assuming it is a Republican, he can order or she can order a totally different executive action, wiping out all of -- the beauty of having a law is it stays in effect.

[17:30:00]

HARRIS: But as Vice President Biden well knows, where Congress fails to act, then it is incumbent on the executive branch of government to act. And so, where Congress fails to act, I am prepared -- when, God willing, elected president of the United States, I'm prepared to act through executive action.

And let us also be clear, doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing is not an option, so I'm prepared to do that. I'm prepared to say that we should include domestic terrorism as part of what is the focus of our counterterrorism organizations, our federal law enforcement organizations.

I'm prepared to say that law enforcement should be allowed to seize the guns of those who are suspected to be involved in domestic terrorism. Similar to a TRO, they're going to have to prove and have reason to suspect that somebody might be a terrorist, but giving federal law enforcement the authority to actually seize the guns of those who may be an imminent threat to their community or their family.

BLITZER: You know the law. You're a former attorney general of California. Assuming you take this kind of executive action on gun control, there are going to be attorneys -- attorneys general out there who are going to take legal action to delay it, get into court. This could prolong the situation dramatically.

HARRIS: Wolf, there is no excuse not to act. There will be those who are going to try and undo it, but if you follow that line of analysis, we would not have -- we would not have gone for things like DACA. We would not have for legislation like the Affordable Care Act.

There are always going to be people, especially people who years (ph) the -- use their power and authority for a political agenda to try and undo progress. That is not an excuse, much less a reason to not act.

BLITZER: You got a very detailed plan, and if you -- if the Congress were to act, at least right now, you would need 60 votes in the Senate. And you're a senator. Harry Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader, wrote this among other things today.

If a Democratic president wants to tackle the most important issues facing our country, then he or she must have the ability to do so, and that means curtailing Republicans' ability to stifle the will of the American people.

In the past you said you're conflicted on the whole issue of the filibuster. But do you agree with Harry Heid, it's time to do away with the filibuster and simply have, as the House of Representatives have, a simple majority to pass legislation?

HARRIS: I agree with Harry Reid that if Congress is going to continue to do what it's been doing, which is to obstruct progress for partisan purposes, then we do need to get rid of it. I agree with that.

BLITZER: Well, but you know that it's a two-edged sword because it helps the Democrats sometimes if there is a Republican --

HARRIS: Well, and to you point, that is why -- listen, let's be clear about the benefits, right? So I go into this clear-eyed. Any hesitance that I have expressed is because I go into it clear-eyed. There are those who wanted to get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood and other types of organizations and the filibuster was the only thing that held them at bay.

And so, the filibuster, you're right, has been a tool that, especially when Democrats are in the minority --

BLITZER: Right.

HARRIS: -- has helped to protect the people that need protecting. But Harry Reid, you know, a great American leader and a brilliant American leader, he absolutely is right that it has also been used in a way that has been about blocking progress in our country. And so, this may be the time that we remove that tool.

BLITZER: In your plan today, you deal with the issue of White supremacist violence out there --

HARRIS: Yes.

BLITZER: -- domestic terrorism. You say this -- you say that while President Trump didn't pull a trigger, he's been tweeting out the ammunition.

HARRIS: Yes.

BLITZER: Explain what you mean because that's a very, very strong accusation against the President.

HARRIS: It means exactly what it says. He didn't actually pull the trigger on the gun in El Paso, but he has certainly been tweeting out ammunition, meaning tweeting out hateful rhetoric, racist rhetoric, rhetoric that is inciting people to feel a sense of division among us, and clearly, with an intention to divide and sow hate in our country. There is no question about it. He uses Twitter like a weapon. And a weapon to divide the people of our country.

BLITZER: So if you were president, how would you deal with this apparently increasing ideology of hate that is out there?

HARRIS: Well, let's also be clear about it, and I have -- I have prosecuted hate crimes. I, as attorney general of the state of 40 million people, on an annual basis, published hate crime reports.

Hate crime is not new in the United States. It long preceded this president, it will exist afterward, and so let's speak truth about that. Hate crime being racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia. These issues have always existed in our country, but they've received new fuel under this president.

And we're going to have to confront it on a number of levels, including having a president of the United States who understands that that microphone she holds should be always used in a way that is about lifting people up and not beating them down. That's not what we've seen with the current president of the United States, and we are seeing the consequences of that.

[17:35:05] BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts on immigration while I have you. The Trump administration now has a new effort to penalize legal immigrants here in the United States who use services like food stamps or Medicaid.

You heard the Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services defend all of this by saying give me your tired and your poor, and then he added, who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge. What do you -- when you heard that, what did you think?

HARRIS: I think it's ironic that Mr. Cuccinelli would take such a position knowing that we admitted immigrants from Italy and from Ireland and from Poland and from Germany and many places who were fleeing famine, who were fleeing hardship, who were fleeing harm. And our position was that wherever you come from, give us your tired, your poor, your sick.

And so, I find it actually remarkable in a very troubling way that he actually had the gall to speak the words that he spoke. It's clear that's how they feel, but the fact that he actually said it, and unapologetically, tells us exactly where we are. There is not much speculation that, at this point, is required to figure out what are the motivations of this administration and what are their tactics.

BLITZER: Let me also get your reaction to what we heard today from Republican Congressman Steve King. He was apparently discussing ways that there shouldn't be any exceptions at all for abortion rights for women including in cases of rape and incest. I want you to watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population in the world left if we did that? Considering all of the wars and all the rape and pillages that's taken place and whatever happened to culture after society. I know I can't certify that I'm not a part of a product of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Yes, you're looking and -- you're listening to what he had to say.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: These guys are just out of their minds! What -- what is that? You got one saying, yes, that -- the Statue of Liberty only applies to people from Europe; you got another one saying it's -- rape and incest are OK. What is going on with these people? They need to -- they do not understand the importance and the responsibility of their jobs.

BLITZER: You called him a rape apologist. Does he need to resign?

HARRIS: Which he?

BLITZER: Steve King.

HARRIS: Oh, I think he should. And if not, I think he's going to get beat in this election.

BLITZER: You're going to work with -- to try to make sure he was defeated?

HARRIS: Well, I think that his opponent, J.D., is remarkably smart and energetic and well-positioned to win that election.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. I know it's been a crazy day today and a lot of breaking news, but thanks so much for coming in.

HARRIS: You're welcome, Wolf. Thank you. Take care.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

HARRIS: OK, take care.

BLITZER: Senator Kamala Harris joining us.

Once again, we're tracking the breaking news out of Philadelphia. Police say several officers have been shot and that the situation right now remains active. Stay with us, we'll update you right after this.

[17:38:11] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back to the disturbing breaking news we're following, an ongoing standoff in Philadelphia after several police officers were shot. Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is joining us now. He's been monitoring the situation. Evan, what are you -- what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is still very much an active situation. We heard that from police. And even at the scene, you have reporters who have heard in -- just in the last few minutes, they've heard gunshots ringing out, seven or eight gunshots ringing out, from that street from that area where these -- the shooter or multiple shooters have been firing at police officers.

Again, we know that at least three police officers have been shot, have been injured. There's been multiple injuries of police officers who were there apparently responding to narcotics activity at this house.

Again, this is an area that is just north of the Philadelphia Center City. There are hospitals that are nearby a few blocks away. Temple University Hospital, in particular, has done a lockdown, essentially telling the public to stay away from the scene. But we've -- right now, we can see just from, again, some of the

cameras that are -- that are there, there is still a massive police response. Dozens of police cars, police officers still hiding behind shields, hiding behind automobiles, trying to take cover because, again, just in the matter of the last few minutes, people on the scene heard gunshots ringing out again from -- apparently from these suspects that are still standing off with police officers.

Again, Wolf, this is up just north of the Philadelphia Center City, just near Temple University Hospital.

BLITZER: Stand by. Our crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz is also working his sources. What are you learning, Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Wolf, it's still very much active situation here as you can see, and there are dozens of police officers on scene. The Philadelphia Police Department is holding back units. They're actually asking for more SWAT units to come in.

And at one point, the situation was so dangerous that they were using heavily-armed kind of armored vehicles to push police cars out of the way, so that they can get in front of the building and have the right amount of cover. Officers, from our understanding, are also inside of this building, inside this house, where this apparently happened, so some officers may be trapped even inside.

[17:45:04] And at one point, the police there thought maybe there could be as many as two shooters. That's not entirely clear. But this does seem to stem from some kind of narcotics activity.

It's unclear if police were in the building doing like a buy and bust type of situation or there was some kind of a search warrant that they were executing and then they were fired upon. But it does appear to be, right now, that a lot of these officers were ambushed, that this shooter was firing at the officers in front of the building, inside the building. And really, you can just see officers, all that they were trying to do was take cover.

It doesn't appear that the scene is under control. We know that several officers have been injured. At least three, we have been told, have been shot. It's unclear how many were injured, but still very much an active scene there, Wolf.

BLITZER: I just want to remind our viewers, Shimon, we're not showing those close-up shots, the close-up video. We're only showing from above because the fear is some --

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

BLITZER: -- of these suspects may be watching, and they would have some advance information which could further endanger the police. They don't want us to show that -- we're seeing it. It is very disturbing, what we're seeing, but we're not broadcasting it. And I just want to point out, Shimon, why. PROKUPECZ: Yes. And even the police, they were asking for the media

to come back -- the helicopters, in particular -- to push back, not to be so close on top of the scene because they were concerned that it would hurt some of the operations, some of the strategic moves that they were making to get inside the building to try and get to the shooter. But it doesn't appear that they have been able to do so.

At one point, there were reports that the shooter was on different floors, could be in the back of the building, could be in the front of the building. They weren't even a hundred percent certain where the shooter was, and shots were continuing to be fired.

Obviously, there's dramatic video of officers being injured and just a lot of really -- what really amounts to a crazy scene with all these officers there. And you can hear the officers asking for a SWAT team, for other officers to get to the scene because it was a chaotic scene, initially. And it still seems to be chaotic as officers are still trying to really get control of the scene, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Shimon, stand by. Evan, stand by. I know you're both working your sources.

Let's discuss all the breaking news. Our legal and political experts with us.

And, Dana, it's -- you know, it's very scary when you see a tweet from Temple University right there in Philadelphia, "Lockdown is in effect for Health Sciences Center Campus. Seek shelter. Secure doors. Be silent. Be still. Police are responding." It's frightening.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And as you said several times -- and it bears repeating, I think -- this is an active situation. We don't know how this is going to end. And more importantly, we don't know what it's all about, but it is an active situation.

And unfortunately, I don't want to say it's the new normal, but it is this kind of situation where you have an active shooter is coming across our phones and coming across the -- the phones and, you know, bulletin alerts of people all across the country very, very frequently. Which is why here in Washington, there has been a renewed discussion about whether or not, finally, the Republican and Democratic Party can come together and figure out ways to stop this, whether it is gun control, any form of gun control, or other means.

And you know, with -- you and I talked about this earlier in the week, Wolf, that what -- what tends to happen with these things is that there's a -- there's a rush to figure it out, and then it subsides when the story is -- people move on from the story. Unfortunately, these stories are continuing, and it's happening as we speak.

BLITZER: Several police officers, apparently, in Philadelphia have been shot. Jackie Alemany, is there really some significant hope that the House and the Senate Democrats and Republicans will now work together with the President and come up with some new gun control regulations? JACKIE ALEMANY, AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST'S "POWER UP": I mean,

obviously, you have the senators -- Senators Toomey and Manchin -- being publicly optimistic, but I spent my day calling a bunch of the aides who have been working through these issues with their bosses and who have previously worked on these issues through all of the other mass shootings. And as one of them told me -- you know, potentially rather cynically, said that I saw 20 babies murdered, referring to Newtown, and nothing happened there.

It's unclear what changes the President actually wants in the Toomey- Manchin legislation. A few of these aides questioned whether or not the President really understands, how much he understands, if he understands what exactly background checks are. We do know that there is going to be the White House legislative team that's going to go to Bedminster and brief the President on what they could potentially do here.

And we also know that Ivanka Trump has now gotten involved. Some of these Democratic Senate aides actually, you know, said, of course, that this -- they're -- Ivanka's involvement can't hurt because she is a liaison. She has the President's ear.

[17:50:04] But some speculated that this is the typical Jared/Ivanka move where, at the end of the day, the momentum's going to potentially run out and Jared and Ivanka will go to their, you know, trusted reporters and the story will get out there saying, you know, Jared and Ivanka tried, but they weren't able to make anything happen.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, one other thing is Joe Manchin did a call with reporters last week, and I asked him what changed. What could have possibly changed since the first and the second time that the Manchin-Toomey legislation had failed to pass? And what he said was interesting. He said that President Trump is in office.

That he told -- some of his colleagues have come up to him during the course of the debate in previous iterations and said, listen, I've got no problem with this bill, but the fact that Obama is in the White House, I think he's going to take it and do more with it to ban guns.

Manchin would explain to them, they couldn't do that, that wasn't within the powers of the presidency. And yet, they didn't trust that that wasn't going to happen. So it really does depend on presidential will, in a way.

ALEMANY: Yes.

KUCINICH: Now, there are senators who are -- Republican senators who are balking at this bill again. That's going to be problematic. But it's going to be -- it's going to -- it's going to fall on Trump. It really is.

ALEMANY: I completely agree with it. You know, you'll hear -- you'll still hear different things from different parties, but this notion that McConnell is really leading the charge on this and that he is not supportive of background checks, I think, is not -- is maybe, potentially, a little misplaced. At the end of the day, if the President wants this --

BASH: That's very fine (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

ALEMANY: -- it's his call.

BLITZER: You know, Joey Jackson, you're looking at this from outside Washington. The four of us, we're inside Washington, but give us your perspective.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, my perspective is, is that something has to change, and reasonable minds have to come together to take action.

Yes, there's a Bill of Rights. Yes, I do agree and do believe strongly in the Second Amendment. But we need to protect responsible gun ownership. Why is it that only 17 states -- we have 50 -- have red flag laws?

What are they? They're laws which would allow family members, right, or police to go and petition the court in order to take your gun away in the event that you're a danger to yourself or others.

We need more states. We need the federal government to provide incentives or grants to other states to have these laws. We need it at the federal level. As Kamala Harris -- you just had her on the show -- has a proposal to get the federal courts involved.

These are laws which are very important. They're important in as much as, yes, we're going to protect your right to bear an arm, but if you're not rational and you're not reasonable, we're going to take it away.

Dana graciously says, you know, that, listen, is this the new normal, or I don't want to call it the new normal. It almost appears that it is, Wolf. How often are we talking about the same things?

Why do we have a loophole where you can go to a private gun show and you can get all the guns you want, no background check? But commercially, ha, background check. Does that make sense at all?

So my perspective is that, Democrat, Republican, independent, whatever you call yourself, there's too much shooting. It's happening all the time. Could we not get something together and do something so people stop dying?

BLITZER: Is it true that the President, at least in his public comments, he wants at least background checks to come out, but Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is reluctant to even to that?

BASH: Well, the second part of that statement is true, according to my reporting -- I'm sure both of yours as well -- that Mitch McConnell is reluctant to do background checks. The first part, that the President wants to do it, who knows? Because --

BLITZER: That's what he says.

BASH: It's what he says, but --

KUCINICH: Today.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Today, exactly, but he -- his White House, he, has issued a veto threat for a House bill that does exactly that. Maybe he does a little bit more, but there has been no action other than proof of the opposite, the proof of -- the fact that he doesn't want to do a background check bill. He's only talked about it and then changed his mind.

Now, the thing that is different this time when it comes to the President versus the last time there was discussion after Las Vegas, after the massacre there, is, the last time, the NRA changed the President's mind. He was in discussions and it almost happened, and the NRA changed the President's mind.

And apparently, the President is telling his aides that he doesn't think the NRA is as powerful right now because they have a lot of chaos at the top. Could that be an important changer for the President? You know, maybe, the way he thinks. But we just don't know, which is why -- one of the reasons McConnell has been reluctant.

BLITZER: Well, let me get Jackie Kucinich to weigh in. What is Ivanka Trump's role in all of this?

KUCINICH: I don't know that we know yet. It seems like she's kind of inserting herself into all of this, and I -- and Jackie made that point as well. You know, the thing I do want to mention, since we're dealing with -- we don't know what's going on in Philadelphia right now, but we know that law enforcement is involved.

There are a lot of law enforcement groups that are for more restrictions with guns. I mean, look what happened in Dayton, how many people were shot, how many people were killed in, what, 32 seconds. Every time one these happens, and I hate to say it, you do hear police speaking out, saying we're outmatched by some -- by some of these weapons that these people are using.

[17:55:05] BLITZER: Which is a really dangerous situation. And clearly, what's going on in Philadelphia right now is extremely worrisome.

Just ahead, we're going to have much more on the breaking news coming in from Philadelphia where police are still in a standoff with at least one gunman. Several police officers have been shot. Much more on that and all the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:00:00] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Standoff. Police are facing off with at least one gunman in Philadelphia right now. We're told multiple police officers have been --