Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Wild Rant on the White House Lawn; Merkel Gives Johnson 30 Days for Backstop Alternative; 29 Arrested for Planning Mass Shootings; Air Photo Shoot Becomes Crash-and-Rescue Drama. Aired 12- 1a ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump canceled his state visit to Denmark next week because the Danish didn't want to sell Greenland. It was never for sale and it's never been discussed beyond the president's speech.

Next stop, the British prime minister turns to the European neighbors to help solve the conundrum of Ireland's border problem and Angela Merkel of Germany says the solution may be possible within the coming days.

Plus America is a gun just weeks after two mass shootings in the United States, nearly 30 people are arrested planning mass murders.

Hello, everybody, welcome to our show here, I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: We begin this hour with lessons according to the Book of Trump. The U.S. president delivered a sermon to reporters on the White House Lawn. Asked about the trade war with China, he looked toward the heavens and declared, "I am the chosen one."

Then he commanded that Jewish people must vote Republican lest they be seen as disloyal to Israel and the Jewish people.

But he offered forgiveness to Russia and insisting that they would be allowed to rejoin the G8. He says they were not cast out of the group because of their annexation of Crimea but because Vladimir Putin had outsmarted Barack Obama.

And then to his latest Promised Land: Greenland. He spoke with the prime minister of Denmark and postponed his visit after she rejected his idea of buying the Danish territory.


TRUMP: I thought that the prime minister's statement that it was absurd, that was it -- it was an absurd idea was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do was say, no, we wouldn't be interested. Don't say what an absurd idea that is because she's not talking to me. Excuse me. She's not talking to me. She's talking to the United States of America. You don't talk to the United States that way, at least under me.



METTE FREDERIKSEN, PRIME MINISTER OF DENMARK: It is with regret and surprise that I received the news that President Trump has canceled his state visit. I had been looking forward to this.

Our preparations were well underway. It was an opportunity I think to celebrate Denmark's close relationship to U.S., who remains one of Denmark's closest allies.


VAUSE: Ron Brownstein is CNN's senior political analyst and the senior editor for "The Atlantic" and he joins us from Los Angeles.

Ron, this has been quite the 24 hours, even by the frog in the boiling water standard we've grown accustomed. Being crazy, it seems came with the president canceling his visit to Denmark or, as "The New York Times" editorial board wrote, "The decision was one of the more astounding plays by a president who finds new ways to amaze, alienate and infuriate almost daily.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I was struck by him when he described himself as the chosen one on the same day they announced the long-awaited sequel to "The Matrix." Maybe he's planning on playing Neo in the movie.

But this really is an encapsulates of the extraordinary situation the country is in and the extraordinary situation that he is in politically.

We have unemployment under 4 percent and even though the economy is slowing, normally you expect the president to be soaring in the polls at that moment. But our CNN polling today encapsulates all the aspects of what you described in the introduction. And there's 41 percent of the people who say that the economy is excellent or good, still say they disapprove of Trump's job performance.

We have never seen anything like it, there's never been that level of dissatisfaction with a president among voters who are economically satisfied. It's just a reflection of all the different things you cited and the sheer level of chaos that surrounds this presidency from day-to-day.

VAUSE: The issue with Denmark, it is a U.S. ally and it's proven its loyalty to the country with blood and treasure, starting recently with Afghanistan. Rufus Gifford, a former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUFUS GIFFORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO DENMARK: This is a country, Denmark, that has fought and died alongside American soldiers. I had the great privilege -- I had the great responsibility of going to the Danish government and requesting troops to go to Iraq, to Syria.

And they went and they fought alongside our troops and they died alongside our troops.

This is not the way you treat a loyal ally, who is, with centuries of diplomatic relations. It's just a sad chapter to me.


VAUSE: At the same time, Donald Trump is cheerleading for Russia to join the G7. Russia was expelled after the invasion of Crimea. You put those two things together, it's beyond a typical Trump day.

BROWNSTEIN: It's actually very revealing counterpoint there because what they both --


BROWNSTEIN: -- tell you is that Trump's view of international relations is totally transactional. He has no respect for the history or tradition or alliance. It is all how any country interacts with what how he defines the national interest or perhaps even more his personal interest.

So you see the incredible spectacle of a president who has consistently spoken in more favorable terms about authoritarian adversaries abroad -- North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, which is something in the middle -- and engaged in a series of confrontations with allies, including the most prominently Germany, Denmark and many others.

That is the way he interacts with the world. It's what have you done for me immediately. And "me" may be defined even more than my country.

VAUSE: Here's a possibility for why the trip to Denmark was canceled. It comes from David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter.

He tweeted, "Former President Obama will follow him September 28th. The contrast in the Danish public reception of the two Eastern was likely to prove embarrassing."

At this point though, that explanation seems almost a relief that this is about Trump's ego as opposed to the delusion of buying Greenland, which was never for sale anyway.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I actually think that (INAUDIBLE) imputing too much. And I think this is about something exactly what he said. It is striking that he used the word "nasty" again to describe yet another woman and continuing the pattern of how he talks about -- he disparages anyone, any institution that he sees as resisting anything that he wants.

But he's particularly tough on women and people of color.

And again, all of this does -- we are asked all the time by people, is there any consequences to the president for all this?

I would say the fact that 40 percent of people said the economy is excellent or good and say (INAUDIBLE) nonetheless is a (INAUDIBLE). And just one other note from our CNN poll today, we're accustomed to the president having a very low approval rating among white women in the U.S., who are college educated and in fact he is now 31 percent in the CNN poll today, which is very low indeed. But he is also down to 38 percent among white women without a college education.

And those women were an absolute pillar of his victory in 2016 and particularly in the midwestern states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. He was in the high 50s among the in all of those states. Now his national approval is down to 38 percent. And it's in large part because of his behavior as president and the kind of strange episodes that we are talking about today.

VAUSE: It was a strange episode on Wednesday, it was a press briefing which seemed to spin out of control on so many levels. Take a look.


TRUMP: No president has ever done anywhere close to what I've done. I have been responsible for a lot of great things. I'm wonderful for the USA. I am the least racist person ever to serve in office. The love for me -- and me maybe as a representative of the country -- but for me.

I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was put here by people to do a great job. And that is what I'm doing. No president has done what I've done.

I am the chosen one.


VAUSE: I kept thinking back to February 2016 Senator Ted Cruz had just won the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump had gone off the rails. Cruz made this remark about his temperament.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I don't know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button. I mean, we're liable to wake up one morning and, Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark.


VAUSE: We laughed at the time -- it seems almost prescient. BROWNSTEIN: Yes, it did.

Look, there is an audience for this, right?

This is all an extension of "I alone can fix it." And part of Trump's core message to the core supporters has always been that you are being threatened by forces really on both sides. Elites that are contemptuous of you and minorities that are coming to take your jobs or threaten your security. And I alone can protect you from them.

And this is just an extension of that from the remarks of his convention speech in 2016. The problem is that the sheer volatility, the erratic nature of this presidency, even apart of all the division, from the policy flip-flops, just the sheer level of chaos and conflict that accompany us from day-to-day is exhausting to many voters.

Pollsters talk about how in focus groups, they just simply do not want to be surrounded by this much and do not want to think about politics. And the idea of returning to normalcy, as Warren Harding said in 1920, and that Joe Biden is implicitly offering here, has proven to be effective in the fact that at the box office, at the electoral box in 2017-2018, candidates who were relatively centrist, lower key in demeanor and had appeal.

And I just think he faces the risk in everything that he does to gin up his base just deepens the unease among the voters --


BROWNSTEIN: -- beyond it.

VAUSE: I can't believe Democrats Medicare for all and public options right now when you have this president in the White House. This is the same man who said there were good people on both sides of a pro- Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is describing himself as the chosen one.

He is now appealing to American Jews to vote for him. Here's some of Tom Foreman's reporting.


TRUMP: You vote for a Democrat and you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel to siding with the Jewish nation on territorial matters to his stand on Iran, Trump is painting his support for the Israeli government's causes as so profound, only idiots would not agree.

TRUMP: I think it shows either total lack of knowledge or a great disloyalty.

FOREMAN (voice-over): He has even embraced a right-wing trope that says Israelis see him like he is the second coming of God, retweeting a conspiracy theorist who, like Trump, has questioned President Obama's birthplace.

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL), MEMBER, JUDICIARY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEES: It's outrageous, it's offensive and it is dangerous.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Jewish lawmakers, rights groups and several Democratic candidates for president are howling.

"Trump's stance is anti-Semitic is pure and simple."

"These comments are insulting and inexcusable."

"The Jewish people don't have to prove their loyalty to you."

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a proud Jewish person. And I have no concerns about voting Democratic.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The fury is not merely because Trump is winking at an old stereotype, suggesting American Jews may be as loyal to Israel as they are to their own country.

Rather much of the anger flows out of a sense that Trump has been here before, inviting the creator of an anti-Semitic comic to the White House, telling a group of Jewish Republicans the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is your prime minister.

And when rightwing marches in Virginia changed, "Jews will not replace us," there was Trump, acknowledging their violent clash with counterprotesters but also giving them comfort.

TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

FOREMAN: Still politically, this all makes sense. Less than a quarter of Jewish voters supported Donald Trump in 2016. He has a strong group of support among white supremacists who don't like Jews much anyway.

And among Christian evangelicals, there are those who believe that Trump is an historical figure sent to fulfill a Biblical prophesy that will raise up the State of Israel before the coming end of days -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Ron, this slur of the disloyal Jew goes all the way back to the Book of Exodus. It has been trafficked by anti-Semites around the world. It is something else, though, to hear it coming from the president of the United States.

BROWNSTEIN: It was something else to hear him go back coming from the president of United States, language that has been talked about would get you fired from any major company in the country.

What's really striking about is the set of assumptions that cascade upon each other, that for American Jews,, for most American Jews, the principal issue in how they choose between the parties here is the policies towards Israel and even if you believe that is true, that the only way to express support for Israel is to express support for the Netanyahu government, which is essentially turning itself into an arm of the Republican Party, going all the way back to 2012 with Mitt Romney against Barack Obama and certainly coming here to give a speech against the Iran nuclear deal.

Just all of the assumptions that go into this, not to mention the idea that the thought that anyone outside of Jews or Jesus are really waiting for a second coming. In all of these ways, the president compounds the mistakes and that help explain why he is very unlikely to improve upon that 75-15 split among American Jews, despite all of his process with the Netanyahu government.

What this really does not only hurts him, Netanyahu has made a political blunder of historic proportions by aligning himself with this administration that is so unpopular among the vast number of American Jews and creating the impression that the Israeli government is now aligned with the Republican Party, making it even harder for Democrats to maintain their traditional support for Israel. This is kind of a lose-lose situation for both of them.

VAUSE: Perhaps the best way to describe the past 24 hours of the Trump presidency or maybe the last three years comes from comedian John Mulaney. Here he is.


JOHN MULANEY, COMEDIAN: This guy being the president, it's like there is a horse loose in a hospital. It's like there's a horse loose in a hospital. I think eventually everything is going to be OK. But I have no idea what is going to happen next.

And neither do any of you and neither do your parents because there is a horse --


MULANEY: -- loose in the hospital. It has never happened before, nobody knows what the horse is going to do next, least of all the horse. He's never been in a hospital before. He as confused as you are.


VAUSE: We're out of time but that sort of is where we are right now.

BROWNSTEIN: I would describe the last 24 hours of this presidency -- Wednesday. Because this is pretty much -- this is the more extreme version of what every day.

VAUSE: Yes, the volume turned up to 11, I guess, today.

BROWNSTEIN: The volume is turned up to 11, yes.

VAUSE: Thanks Ron, good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you. VAUSE: President Trump says a lot more. He's now suggesting his

administration is considering executive action on birthright citizenship, which, for the record, is protected by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


TRUMP: Where you have a baby in our land, you walk over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen. We are looking at it very, very seriously.


VAUSE: The administration has also announced a proposal to detain undocumented families together indefinitely. It would replace an agreement setting a 20-day limit for holding children.

The new rule was unveiled Wednesday by the acting U.S. Homeland Security secretary.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The result of holding families together under the previous administration was a dramatic reduction in the flow of unlawful crossings by families.

By closing this key loophole the new rule will restore integrity to our immigration system and illuminate the major flow factor fueling the crisis.


The 20-day limit was part of a settlement in a 1997 lawsuit which set nationwide policy for detention and treatment of minors in U.S. immigration custody. So the proposed regulation will most likely face legal challenges.

The proposal is part of the Trump administration's aggressive efforts to revamp immigration laws as the number of families and unaccompanied children crossing from Mexico continue to increase. In recent months the administration has put forth rules that could make it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards.

It's also worked to end temporary status for migrants from a number of countries and limited avenues for declaring asylum. And, in a related story, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not give migrants flu vaccines, even though three children died of the illness in U.S. custody.

Officials say it's because migrants are only supposed to be in a CBP detention for 72 hours or less but public health experts say the facilities encourage the spread of diseases like the flu, and that migrants should be vaccinated.

President Trump is starting to Moscow right now, suggesting Russia should be invited to the next G7 meeting in the U.S. He will broach the subject with other G7 leaders when they meet in France. France apparently is OK with it. But both the U.K. and Germany are not on board. Still, Russian media are cheering like it's a done deal. Fred Pleitgen reports from Moscow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Russian).

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Kremlin controlled media is celebrating after President Trump says he want to see Russia rejoin the group of strongest industrial nations the G7, a translated version of Trump's remarks getting massive applause on the state TV.

State TV already showing graphics of the G8 logo now with a Russian flag, claim Trump made the move because he believes he owes Russia after the U.S. recently tested a land-based Tomahawk cruise missile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Trump just tested the new Tomahawks. That will soon probably be deployed next to our borders to scare us. So it looks like the American president feels guilty or ashamed, saddened. Trump decided to unburden himself and agreed with Macron to invite us to G7. They missed us.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia was kicked out of the group in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The decision was made during the Obama administration but was approved by a majority of the member nations. Still, President Trump tonight choosing to praise Putin over his predecessor.

TRUMP: Putin outsmarted him. President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in. So he wanted Russia out.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Despite Trump's words, the Russian leader is showing Trump the cold shoulder, saying that Russia's developing new advanced weaponry and even blaming the U.S. in part for a recent explosion during a botched Russian weapons test that led to a radiation spike.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The tragedy in the White Sea that took lives of our specialists have enduring works on advanced weaponry. We are not hiding that. The people who suffered were doing critical work to ensure the security of our state, as our partners, including the Americans, who are testing new systems. So --


PUTIN (through translator): -- we also need to play extra attention to this.

PLEITGEN: For all of Trump's apparent enthusiasm, the Russians themselves so far have not said whether or not they would want to join the G7 again. Several Russian officials coming on, saying that the Russians would like to see sanctions relieved before even thinking about rejoining the organization like the G7 -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


VAUSE: Still to come, Boris Johnson is on a mission but the odds the British prime minister will succeed in renegotiating a Brexit deal (INAUDIBLE).

Also ahead, fire in Brazil's Amazon rain forest are burning at a record rate. And Brazil's president suggests it could all be a plot. Environmentalists will explain in a moment.




VAUSE: This is in Brazil where the Amazon rain forest is burning at a record rate. The fires have been raging for weeks and this is an area which provides 20 percent of the world's atmospheric oxygen. Scientists say it's key to slowing global warming.

Activist groups have blamed the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for relaxing environmental controls which has accelerated deforestation. But the president says the fires may have been started by environmentalists trying to make his government look bad on the world stage.


JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Regarding the fires in the Amazon, I am under the impression that it could have been set by the NGOs because they had asked for money.

What was their intention, to bring about problems for Brazil?


VAUSE: Brazil's president says more resources have been deployed to try to put the fire under control.

British prime minister Boris Johnson will push to renegotiate the Brexit deal in Paris but it shows every sign of being futile, French president Macron said Britain's demands are just not workable and a no deal Brexit will be Britain's fault.

Meantime German chancellor Angela Merkel said Johnson has 30 days to come up with an alternative to the so-called Irish backstop, that's the clause in the agreement to provide a hard border between the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): We always said, "We probably will find a solution in the coming two years," but possibly you may find a solution in 30 days.

Why not?

And then we would be a step forward. And we need to make every effort, that we will find something like this. However, this requires clarity in terms of the future relationship --


MERKEL (through translator): -- of Britain and the E.U. And I believe, now, clarity is much stronger.



BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: We cannot -- we cannot accept the current withdrawal agreement, arrangements that either divide the U.K. or lock us into the regulatory and trading arrangements of the E.U., the legal order of the E.U., without the U.K. having any say on those matters.


VAUSE: Boris Johnson may not have many supporters or friends in the E.U. but he has an enthusiastic backer in the White House. CNN's Melissa Bell has on what could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


TRUMP: We do have a very special relationship, in fact I will get that piece of dandruff off.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At first, the bromance seemed to flourish, the French president determined to be Donald Trump's friend in Europe despite differences in both style and policy.

But key issues including threats of tariffs soon cooled the relationship. Now another European leader could prove a more natural ally for the American president and not just for pragmatic reasons but ideological ones, too.


TRUMP: I spoke with Boris Johnson. I think he's going to be a great prime minister. He can do a fantastic job, I know him, a lot of people know him, we have a good relationship. I think he will be, far superior.


BELL (voice-over): The last time Donald Trump visited the United Kingdom, Theresa May was still the prime minister. Now it's the Brexiteer Boris Johnson taking on Brexit negotiations with wary European partners, stopping in Berlin on Wednesday before heading to Paris to meet Macron and then heading to the G7 meeting in Biarritz, where the man called the British Donald Trump will meet the actual Donald Trump, two populists certainly.

But what about policy?

CHRISTIAN LEQUESNE, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, SCIENCES PO: If you look at the foreign policy positions of the United Kingdom, on Iran, on Middle East, even on Russia, they are closer from Berlin and Paris than Washington, D.C.

BELL (voice-over): But even more than Theresa May at the last G7, Boris Johnson needs that special relationship with the United States rekindled, post Brexit more than ever. At this week's G7, Johnson and Trump will be at the table, and even if there are divisions, there will be much unity, including at the site of the European Union -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


VAUSE: After two deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio authorities claim to have been in more than 2 dozen attempts to carry out mass murder. More on that when we come back.

Also ahead, a fight for survival after a small plane crashes off the California coast, all caught on camera. Details on that as well. Stay with us.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update of our top news this hour.

[00:30:24] Donald Trump is calling the Danish prime minister's comment nasty after she rejected his offer to buy Greenland as being absurd. The prime minister expressed regret over Trump's decision to cancel a state visit, adding she would like to avoid a war of words.

The Russian media cheering Donald Trump for suggesting Russia be invited to next year's G-7 to be held in the United States. The U.S. president is expected to raise the issue this weekend at the G-7 summit in France. Both the U.K. and Germany have signaled they are not ready to welcome Russia back.

After a stop in Germany, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, heads to Paris in his push to renegotiate the Brexit agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that there will be no negotiations. He said is there's a no-deal Brexit, it will be Britain's fault, not the E.U.

It hasn't even been three weeks since 31 people were killed in back- to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and hours later, Dayton, Ohio. But since then, at least 29 people suspected of planning similar attacks have been arrested. That's more than one arrest a day.

The latest was in Southern California. Police believe the suspect was planning to kill as many coworkers and hotel guests as possible at the Marriott Hotel where he worked as a cook.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A search of the suspect's residence in the city of Huntington Beach led to the seizure of multiple high-powered firearms, hundred rounds of ammunition, as well as tactical gear, including an assault rifle and high-capacity magazines, which are illegal to possess in the state of California.


VAUSE: Matt Littman is president of the 97 Percent gun-reform group. He's also a Democrat strategist. He joins us from Los Angeles.

Matt, good to see you.


VAUSE: If authorities in any other country around the world had foiled at least 29 credible plots to carry out mass murder by gun in just a couple of weeks, there would most likely be 72-point headlines in every newspaper. It would be considered a national crisis.

Here, it's treated like an accounting entry. Why is that?

LITTMAN: Well, first of all, John, thank you and CNN for bringing it up, because I don't really see it much anywhere else. And it obviously is a huge story.

I think the problem that you're pointing to is that this has become fairly commonplace in America, which is extremely scary. We have so many mass shootings. We had 40,000 gun deaths in 2017. That's a new high. While two-thirds of those are suicides, the number keeps going up and up.

And so in the United States, we hear about these mass shootings for about three weeks. There's outrage, and then move onto the next thing and then later one, there's another mass shooting.

So part of this is that the country is hearing about a lot of these mass shootings, and the reaction from the -- from America is not as strong as it should be.

VAUSE: Well, there's also this question of how did these, you know, huge, potential mass murderers get hold of semiautomatic weapons, as well as rounds of ammunition. Did they pass a background check? If they did, should those background checks be more stringent?

Here's Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we also have to remember, the gun doesn't pull the trigger. A person does. I don't want to take away people's Second Amendment rights. We're talking about background checks. Then all of a sudden, were talking about let's take everybody's gun away.


VAUSE: Sorry. That was Donald Trump, president of the United States. But you know, the talking points come from the NRA.


VAUSE: Clearly, though, the background checks, you know, they're not just low-hanging fruit of gun reform. It's fruit which is lying on the ground going to waste. It doesn't get any easier than that.

LITTMAN: Right. So when Donald Trump says that people are talking about taking everyone's gun away, people are not talking about taking everyone's gun away.

What -- universal background checks are supported by 97 percent of the country. Universally, gun owners support universal background checks. Right?

The problem is that Congress is not going to be passing universal background checks, really, anytime soon, because the Senate majority is led by Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. And he probably will not want to do that. And Donald Trump probably does not want to go against the NRA.

Now, that does not mean that there won't be any legislation that all. But in terms of what's needed to really stop this problem, we're not there. The Congress isn't there in terms of the Republican leaders in the Senate. And Donald Trump is not going to fight against the NRA, it appears.

So you'll see incremental change, but we need big change in this country. And that change is just very logical. Like, you're talking about the background checks. You know, there's an episode of "The Simpsons," John, where Homer Simpsons [SIC] goes -- Homer Simpson goes to buy a gun. And the guy -- and he says, "Can I get a gun?"

And the guy says, "There's a five-day waiting period."

And Homer Simpson says, "But I'm angry now."

VAUSE: Exactly.

[00:30:04] LITTMAN: Right. And so we need to wait a few days before that does stop violence. If you wait a few days, that's been proven to stop violence. That's a very basic thing that everybody in this country supports, not Mitch McConnell.

VAUSE: And all the polling backs this up, too. Because a clear majority of Americans say there is a need for, or they support, tighter gun control. That's hardly a surprise.

But from the work that you've done with gun owners and in Republican states, what sort of gun reform is acceptable to those people, to the gun owners and to, you know, those conservative states. Is there -- how big is the gap between what's acceptable in Texas, compared to what's acceptable in California? What's doable?

LITTMAN: Well, I'll tell you what's interesting, John, is gun owners are generally in favor of many of the same reforms that non-gun owners are. The problem is that gun owners are not willing to really advocate for those reforms yet, because they feel that there's no leadership. They don't trust the leadership, right?

So they don't trust Congress, and they don't trust the media. And they feel talked down to. And one of the ways that you could really move gun reform in this country. We say "gun reform" and "gun safety" more than "gun control," because even that word "control" gets a very negative reaction from gun owners.

But one way that you can do that is by engaging with gun owners. They're the missing link in this process. So people who don't own guns are advocating for gun reform. People who own guns believe in gun reform, but they're not advocating for it in the way that we need them to. And we need to do a much better job of speaking to gun owners and not speaking down to gun owners.

VAUSE: Yes. We heard from the former vice president, Joe Biden, who's now a Democrat presidential candidate. He tweeted, "Once again, President Trump has folded to the NRA and broken his promise to pursue the most modest of gun safety policies. I give you my word as a Biden: I won't rest until we pass universal background checks and ban assault weapons. We will end our gun violence epidemic."

Gun reform in the past was one of those issues for Democrats which they've run away from. It's considered a lose-lose. That's not the case anymore. But is there a danger that during this primary, as the candidates amongst this Democratic field, which is very crowded, trying to, you know, one up each other and play to the Twitter crowd, you know, the extreme progressives.


VAUSE: And, you know, it scares those conservatives, and it provides an opening for the president.

LITTMAN: Yes. There is definitely that danger. You're exactly right. Even that statement by Joe Biden, who's -- who's a great candidate, even that statement where he says, "We're going to end gun violence," that's not really the case. We're not going to necessarily be able to end gun violence. That's a promise that he will not be able to keep.

There are 400 million guns in this country, and no matter what we do, we're on a path of gun violence right now. And it's going to be a long time before we're able to knock that down.

And yes, there will be Democrats who go -- there are Democrats who go too far, where the public is not on this issue. If you go where the public is on this issue, if you just engage them a little bit further and get them to advocate for what they already believe in, they're saying, "We already believe in this. We already believe in universal background checks. We agree on gun -- on red-flag laws," for example. Most of the country agrees on these issues. Banning assault weapons,

a majority agrees on that, as well. But there is definitely a danger of going too far. And the problem is that some gum owners, like I was saying before, do not trust the leadership. And some Democrats can go too far. Let's focus on what we agree on, and let's get done what we agree on.

VAUSE: Yes. There's a -- there's a centrist lane in all this, which is very doable.

LITTMAN: Absolutely.

VAUSE: And can get some real reform done. They just have to stay in that lane, I guess. Matt, good to see you.

LITTMAN: Thanks, John. Good to see you, too.

VAUSE: When we get back, a plane goes down off the California coast. The passengers are saved, and the whole thing caught on camera. We'll have the amazing video of the crash and the rescue in just a moment.


[00:40:51] VAUSE: All ten people on board this plane walked away without injury. The twin-engine Cessna Citation burst into flames after the pilot aborted takeoff at a municipal airport in Northern California.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating the cause of the accident.

Another accident involving a plane in California was caught on video. This happened when a scenic aerial photo shoot went wrong. The pilot and the passengers are OK, but they do have quite a story to tell.

Here's CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pilot David Lesh and his passenger leapt onto the wing, a crash landing miles from shore. And that wreckage sank fast.

PHIL LESH, PILOT: There she goes.

WATT: What happened?

LESH: I wonder if it was something in the fuel.

WATT: Even in summer, this water is cold.

LESH: It's starting to get a little cold out here. Lots of jellyfish bobbing around.

We were getting stung, like, the whole time. Definitely got a little bit hypothermic. I was -- I was doing pretty bad after about half an hour.

WATT: Here's how all this happened. Lesh bought this single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza just a couple of months ago and asked his buddy, Owen Leipelt, a fellow pilot, to go on a joint mission.

LESH: We were planning on going up over, you know, San Fran, over the Golden Gate Bridge and stuff and doing a photo mission to take photos of the new airplane.

WATT: Instead, something went very wrong. Leipelt, flying another plane, found himself filming his friend suddenly losing altitude, skimming the Pacific.

LESH: I'm just doing everything I can do, different combinations of, you know, throttle and mixture. If you freak out, you know, you can stall it and spin into the ground, and that's how you die.

WATT: They ditched as Leipelt watched from above, not knowing if his friends were OK.

OWEN LEIPELT, PILOT: I lost them. I had been circling, and I couldn't see them anymore. And David called me on the phone as he was bobbing in the water.

WATT: Yes, Lesh had saved his phone from the wreckage, used it to call his buddy and film the fix they were in.

LESH: We're floating around now in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Pacific Ocean. I'm holding onto my window shade as a flotation device.

WATT: And they called for help.

LEIPELT: I've been circling for the past hour. The Coast Guard's out here now. Oh, my God. I can't believe that just happened.

WATT: Lifted to safety. A miracle out there on the Half Moon Bay.

(on camera): Now, the quality of the video is so good that there are rumors that it must be fake. No way, the pilot tells our San Francisco affiliate KPIX. He says, "Why would I risk my life just to games about 1,000 Instagram followers?"

But, as KPIX notes, the actual cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


VAUSE: Thank you, Nick.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us now. WORLD SPORT is up next. You're watching CNN.