Return to Transcripts main page


Parkland Survivor And Parent Of Victim Speak Out On Guns; CNN Reality Check: Republican Hypocrisy On Soaring Deficit; Trump Spars With U.S. Allies, Gets Cozy With Strongmen. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:53] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important.

People don't realize we have very strong background checks right now.

And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem. And I've said it a hundred times, it's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person that pulls the trigger.

I have an appetite for background checks. We're going to be doing background checks.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Trump saying nothing about solving the mass shooting crisis in the country less than three weeks after the deadly attacks in Texas, and Ohio, and California.

Joining us now is David Hogg, the co-founder of March for Our Lives and a survivor of the Parkland school massacre. And, Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, in Parkland and has since dedicated his life to the issue of gun safety.

We always appreciate talking to you guys and I'm sorry that it has to be in this circumstance where mass shootings don't seem to be getting any better. In fact, they seem to be accelerating --


CAMEROTA: -- including the spate of arrests that have been -- police have foiled potential mass shootings this week. So we see it, it feels like, almost every day.

Fred, why is it so hard for the president and Republicans in the Senate or Congress to do something that 90 percent of Americans, when polled, say they want, which is expanding background checks?

GUTTENBERG: You know what, it's a great question and I'm going to try and say it like this. I don't care why they are unable. What I will say is that is if they don't find a way to be able we're going to defeat them because people are dying every single day.

They are making this a political -- listen, bullets -- when they shoot you, they don't know if you're Republican or Democrat, they don't know if you're black or white, they don't know if you're rich or poor. They know if they hit you they're going to kill you.

And when we have these legislators whose job it is to do something about this and reduce this gun violence death rate and they choose not to when 90 percent of Americans are saying here's what we want, they should be fired.

CAMEROTA: Particularly, right now, David, the NRA is at its weakest point in recent memory. It's had this mass exodus of its leadership, it is hobbled by a corruption scandal, and they're still afraid of Wayne LaPierre?

DAVID HOGG, CO-FOUNDER, MARCH FOR OUT LIVES, GUN CONTROL ACTIVIST, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Yes, and since, March for Our Lives has filed a complaint with the New York attorney general, which helped start those investigations in the first place.

I honestly can't understand the mindset that they're still afraid of Wayne LaPierre. I can't understand the mindset of the people that do still support NRA, considering the fact that they are legally a nonprofit as a 501(c)(3) -- the tax status there.

And the fact that their CEO, Wayne LaPierre, has spent $240,000 on Italian suits. He's spent over half a million dollars on a private jet trip with his wife to the Bahamas. That's a --

GUTTENBERG: They also bought him a $6 million home.

HOGG: Yes.

And I think what that tells us, more than anything, is the fact that the NRA doesn't care about gun owners like my father. I've grown up my entire life with guns in my household and a father that was in law enforcement. I've been shooting guns since I was in fourth grade.

And I know that the NRA doesn't care about gun owners like my father because they fought against putting guns under the Consumer Protection Act. And on top of that, to ensure that there is no manufacturer accountability.


HOGG: They made it against federal law.

CAMEROTA: You believe that their priority are gun manufacturers and you've always said that.

GUTTENBERG: Selling guns, yes.

CAMEROTA: But on an obviously more emotional and personal note, what are these three weeks like for you guys when you have to watch the mass shooting in Gilroy, California, and the mass shooting in El Paso, and the mass shooting in Dayton? As we said, all the ones that are being foiled right now.

What happens with you guys after a week like this?

GUTTENBERG: You know, the day after the two mass shootings that happened in a 12-hour period, I was supposed to be leaving on a vacation with my wife and my son.

And it was the first time where I'd actually promised them I'm putting the phone away, I'm putting the computer away. We're going to disconnect and get away. And then you have two mass shootings.

And what I realized is as much as I want to put this away sometimes and disconnect, gun violence doesn't stop.

[07:35:00] The reality is every single day -- and it's not just mass shootings because a week before those two mass shootings, I was in Cincinnati, Ohio that just had its deadliest month on record. Eighteen killed, I think, in a 3-week period.

But it's individual shootings. It's not always in the neighborhoods we're paying attention to. But it was their deadliest month on record.

Shootings do not stop. They're happening every day.

And until -- and I said to David earlier, without getting into the details of this plan, I love the goal of it, which is reducing the gun violence death rate in half, OK?

Until we have serious legislators who have a goal of reducing the gun violence death rate, we need to keep the pressure on them and either get them to do their jobs or show up at this next vote and fire them.

CAMEROTA: And I am going to get to your plan in one second.

But just for you, David -- I mean, you're obviously so active, you're so vocal. And what happens during these couple of weeks for you?

HOGG: It's painful. It's really painful to see the people that claim that they represent us because we claim to be in a representational -- representative democracy, rather, that don't agree to do something that 90 percent of Americans support in the first place because of corporate special interests, right.

And it's painful for me to see it because I know from my journeys across the country and meeting survivors of suicide, specifically, on gun suicide, and meeting survivors of unintentional shootings, and survivors of everyday gun violence where there are millions of children that have to walk to and from school on a daily basis, oftentimes over bloodstained sidewalks and through police caution tape that don't get on the news, I'm thinking about the fact that we have mass shootings every day in the United States that are not talked about as mass shootings because they're in historically marginalized communities that face record amounts of injustice.

CAMEROTA: And also because -- you're right, there's so much gun violence it is hard for us to talk about it every day. And it is the most dramatic mass shootings that get the most attention. I mean, right or wrong. But there's no dearth of them and we talk about them all the time.

But you're right. You have been tackling gun violence.

But remember in the days after Parkland where the president had that emotional meeting at the White House with the family members. In their grief and their devastation, they traveled to Washington, D.C. hoping that this time would be different and that this time the president would do something.

And here's what the president promised right in those days after Parkland. Listen to this.


TRUMP: We're going to be very strong on background checks. We'll be doing very strong background checks.


CAMEROTA: That's what he said after Parkland. It's been a couple of years since then and nothing has happened in terms of universal background checks.

HOGG: Yes, and I think what we have to realize as Americans and what I've come to realize is it's not going to be the Democratic Party or the Republican Party that is going to fix this problem.

If we look back at American history, the only time that true movements over things that are historically considered political issues but are reality are not, actually were able to change things is when we change our culture.

And what I think we need to do more than anything is we need to realize that we can't wait for Democrats to take every part of the government or Republicans, for that matter, to fix this problem.

We need people to go out there and look at the peace plan. We need people to go out there and do these things because they realize that talking about how to prevent future tragedies from happening is not politicizing trauma because what they are talking about is peace. And in my opinion, peace is not political.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that the president said this week in a crazy, rhetorical week that got your attention, Fred. You said that he said, quote, "All victims of gun violence love him." And did you want to fact-check that this morning?

GUTTENBERG: I do want to talk to the president. And you showed the clip on after Parkland. My daughter died in Parkland. I live with that every second of every day. And he lied to me and all the other victims that day and he's done it again since the other mass shootings.

When he talks about doing the right thing for a brief second, and then he says but I spoke to the NRA and walks away from it.

So, Mr. President, let me tell you something. I don't care about you. This is not about love or hate. I don't care about you.

I care about what you do and I hate what you are doing because you are using the pain of the victims of gun violence to speak in a way that allows you to look like you're going to do something, but only to play games with their emotions and not do it in the end.

I don't care about you, Mr. President, but I hate what you do. It is time for you to stop talking on this topic until you are ready to give Mitch McConnell the go-ahead to open up the Senate and actually take on legislation.

Enough -- stay out of this. Keep your mouth just quiet unless you're ready to actually be a serious participant in this conversation. Just stop.

CAMEROTA: How is he using your pain?

GUTTENBERG: You know what, every time he puts himself on camera with a photo op, like he did yesterday, to talk about it -- to say people like me love him -- no, we don't.

[07:40:07] Now, I'm not going to speak for every family in Parkland but I can tell you I'm not the only one that feels this way.

And I get to meet victims of gun violence across this country, OK? Don't talk about doing the right thing only to go on record as saying I said I'll do it. Ninety percent of the families and the Americans who vote want background checks, Mr. President.

Stop talking -- stop talking about love. This is not about you. Don't worry about how people think about you.

Do the right thing. Get it done. Tell Mitch McConnell to open up the Senate graveyard.

Let's get this done. Enough is enough.

CAMEROTA: David, do you have a sense of why this is happening in the country? Why is this -- the four -- OK, of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history -- and we have the distinction, as we all know, among industrialized countries for having this problem -- four of them have been on President Trump's watch. Here it is on your screen.

Do you have any sense of why we have this problem in this country?

HOGG: Because we live in an incredibly divided time where we have -- I would argue that right now in America we don't have leaders because I would argue that leaders don't lead with fear; totalitarians lead with fear.

We need leaders that lead with the courage to address the unknown and the courage to explore and embrace the curiosity of the unknown. We need leaders that tell Americans not to fear those that don't look like them but to actually talk to them and learn to love what you don't know.

And the reason why these things continue to happen is because if you continue to tell someone that they are the enemy -- this person that isn't like you is the enemy -- and they have easy access to guns, there's going to be a very small group of people that are extremely violent and go out and act on those things.

CAMEROTA: Quickly, Fred.

GUTTENBERG: Yes. We've been on a slippery slope. The NRA likes to talk about the slippery slope if we do anything. We've been on a slippery slope.

So I'll just go back to 2003. It started before that, but in 2003, Jaime was born. In 2004, the assault weapons ban ended. And in 2005, PLCAA was passed.

And in the years since, you've had Stand Your Ground laws and a whole other bunch of laws that have made it easier for those who intend to kill others to have the weapons to do so. And not just guns; ammunition as well.

And so, you want to know why more people are dying from gun violence? It's because in this country we've been on a slippery slope of weakening laws that have allowed us who want to kill the means to do so.

CAMEROTA: But we're -- look, we're out of time but I don't want to miss out on the opportunity to say what you're doing -- what your plan is. And you do have a plan and I think we have a full screen of all of the tenets of it. So, quickly, can you tell us what your plan is?

TEXT: Peace Plan for A Safer America (CHANGE).

1. Change the standards of gun ownership. 2. Halve the rate of gun deaths in 10 years. 3. Accountability for the gun lobby and industry. 4. Name a director of gun violence prevention. 5. Generate community-based solutions. 6. Empower the next generation.

HOGG: Yes. So we basically -- March for Our Lives has talked to researchers and people around the country that work around gun violence prevention and made a plan by survivors and researchers so that there don't have to be survivors, in the future, of gun violence.

For those that want to learn more about it -- even if you don't agree with everything or anything that I've ever said, what I would encourage everyone to do is please just go and look at the plan because it's not just about creating stronger gun laws, it's also about reducing the demand and the want of someone to pull the trigger.

It's about destigmatizing mental health and making the -- and making us realize that inherently, there is a problem with the fact that in every community in the United States it is easier to access a gun to end your own pain because gun suicides are two-thirds of gun deaths, than it is to access an affordable, quality therapist.

CAMEROTA: And where could -- where could people find that plan?

HOGG: If people want to find the plan they can go to

And also know that we can't do this alone. We need your support, we need your donations, but we also need your time. We need you to go out there and help us campaign on this and vote.

CAMEROTA: David Hogg, Fred Guttenberg, thank you so much.

GUTTENBERG: Thank you.

HOGG: Thank you so much for having us.

GUTTENBERG: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: NEW DAY will be right back.


[07:47:50] BERMAN: So this morning, new numbers from the Congressional Budget Office confirm that the deficit -- the national debt -- much worse than the government had previously thought. So, where is the once-called party of fiscal responsibility in times like these?

CAMEROTA: I know where John Avlon is. He has our reality check. Hi, John.


So look, while President Trump was busy proclaiming himself the chosen one, questioning the loyalty of Jewish Democrats, and dissing Denmark for not wanting to sell Greenland to him, he might have missed some more bad news in the form of cold, hard data.

That's because brand new CBO numbers show that the budget deficit is skyrocketing, projected to rise 25 percent over last year, heading to over $1 trillion next year.

Tax revenues are more than $230 -- $430 billion below where they were projected to be before the Trump tax cuts, while spending is in drunker sailor territory thanks to this year's budget deal, which added $1.7 trillion in spending over the next decade.

To put it another way, deficits have risen from a decade-low of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2105 under Obama to a projected average of 4.7 percent of GDP over the next decade. And remember, all this is happening during the nation's longest economic expansion when deficits should be shrinking.

No wonder Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said that we're like Thelma and Louise in that car headed to the cliff.

Let's go back to the Tea Party time machine to see what folks were saying when President Obama was trying to stimulate our way out of a global financial crisis.

And because there's a tweet for everything, we'll start with Donald Trump because back in February 2012, he tweeted, "A day after Greece burned, Barack Obama released a $3.8 trillion budget with a $900 billion deficit. He will turn America into Greece."

Well, for those of you keeping score at home, this year, President Trump proposed higher spending and a bigger deficit than back when he warned that Obama would lead us into bankruptcy.

The hypocrisy is palpable but for some senators, it's particularly absurd.

For example, Georgia's David Perdue, who resorted to magical thinking when he voted to increase spending after he supported Trump's tax cuts.

He actually penned an op-ed arguing that a vote against the budget was actually a vote to increase spending, while he told the local editorial board that economic growth is more than paid for by the tax cut. It's just not true. And, of course, the bill to increase spending did, in fact, increase spending.

[07:50:03] But, Sen. Perdue is the symptom of a larger problem -- the abandonment of fiscal responsibility by Republicans while railing against the fiscal irresponsibility of Democrats. It bears repeating that the last two presidents to shrink the deficit were Democrats, Clinton and Obama.

Remember when Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly said deficits don't matter? It's a sentiment that Rush Limbaugh recently echoed, saying, "All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it's been around."

Now, in the past, Republicans pointed to increased deficits under Reagan and explained they were the cost of winning the Cold War. Fair enough.

Well, right now, under Trump, we've no such excuse other than to attempt to goose the economy past the election.

Fiddling while Washington burns seems like a sport and a pastime these days, but while President Trump was tweeting out a claim that he was like the King of Israel, clearly the only crown he can claim is the one he laid on himself some time ago -- the king of debt. This time, though, American taxpayers are going to have to pick up the tab. And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: And that is the reality as we sit here. John Avlon, thanks so much.

So, this week's fight over Greenland is just the latest example of the president's dizzying diplomacy. What is the long-term effect on the U.S. relationship with its allies? We're going to talk about this with the former commander of NATO, next.



TRUMP: The prime minister's statement that it was absurd -- that it was -- it was an absurd idea was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. We can't treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.


[07:55:02] BERMAN: All right. President Trump again attacking the Danish prime minister after she made it clear that Greenland is not for sale. Denmark, we should note, is a longtime U.S. ally and a NATO member.

Joining me now is Gen. Wesley Clark. He's the former supreme allied commander for NATO and is now a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. General, thank you for being with us.

The big picture here, to me, is the president attacking Denmark within the same 24-hour period -- Denmark, an ally who has sacrificed blood for the United States and the efforts that we have around the globe -- attacking Denmark the very same day he calls for Russia to be allowed back into the G7. So, attacking allies, coddling enemies.

And we've seen it before with Kim Jong Un in North Korea and attacking Justin Trudeau in Canada.

So what is the world to take from this, General?


The United States does have important interests in the Arctic. Greenland figures in those interests. And the United States should have worked quietly behind the scenes with Greenland, as we had been in the past, to buttress American opportunities there to be sure the Russians and the Chinese aren't encroaching and -- which they are elsewhere in the Arctic.

And we should be concerned about the overall strength of our relationships with all of our allies in Europe. When we talk about threatening Germany with tariffs on automobile

production, which is one of the biggest facts in the German economy, and when we -- when we disparage the prime minister of Denmark, we're weakening NATO. We're playing into Putin's hands.

Now, what my European friends tell me is they're not surprised by this anymore. They've seen the president -- he likes to be very comfortable with autocratic leaders and dictators.

He's not comfortable with democratic leaders. He doesn't pay attention to their politics. He doesn't understand the pressures they're under.

And really, this is just not the way to conduct diplomacy effectively.

If you look at his record around the world since he's been president, I'm happy we're not in a new war but we've got the effort in North Korea, which has stalled out because, in my personal opinion, he overpersonalized it. And if he'd used the professional diplomatic channels we might have achieved a definition of what denuclearization was and be making progress.

Instead, what's happening is there's enormous pressure on the government of South Korea to make an accommodation with the North. The North is continuing its militarization programs and South Korea and Japan are drifting apart.

We've got problems with Iran. Our NATO allies are doing the best, but --

BERMAN: What's the -- what's the long-term impact, though? What is --

CLARK: -- it's just shaky.

BERMAN: What's the long-term impact, though, on tweeting your friends like this?

CLARK: It's -- yes, the Europeans tell me that if they can make it through the rest of this administration, NATO will be OK and it can be recovered. They're not sure what happens if President Trump is reelected. And I don't want to politicize this and I'm not coming on this as someone with a political orientation.

It just breaks my heart to see the good work done by our military and by our diplomats all around the world who are trying so hard to serve the interests of the American people and the United States, and then see the confusion and the disorder at the very top that undercuts their efforts.

BERMAN: General, if I can, I want to ask you to weigh in on something the president said yesterday. He was speaking to a veterans group and he joked -- and it seemed like he meant it as a joke, but he joked about awarding the Medal of Honor to himself.

So listen to this.


TRUMP: Nothing like the Medal of Honor. I wanted one but they told me I don't qualify, Woody. I said, "Can I give it myself, anyway?" They said, "I don't think that's a good idea."


BERMAN: All right, he was joking and there was laughter in the room.

But we have heard from people inside the military who say look, this isn't something to joke about. To be awarded the Medal of Honor is one of the most emotional moments that you can have in the military because it's almost guaranteed that you had friends and colleagues die in the process. So it really can sort of tear people apart.

I just want to know your take on it.

CLARK: Well, it really is disrespectful to the veterans. I know that -- you know, the people who were there -- veterans are very respectful to the President of the United States, whoever he is.

And that comment was a sort of off-hand comment that you might hear someone making to their spouse. You know, "I've worked so hard on the law and I deserve a Medal of Honor out there. It's so hot and uncomfortable." It's like a joke and they don't mean it that way.

Well, this is -- when you do it in front of a bunch of veterans when it's played over the nation and I and the other people who serve, we almost -- we all know people who won the Medal of Honor and many who died in the process of winning it. It's a very special thing. Those men who win the Medal of Honor, they're marked for the rest of their lives.