Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Biden Heads To L.A. As Key Leaders Snub White House Summit; Matthew McConaughey's Appeal To The Moderate Majority; Bipartisan Action On Burn Pits Moves Forward In Senate. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 07:30   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And basically, that amendment made it really hard to collect the sort of data if they said that, look, that data was going to be used in any way to advocate for gun control or gun legislation. And those were pretty broad definitions so it made it very hard to collect this sort of data.

In fact, if you go to the CDC's website, even now, you'll see dashboards for public health emergencies like COVID. Even for Monkeypox, something that we've been talking about more recently. But a dashboard for gun violence giving exact numbers of gun deaths, it's still very hard to do. There's often independent organizations that are collecting this data by looking at media reports and looking at local reports and trying to aggregate it.

So despite the fact that it is now the biggest -- the leading cause of death for those under the age of 19, despite the fact that there is some 20 million of these AR-15 rifles out there in circulation in the United States, despite the fact that you can see the numbers there in terms of how the United States compares to other countries, this is still sort of cobbled together data. We call it a public health emergency but we're not necessarily treating it like one.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: No, such a good point. It is obviously an emergency of public health.

Sanjay, thank you so much. The op-ed is so important. It's essential reading on

This morning, President Biden is heading to Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas, but it's who he will not be meeting that is making headlines.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, more than 2,000 migrants heading toward the U.S. from southern Mexico. We're going to ask the White House how they plan to respond.



KEILAR: Happening today, President Biden heads to Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas, but several key heads of state are boycotting the event after the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, all of whom are being ruled by authoritarian leaders, were excluded.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has the details.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: President Joe Biden will arrive here in Los Angeles later this morning for the ninth Summit of the Americas. But before his arrival, this summit has already been off to a rocky start with key partners in the region deciding to skip the gathering. That includes Mexico's President Lopez Obrador, as well as the leaders of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, all of which had urged the U.S. to invite all countries in the region.

Now, 23 heads of state will be attending the summit as the president outlines initiatives and delivers announcements, but all of that may be obscured by who is and isn't here -- John, Brianna.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Priscilla for that.

And joining us now, the senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, Juan Gonzalez. Thank you so much for being with us.

You had said that President Biden very personally wants the president of Mexico to be there. So is President Biden very personally disappointed that the Mexican president will not attend?

JUAN GONZALEZ, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, let me say first that actually, the Mexican government and the governments of Central America will be represented by delegations. The president also looks forward to hosting the president of Mexico here in Washington in July.

I think the delay in the decision after months -- a month of conversations with the Mexican government really is because the president respects diversity views and wanted to talk to not just the president of Mexico but others in the region to hear their perspectives.

Ultimately, I think the decision was that the first Summit of the Americas held since 2018 -- the first one that a president has participated in since 2015 should really be one where the region's democracies should really talk about the core challenges facing the region and really have an open debate about these sorts of issues, including Cuba's participation, which is something that in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, people don't currently enjoy that right.

BERMAN: Migration is obviously such an important issue for this summit. Without the presidents or the leaders -- and I get the governments will be represented but that's different than having your leader there. Without the leaders of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala -- key players in these migration issues there -- without them there how will that discussion be effective?

GONZALEZ: Well again, I mean, they'll -- we've been actually in months of negotiations with these governments about some of the main outcomes that we hope to achieve at the summit.

The vice president, yesterday, announced $3.2 billion in private- sector commitments for northern Central America, so we're also engaging the private sectors and civil societies of these countries.

But on Friday, the president -- and he will announce this in a speech today -- is going to come together with countries of the region on a -- I think an unprecedented step on how we address migration as partners. Because the reality is that notwithstanding the images on our border, there are millions of migrants in South America and Central America, and the Caribbean that are impacting these countries as well.

So, there's an interest in the source, transit, and destination countries to really work on this together not just in terms of migration policy and certainly enforcing our laws, but expanding refugee protections, labor pathways, and finding ways to manage migration in a way that is dignified and responsible while still enforcing our laws.

BERMAN: There does appear to be a group of more than 2,000 migrants in southern Mexico now heading north toward the U.S. border. How, specifically, is the administration addressing this group, and how will they address it at this summit?

GONZALEZ: Well, the issue of migration has been something that has been impacting the hemisphere for -- since the beginning of the pandemic, and it's important to reflect that it's really a result of an unprecedented economic impact. A once-in-a-century economic crisis that hemisphere is facing that is driving people to leave their homes.

And that's what this summit is about, first and foremost. The economic health, food insecurity challenges that the region is facing.

But at the same time, we've been collaborating with the Mexican government and the Central American government since the transition and been actively talking to Mexico about managing these flows in a way that enforces laws but also makes sure that migrants are treated with dignity.


Mexico's expanded refugee protections -- we've found ways to provide vaccines to migrants. And so, we're -- that's the way that we're going to continue to manage this.

BERMAN: Very specifically with this group, how will that be addressed?

GONZALEZ: Well look, we're in active conversations with the Mexican government and the governments of Central America. Those that have credible claims for asylum I think are going to be reviewed and considered by the Mexican government. We, of course, still have Title 42 order in place.

So the approach here is to also create labor pathways so people that want to stay in Mexico -- a lot of people want to stay. It's something that the Mexican government is considering. Those that do not have a credible claim will be returned to their countries of origin.

BERMAN: I want to circle back to where we began this discussion with some of the leaders who will not be attending. The reason they are not attending is because the leaders of Cuba and other countries were not invited because they are not democracies, which is the statement of the U.S. government.

How do you explain, though, what appears to be an inconsistency that people see, which is that they were not invited. Yet, President Biden is going to meet with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, who U.S. intelligence says was, in part, responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. So why meet with him but not invite these others?

GONZALEZ: Well, we see that as really an apples and oranges comparison because the reality is that the United States is going to engage with all sorts of leaders, including autocratic leaders, on matters of national interest. The president spoke to Vladimir Putin before the invasion of Ukraine. That's very different than inviting them to a gathering of democratically-elected leaders.

And it's not just the United States. A number of other leaders as well have expressed concern about having autocratic leaders where human rights and democracy are not respected.

And the reality is that this summit is about making sure that democracy delivers. That we are responding to the needs of the people that elected us. That we're responding to the core challenges of the region that are driving mass migration to the United States.

It's hard to actually have that conversation when you have governments there that are cracking down on their populations, limiting free speech, closing the democratic space, and preventing political opposition.

BERMAN: Juan Gonzalez, we do appreciate your time this morning. Thank you for being with us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Happening now, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson grilled by Parliament after he survived a no-confidence vote.

KEILAR: Plus, the poignant observation about American politics during Matthew McConaughey's passionate plea on guns.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR, UVALDE, TEXAS NATIVE: We've got to get some real courage and honor our immortal obligations instead of our party affiliations. (END VIDEO CLIP)



KEILAR: An overwhelming majority of Americans agree on a number of gun safety proposals, so why does Congress remain in gridlock?

John Avlon with our reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Celebrity culture is a helluva drug. It's usually used to distract us from the grim business of what's really going on, whether it's mass shootings, inflation, or an attempted insurrection. But sometimes that high-low mix -- the intersection of politics and pop culture can really resonate, especially when the celebrity if leveraging themselves for something much bigger than fame.

And that's what happened with Matthew McConaughey in Washington yesterday as he met with senators and dropped by the White House to make his case for responsible gun safety reform.

And because Uvalde, Texas is his hometown, he did it with real moral authority. The slaughter of 19 schoolkids and two teachers is personal. His raw emotion tempered by the fact that he's not a partisan hack; he's a lifelong gun owner.

Listen to how he reframed the debate.


MCCONAUGHEY: Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back, they're a step forward for a civil society and the Second Amendment.

As divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on more than we don't.


AVLON: He's right and the stats back it up. See, America has supermajority support for some of those specific proposals but it seems that clip has broken through the noise and might even have changed a few minds.

But here's what might not have been on your radar. A new Department of Homeland Security threat assessment that laid out that toxic mess of disinformation and tribal violence we are dealing with as a nation against the bloody backdrop of mass shootings directed at minority communities, schools, houses of worship, and mass transit in recent week.

The report seized on the ways that lies and conspiracy theories have been weaponized -- both the replacement theory that twisted the mind of the Buffalo shooter and sick attempts to case the Uvalde school slaughter as some kind of false flag operation. It's not expected to get better anytime soon.

The DHS bulletin warned about increased threats of violence from left and right around the expected Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade. It also described our midterm elections as a target for increasing violence by domestic extremists.

And the worst part is we're doing this to ourselves, dividing our nation in ways that our enemies could only dream of.

Listen to this. Quote, "Chinese, Iranian, Russian, and other foreign maligned influence actors have sought to contribute to U.S. internal discord and weaken its focus. These actors have amplified narratives that radicalized individuals have cited to justify violence, including conspiracy theories."

In other words, some of us are doing our enemies' dirty work for them often under the guise of being so-called super-patriots, dividing the country into us against them.

This kind of pernicious polarization is an existential crisis -- one that few countries can withstand for long.

According to a recent study from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, it describes the USA as the only advanced Western democracy that has suffered such high levels of polarization for such an extended period. And the kind of wake-up call frequently shakes a nation out of extreme polarization doesn't seem to be working here.


An attack on our Capitol didn't break the fever. Instead, a majority of one party still believes the self-serving lie that was used as an excuse to try to overturn our election. That's a real problem and it's one we've got to confront and overcome with facts.

The January 6 Committee hearings that begin this week will be contentious but we cannot lose faith. We've been through worse before and we have to believe that we can reason together again.

Here's Matthew McConaughey.


MCCONAUGHEY: Enough with the counterpunching. Enough with the invalidation of the other side. Let's come to the common table that represents the American people. Find a middle ground -- the place where most of us Americans live anyway, especially on this issue. Because I promise you, America -- you and me who -- we are not as divided as we are being told we are.


AVLON: That's right, and that's your reality check.

KEILAR: Yes. Does Congress feel the same way? We are holding our breath to see, John Avlon.


KEILAR: Thank you for that.

Why the latest move by Target could spell big discounts for shoppers, but big trouble for the retail industry.

BERMAN: And it is the question many Americans are asking.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why do you think that people need to have AR-15s in this country?


BERMAN: CNN's Manu Raju asked leaders on Capitol Hill and he got some really interesting answers.



KEILAR: Burn pit exposure is being called the agent orange of the post-911 generation of veterans. But American veterans exposed to these toxic fumes while serving their country are one step closer to getting the healthcare and disability benefits for their related illnesses thanks to a much-needed and rare instance of bipartisanship.

A bill to benefit veterans suffering from burn pit and other toxic exposures cleared a key test vote in the Senate yesterday, 86-12, which is a positive sign for a full vote on the bill expected here in the days ahead.

Burn pits are flaming piles of trash like this one you see, sometimes football fields in size, that burned everything from medical waste to vehicles and appliances, and blanketed bases in Iraq and Afghanistan with carcinogenic clouds of smoke that many service members unavoidably breathed in.

President Biden addressed the crisis in a signing ceremony for a separate veterans bill yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Toxic smoke with thick poison spreading through our bases and into the lungs of our troops. And when they came home, many of the fittest and best-trained warriors we've ever had were not the same -- headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them.


KEILAR: Purple Heart recipient Staff Sgt. Wesley Black, who spoke to us here on NEW DAY, was a tireless advocate for burn pit exposure right up until his death from cancer this past November. He left behind his wife and a son in kindergarten.


STAFF SGT. WESLEY BLACK (RET.), DIED FROM COLON CANCER: I'm kind of like the canary in the coal mine. I'm screaming my head off trying to raise this issue of awareness. It's too late for me. But it's not too late for the next veteran that walks down the hall of the VA.


KEILAR: This bill, championed by Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, a Democrat, and Jerry Moran of Kansas, a Republican, says 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers related to smoke from burn pits would be presumed to be connected to a veteran's military service. And that would pave the way for them to receive medical treatment for their illnesses and also to make a stronger claim for disability benefits.

President Biden has pledged to sign the bill into law.

BERMAN: This morning, a move from Target is worrying retailers as the big-box store slashes its second-quarter outlook because of an excess of unsold goods. And they've outlined plans to cut inventory.

CNN's Rahel Solomon joins us now. Target really sending, I think, the market reeling a little bit.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is actually the second type of warning like this from Target in about a month, essentially saying that they have too much inventory. They have too much stuff.

So this announcement essentially saying that we're going to right-size our inventory and we're going to respond to this rapidly changing environment. The CEO, Brian Cornell, saying in this statement that "Target's business continues to generate healthy increases in traffic and sales, despite sustained volatility in the macro environment, including shifting consumer buying patterns."

So, what is shifting? Well, for some who are still spending, where they're spending is changing. They're spending less on goods and things and they're spending more on experiences. We hear this so much from the airlines, right, about how travel demand is really strong.

But for the others -- perhaps people who are more paycheck-to-paycheck -- they are spending less on wants and they're spending more on needs. This statement from Target reflecting that, saying that they're seeing a spending increase in areas like groceries and things that people need for their homes. Less on electronics, less on home decor.

And it's not just Target, by the way. We're seeing this from some of the other retailers. Walmart saying that they have excess inventory. Best Buy saying this. Urban Outfitters saying this.

So for the consumer at home, that likely means more sales, more promotions -- something we haven't seen in quite a few years because retailers had the upper hand. Supply was tight so they had limited supply and demand was strong. So we haven't seen these types of sales in years, so that's potentially some good news for consumers who are shopping.

BERMAN: It's a really good explanation. You helped me understand what's going on here. If Target has too much stuff, it really does raise questions about the strength of the consumer.

SOLOMON: It does. And we've heard so much, sort of in the midst of all of these warnings, about the strength of the consumer.

But I think what I'm hearing is that there is some real concern among people who are paycheck-to-paycheck that with inflation being as high as it is, gas going as high as it is, shelter being raised as high as it has been, and food going up, if you already had less wiggle room in your budget, to begin with, you're getting burned. And I think part of Target's statement reflects that.

BERMAN: Rahel Solomon, thank you so much.

NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, June 8.