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State of the Union
Interview With State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-TX); Eight Dead in Texas Mall Shooting Massacre; Interview With Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT); Interview With Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH); Interview With Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-MI). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 07, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): The new normal. Eight people killed in a Texas shopping mall rampage, a 5-year-old child among the injured.
STEVEN SPAINHOUER, WITNESS: It's just unfathomable to see the carnage.
TAPPER: What will it take for America's leaders to act? The state senator from Uvalde, Democrat Roland Gutierrez, will join me on his efforts to change gun laws.
And tough talk. President Biden and Speaker McCarthy set to meet with the nation's financial stability hanging in the balance.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills.
TAPPER: Will we when the bill comes due next month? Top Senate Democrat Dick Durbin will be here to talk about that and a crisis at the Supreme Court.
Plus: power struggle. New setbacks for Russia and a growing threat in the Middle East. A special CNN exclusive, as the House Intelligence Committee heads overseas. Republican Chairman Mike Turner and Ranking Democrat Jim Himes join me.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is once again shaken.
Eight people are dead and at least seven others injured outside Dallas, Texas, the victims of a murderous rampage at an outlet mall, as a sunny Saturday afternoon family shopping trip became an all-too- familiar scene these days in America of carnage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPAINHOUER: I never imagined in 100 years I would be thrust into the position of being the first first responder on the site to take care of people,.
The first girl I walked up to was crouched down, covering her head in the bushes. So, I felt for a pulse, pulled her head to the side, and she had no face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "And she had no face."
That good samaritan also tried to help a mother who was killed while trying to protect her child with her body.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPAINHOUER: And so when I rolled the mother over, he came out, and I asked him: "Are you OK?" And he said: "My mom is hurt. My mom is hurt."
So, rather than traumatize him anymore, I put him around the corner, set him down. He was covered from head to toe, like somebody had poured blood on him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The Allen, Texas, shooter is dead, killed, police say, by a local officer at the mall who was there on an unrelated call who heard the shots and confronted the shooter.
A photo obtained by CNN shows what appears to be the gunman dressed in black body armor with an AR-15-style rifle on the ground. A day after the shooting, local officials there have still not confirmed anything about the shooter's weapon, his name, his identity, his possible motive, how long he was shooting people before he was stopped.
Officials refused to answer questions at a press conference last night, a striking lack of accountability to members of the public, for whom they work, members of the public, who are shocked and grieving and fearful for their own safety.
These leaders always seem to have prayers, not so much answers.
Joining us now is a Texas lawmaker who knows gun tragedies all too well. He's the state senator who represents Uvalde, Texas, Roland Gutierrez.
Senator Gutierrez, thanks for -- thanks for joining us, unfortunately, again.
You represent Uvalde, the scene of the Robb Elementary shooting that killed 21 people last year, almost all of them children. Your reaction once again to scenes of horror from a mass shooting once again in Texas?
STATE SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D-TX): Thank you, Jake.
First off, that gentleman that you just had on that footage, he will never be able to take those images from his mind. I -- as you know, I have seen hundreds of hours of bodycam of what happened in Uvalde. And as much as you don't want people to see that in America, what happens, literally, their face is gone.
I have seen two images like that in the Uvalde victims, where little girls faces are just gone, the rest of the children's bodies riddled the damage to -- mangled like you can't believe.
People need to really wake up. I mean, wake up to what's happening here. It's almost become some normal event for everybody. This is happening in your communities, and it can happen anywhere in the United States. And, certainly, it's happening a tremendous in Texas, where Republican leaders have just allowed people to run free with AR- 15s and any gun that they can get their hands on.
It's very sad. Jake, where we're at right now.
TAPPER: Honestly, nobody in the news media should do anything that goes against the wishes of a family, but do you think, by censoring these images, by keeping them from the American people, we in the news media are doing a disservice to the public whom we serve?
GUTIERREZ: I think that -- that, certainly, families need to be part of that decision, I think.
That said, I had a still photo in my file that I wanted to show to members of the Texas Senate and walk around with it because I was so disgusted in their inability to be able to do anything and have bills on the Senate floor about commonsense gun safety solutions.
And I ended up shredding that photo because I didn't think it was appropriate. I didn't think that I needed -- it wasn't fair to that family whose little girl who had died in such a horrific way. And I had not asked them.
As you know, I signed a nondisclosure agreement, Jake, to not divulge or distribute that information. But, on the Senate floor, I felt that people that should see these images -- and one of those leaders in Texas told me: "Roland, there's a reason we don't show the -- we don't -- we don't look at the bodycam footage."
Jake, I have seen hundreds of hours, and I had to see it because I needed to see police -- the police failure that happened in Uvalde. We were lucky yesterday. Imagine that, nine people dead, and the representative from that area says, oh, the police acted. It could have been worse.
GUTIERREZ: I don't know how many times I need to hear that. How many times do we need to hear that?
The fact is...
TAPPER: You're proposing is raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 years old, strengthening background checks, passing a red flag law, which would hopefully keep firearms out of the hands of people who are danger to themselves or others.
Is there anything you're proposing that you think could have stopped this shooting from happening? I understand law enforcement hasn't exactly been generous with the details yet.
GUTIERREZ: Well, we don't know the age of this person. We don't -- I have seen images on the Internet that this was an AR-15. I can't confirm that as yet.
That's the other just distinction here in Texas. You look at Tennessee, you look at California, you look at Chicago, you look at every event that has happened over the last year, and we get the information almost immediately. Within the two hours, we are told who the person is, what kind of gun, age, so on and so on.
And, here in Texas, here we are yet again in another incident where we're waiting a day, because I would imagine they're pretty scared to tell us it was an AR-15. We already pretty much know that.
We are in a situation in this state where we're -- as if you're living in communist Russia. The governor, the lieutenant governor, and people like them and their law enforcement agencies refuse to tell us the truth as to what's going on here. It's just a sad state of affairs that we're living in. This is not the Texas miracle that Greg Abbott likes to call it.
We're living in a Texas nightmare, and it's a nightmare that they created. It's a chaos that they created, Jake.
TAPPER: State Senator Gutierrez, thank you so much, as always, for coming on and talking about these very difficult issues. Really appreciate it.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: What exactly would it take to get lawmakers here in Washington, D.C., to act to try to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them?
Top Senate Democrat Dick Durbin from Illinois joins me next.
And is either side going to blink to financial catastrophe in the latest Washington standoff? We're about to get an idea. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
This month, President Biden faces one of the biggest tests of his presidency, one that could impact the world economy and his reelection campaign. The goal is to avert a catastrophic debt default, the president set to meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy Tuesday. It is not clear that -- if the president is willing to negotiate or whether these negotiations would wrap up before the U.S. is likely to breach the debt limit in early June.
Joining me now to discuss, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Senator, we have so much to talk about, obviously.
Let's start with the horrific news out of Texas, eight people killed after a gunman opened fire at a shopping center. Congress passed the first significant gun legislation in decades after the Uvalde shooting. It still obviously fell far short of what you think is needed.
Do you think there is any appetite for any more potential bipartisan efforts to build on the law, perhaps to expand the red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others? Or is the message to Americans who are tired of living like this simply that that's it, there's nothing more Congress is going to do?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): There is something more that America can do, and it's called an election.
And if people across America are fed up with these mass shootings and killings and the terrible things that are happening even to our children as a result of it, they're going to vote accordingly. We need to have that kind of a revolution in thinking across America that this is unacceptable. This was not dictated by the Constitution. It's a point of view and a position, a political position, which makes no sense when it comes to the safety of America.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is an area you have been focused on a lot in the last few weeks.
As you know, Justice Clarence Thomas accepted years of free luxury trips from a GOP donor. He sold real estate to him, accepted free rent from him for his mother, allowed him to pay for his grandnephew's private school tuition, much of this not disclosed at all.
We also learned from "The Washington Post" that Justice Thomas' wife accepted tens of thousands of hidden payments from a conservative judicial activist, Leonard Leo, who's been very instrumental in shaping the court.
Some of your fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill say that this seems to go beyond ethical lapses; it rises to the level of corrupt behavior. Is that a word you would use, corrupt?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that the conclusion most people would reach is that this tangled web around Justice Clarence Thomas just gets worse and worse by the day.
I don't know what's going to come up next. I thought I'd heard it all, but more disclosures about his activities, it just embarrasses me. The question is whether it embarrasses the Supreme Court and the chief justice.
Chief John Roberts has the power in his hands to change this first thing tomorrow morning, he could announce a code of conduct for the court that finally means something. He could announce that the court will be subject to at least the minimal standards that apply to all other federal judges.
This is the Roberts court, and history is going to judge him by the decision he makes on this. He has the power to make the difference.
TAPPER: So you said Justice Thomas' actions call into question his objectivity when it comes to future cases.
I understand that this stuff should have been disclosed. I mean, I think it's pretty argue -- pretty difficult to argue that it shouldn't have been disclosed. But can you point to any specific action that you think Justice Thomas has taken on the court that you think was influenced by any of this?
DURBIN: Well, of course, you can connect the dots and draw your own conclusions from them.
But when you have Leonard Leo's organization sending money to Thomas' family and instructing Kellyanne Conway to make sure you don't disclose the justice's wife's name in the process, though the money is going to her, you have the organization that is sending the money filing an amicus brief before the court in the Shelby County decision on voting rights, you have a final verdict where Clarence Thomas rules in favor of Leonard Leo's organization and votes 5-4, connect those dots and say, wait a minute, that stinks.
You shouldn't have that sort of thing happening at the highest court in America. It just destroys the integrity of the court.
TAPPER: But we have also seen other justices, including Gorsuch and Sotomayor, vote in a way that was good for the publishing company that had paid them millions of dollars for their autobiographies.
So I think this is something that beyond -- that goes beyond Justice Thomas, right? I mean, this should be something, all of the justices recuse if they're -- if they have a reason to do so, and all of the justices disclose everything. I don't sense any momentum on the court from any of the justices for that, though, not just -- not just Thomas.
DURBIN: Well, I keep calling on Chief John Roberts to make a move and say something and solve this problem, and he has the power to do it for the Roberts court.
But other justices can speak out as well. And I will tell you, I am blind to the political philosophy or judicial philosophy of the judge. They should all be living by the standards that the rest of government lives by in terms of disclosure and avoiding conflicts of interest.
TAPPER: So, because of the separation of powers, I believe, you're not willing to subpoena the chief justice, John Roberts.
You have indicated that it's unlikely you're going to be able to pass any legislation that would impose an ethics code on the court. And you have said you don't think the Justice Department should investigate Justice Thomas' actions. So, in essence, aren't you kind of throwing up your hands and saying the Supreme Court isn't really accountable to anybody but themselves; there's nothing you can do, even though you're the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee?
DURBIN: Not at all, Jake.
Let me just tell you, the bottom line is this. Everything is on the table. Day after day, week after week, more and more disclosures about Justice Thomas, we cannot ignore them. The thing we're going to do first, obviously, is to gather the evidence, the information that we need to draw our conclusions.
I'm not ruling out anything. And I might say that the Judicial Conference, which has received some information from the chief justice, is undergoing its own investigation, as I understand. So there are active efforts under way, as it should be. We need to change the image of this court. At this point, it's at the lowest ebb in history.
TAPPER: Are you willing to subpoena Leonard Leo or Harlan Crow? Obviously, you're not going to subpoena Supreme Court justices.
DURBIN: Everything is on the table.
TAPPER: One of the reasons that you are a little hamstrung from acting is because your colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, is still out sick.
Senator Schumer's office claims she told him she's returning this coming week. Her office has not confirmed that. Senator Feinstein, as you know, has missed dozens of key votes. Your committee is limited to confirming judicial nominees who have Republican backing, leaving all the rest in limbo.
She -- questions about her ability to perform her job were being raised years before her recent bout with shingles, which we obviously hope she recovers from soon.
At what point do the tens of millions of voters currently lacking full representation in the Senate from California, at what point do they matter more than the feelings of a colleague whose health has been in question for a long time?
DURBIN: I can just tell you that Senator Feinstein is my friend and my colleague of many years. She's gone through an awful lot. She lost her husband last year, and she's had some real medical issues that are problematic for her at her age at this point.
I hope she returns, and I hope it's this week. We need her. It is a challenge in the Senate Judiciary Committee to do our business.
For example, you raised the question of a subpoena, and I haven't reached any conclusion that. But if we go down that path, we need a majority on the committee. Right now, with her absence, it's a 10-to- 10 Committee, and the majority is not there, and a proxy vote doesn't count in this circumstance.
So it's a complicated situation. I hope she does what's best for her and her family and the state of California and makes a decision soon as to whether she's coming back.
TAPPER: I mean, all due respect, sir, you and your fellow Democrats were very ginger and very polite when it came to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in not pushing her to retire when you had a Democratic majority in the Senate.
How did that work out for you? How did that work out for Roe v. Wade?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that you can play these out and try to guess what the Supreme Court opinions resulting from it will be.
The bottom line is, though, we have in the past had members of the Senate -- I can think of a handful as I'm sitting here, Democrats and Republicans -- who've been absent because of medical conditions for lengthy periods of time.
I want to treat Dianne Feinstein fairly. I want to be sensitive to her family situation and her personal situation. And I don't want to say that she's going to be put under more pressure than others have been in the past. But the bottom line is, the business of the committee and of the Senate is affected by her absence.
TAPPER: President Biden is going to meet with House and Senate leaders at the White House this week to try to avert this catastrophic U.S. Default; 43 Senate Republicans, including Republican Leader McConnell, signed a letter yesterday vowing to oppose raising the debt ceiling without -- quote -- "substantive spending and budget reforms" -- unquote.
Is a -- are you confident at all that a deal can be reached to prevent a default?
DURBIN: Well, to think that they're playing the default card on the United States economy is irresponsible. It is basically irresponsible.
We put $13 billion through the Federal Deposit Corporation into one bank last weekend to keep it afloat, for fear that it would trigger a recession. If they play this card and bring us up to the brink on the default, not paying America's debts for the first time in history, it'll have a devastating impact on the economy.
Businesses will fail. Jobs will be lost. Families will see 401(k)s diminish a value. This is a strategy, from my point of view, that is totally irresponsible. I hope that those 43 people are thinking about the consequences in their states and this nation if they go forward.
TAPPER: Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, good to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us today.
DURBIN: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: You don't see much of this anymore, the top Republican, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee together, working together, taking their committee overseas.
We're going to talk to them what -- about what they're learning about a growing threat to the U.S. That's next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Much of the House Intelligence Committee took its show on the road this week in a fact-finding trip to the Middle East, where they met with world leaders and discussed rising threats posed by Iran and China. They're doing one exclusive interview from that trip right here.
TAPPER: And joining me now, the top two members of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican chairman, Mike Turner of Ohio, and the ranking Democrat, Jim Himes of Connecticut.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for doing this. We really appreciate it.
Chairman Turner, let me start with you, because you both met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What can you tell us about the meeting? Did you express any concerns to Netanyahu over his push to overhaul Israel's legal system, weaken it, not to mention including extremists in his Cabinet?
All this has caused tremendous unrest domestically in Israel.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Right?
So, our trip comes just on the heels of Speaker Kevin McCarthy being here. And our focus largely, being from the Intelligence Committee, were on the relations between the United States and Israel and how we can help strengthen the security situation in the area. We also stopped in Jordan and Egypt.
And, talking to all three countries, they were all very much encouraging the United States on a policy basis to have a stronger role, thinking that there are real opportunities to increase the security situation here, but at the same time painting a picture that there are serious threats in the area and that the United States should be playing a role. TAPPER: So, Congressman Himes, Netanyahu recently told CNN that a
credible military threat is the only way to stop Iran from its nuclear weapons program and the like. And Netanyahu vowed to do everything in his power to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons.
Negotiations on Iran's nuclear program have obviously been on the back burner for months, if not years. Do you think the White House needs to treat this as a higher priority? And, based on your conversations overseas, how close is Iran to building a nuclear weapon?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, the prime minister, as he has been every time I have met with him -- and that's probably three times -- he was very, very focused on Iran, and probably said to us nine or 10 times that it was intolerable for him to imagine an Iran with a nuclear weapon.
That's not news. Of course, if you have spent time around Bibi Netanyahu. Now, we know where he is on the JCPOA. The reality is that the JCPOA, whatever you thought of the deal, when it was in effect, the Iranians were not making -- enriching more uranium. Now they are.
So, the problem, of course, is that, with Iran so brutally abusing its own people, I think the prospect for negotiation is arguably further away than ever before. So, we're in a little bit of a fix right now, because we don't have a lot of leverage. The prime minister is, of course, where he always has been, which is enormously hawkish.
And there's just not a lot of diplomatic tools available to address the challenge of the possibility of a nuclear Iran.
TURNER: Jake, the one thing that he made clear is that he does think that Iran can be deterred, that, if they do believe that there will be military action against them, a surgical-type strike, that would diminish their ability to pursue nuclear weapons, that that could have a chilling effect and could stall their programming.
And he doesn't want that opportunity to be missed of the understanding that Israel and/or the United States, together or separate, might be willing to take military action to forestall Iran making that next step to a nuclear state.
TAPPER: Chairman Turner, you alluded in the previous answer about leadership opportunities, perhaps even leadership vacuums, in the region.
China, as you know, recently brokered a major deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and "The Washington Post" is reporting that construction has resumed at a suspected Chinese military base in the UAE.
Do you think China is now playing a more active leadership role in the Middle East than the United States is?
TURNER: Well, all three countries that we were in, Jordan, Israel and Egypt, indicated their own steps to diminish China's footprint or their ability to make inroads in their country, specifically citing diminishing their technology access to either data or to their telecommunication systems.
They did all cite this -- China's increased influence in the area as a need for the United States to step up its influence. So everyone is watching this very closely and seeing this as an opportunity for the United States to not only play a greater role for security, but also a greater role in keeping China at bay.
HIMES: Jake, one thing was very clear. All three countries -- the leadership of all three countries was very, very clear with us that they view the U.S. alliance as indispensable and that they would much rather work with us than with the Chinese or, quite frankly, with the Russians.
We heard an interesting story today from the president of Egypt, President Sisi. He -- and this is an illustration of how complicated this region is. He said, when the United States conditioned some of its arms sales and shipments to Egypt, and at the same time was pushing Egypt to step up its work against terrorism, he said to us: "What do you really want me to do?"
And that is what initiated some conversations that he had with the Russians about weapons. And, of course, then we got angry about that. And that just illustrates how complicated this region is and how challenging the diplomacy and our strategic thinking about the region necessarily is.
TAPPER: Yes, so what you're alluding to there just has to do with the classified documents that leaked from that operation in Massachusetts suggesting that Egypt had planned to supply rockets for Russia's war in Ukraine, before changing gears and arming Ukraine instead after pressure from the U.S.
You did confront him over that, then, Congressman Himes?
HIMES: Well, so that didn't come up directly. And, needless to say, neither Mike nor I are going to get into with a foreign leader what may or may not be United States' intelligence.
But I can tell you -- and I think the chairman would agree with me on this -- that, based on President Sisi's tone today, I'm very skeptical that he was ever seriously considering arming the Russians.
Now, remember, one of the most critical things that Egypt has going is, they need to import a lot of wheat. Apparently, governments fall in Egypt if there's not enough relatively cheap wheat. And, of course, they used to import that from Ukraine and Russia.
So, on the one hand, I don't really believe that he was seriously considering sending weapons to Russia. On the other hand, he can't afford to alienate what -- the nation that provides the commodity that allows his country to eat.
TAPPER: Yes. Chairman Turner, on the matter of Russia, Russia, obviously, this last
week, the Kremlin has been accusing both the United States and Ukraine of directing alleged drone attacks on the Kremlin in an attempt to assassinate Putin. The White House said it doesn't know who's behind the attack, called the accusations of American involvement ridiculous. Ukraine denies it as well.
Who do you think is behind that alleged drone attack on the Kremlin?
TURNER: Well, the claims are clearly ludicrous.
And, also, the -- I believe that they're an attempt to distract everyone in Russia from the fact that Vladimir Putin is losing horribly in Ukraine and he needs to withdraw. He needs to allow Ukraine to restore their territorial borders and the integrity of their country.
I do think, as we met with each of the leaders of these three countries, that they do see what Russia has done in Ukraine as diminishing Russia overall as both a power or an influencer around the world. They see them now, with this brutal campaign in Ukraine and the fact that they have not been successful, as impacting Russia's overall reputation.
TAPPER: So, the Treasury Department, Congressman Himes, the Treasury Department says the U.S. could default as early as June 1 if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling.
And the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, told the Senate that Russia and China would try to exploit the chaos that would come from a U.S. default to show -- quote -- "We're not capable of functioning as a democracy."
Is this a national security threat, this debt -- this looming debt crisis? And have any world leaders expressed concern to you about it, Congressman Himes?
HIMES: So it has not come up in the meetings that we had in Jordan and Israel and Egypt.
But, of course, the Russians and the Chinese would seek to exploit it. The United States has never really come close defaulting on its debt before. So it's hard for us to imagine what that might look like. But, of course, it could be catastrophic. Frankly, the full faith and credit of the United States is the bedrock on which the global financial system is built.
And if that comes into question, all kinds of things could happen. Look, the U.S. dollar could -- could -- its position as the global reserve currency could be eroded. People may choose to invest in the United Kingdom or in the European Union, rather than the United States.
So I'm not sure that either the chairman nor I know what the solution looks like in the coming weeks, but there had better be a solution.
TAPPER: Chairman Turner, do you think House Republicans would be willing to consider a temporary extension on the debt ceiling so that President Biden and Speaker McCarthy have more time to try to hammer out some sort of a deal?
TURNER: Well, as Speaker McCarthy said, the House has done its job. We voted to raise the debt limit. The president is doing this unrealistic position where he's saying that spending has nothing to do with debt.
Of course, you don't get debt unless you're spending more than you're bringing in. The president needs to come to the table, negotiate with the speaker, and come up with a plan that the American public want. Overwhelmingly, the polls show the American public want Washington to rein in spending.
The president needs to make some concessions.
TAPPER: Do you agree with your colleague there, Congressman Himes, that it's a national security threat not solving this problem?
TURNER: I think, if the president fails to negotiate with Congress and has continued out-of-control spending that threatens our economy, that it is a national security threat.
He has the ability to sit down and do that and for us to come to a deal in an agreement. That's what the American public want. That's what I think they're going to require from Congress and the president, and I think he needs to get on with it.
TAPPER: The chairman and the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio and Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, thanks so much for doing this interview. We appreciate it.
TURNER: Thank you, Jake.
HIMES: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: A new poll shows warning signs for both Biden and Trump. We're going to dig into that next.
Plus, is Governor Ron DeSantis looking to reset his campaign? And could it work? My panel's here.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SPAINHOUER: I never imagined in 100 years I would be thrust into the position of being the first first responder on the site to take care of people,.
The first girl I walked up to was crouched down, covering her head in the bushes. So, I felt for a pulse, pulled her head to the side, and she had no face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION.
Just the latest horror after the latest mass shooting in Allen, Texas, yesterday. It's an all-too-common occurrence here in the United States.
Our panel joins us now.
Congresswoman, welcome to STATE OF THE UNION. I wish you were here under better circumstances.
You flipped your Trump district in Michigan blue. And I'm wondering. Obviously, there is no appetite in Congress for the kind of sweeping gun measures that Democrats would like to pass, but what about something like red flag laws, aggressive ones, where people can really try to keep guns out of the hands of people who are going through crises?
Is that any -- is there any possibility of bipartisanship there?
REP. HILLARY SCHOLTEN (D-MI): No, I think that there is, Jake.
And one thing that I am seeing every day in Congress is a renewed interest to address this national trauma. Now, this goes far beyond the carnage that we see, bodies stacked up behind an outlet mall. Look at all those people fleeing the mall, the trauma that reverberates around our country, the mental health crisis that's rising in our young people, who have been forced to bear the burden of gun violence in our country, which is now the number one killer of children in the United States of America.
This is a uniquely American problem, and we don't have to live like this. I hear from people every single day in a swing district like mine, Republicans alike, who are ready to do something about this problem, and I'm ready to work on it as well.
TAPPER: What do you think?
JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's also -- it's terrible and it's tragic.
And I think that -- I don't think that there is a frontal way at gun control that politically will work at any time soon. So, if there are ways to do -- to make the problem -- to work the problem, I think it's going to be in the realm of mental health. Red flag laws, I think, are an important thing. I'm very much in favor of those. Part of the problem is, is that this is -- these mass shootings are a
form of social contagion, where it is, people are -- have a switch flipped when they see this, and then they try to -- and they copycat. And we saw similar things with, like, political assassinations in the '60s and '70s, and then it just sort of stopped.
That's -- I don't think we can just wait for it to stop because it's such a huge problem. But understanding that it's a socially complex thing and doing things at the margins that help, rather than hurt, I think is the only thing -- approach you can take.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But it's -- this is shameful.
The number one killer of children, and there's nothing? I mean, that's obscene, right? If it was a flu, we would find a vaccine. And I think we have to talk about this is an example of the corrosive impact of money in politics.
In Tennessee, the Tennessee legislature, they actually went out of session without passing gun legislation, despite the fact that the mothers from that school where the shooting occurred were there ever day for the last two weeks begging them to just take up legislation.
And what did they do? They actually went out of session a week early because the gun lobby pushed them and said, don't you dare consider any legislation.
TAPPER: I have to say I respectfully disagree that money is the issue here.
FINNEY: It's part of it.
TAPPER: I think this is a cultural -- I think it's a cultural issue.
I think I think people feel an attachment to guns that is that is beyond a $5,000...
GOLDBERG: The NRA is bankrupt.
FINNEY: But I -- but I...
GOLDBERG: It's voters who care a lot about gun rights.
FINNEY: But they still put pressure on...
TAPPER: Let me you, Congressman -- I mean -- congressman -- Marc Short, let me just show you this.
TAPPER: So this is policies that the American people support, according to a recent FOX poll in April; 87 percent support universal background checks, 81 percent raising the age to 21 for the purchase of all guns, 80 percent requiring mental health checks, 80 percent red flag laws.
Those don't seem like unreasonable intrusions on the constitutional right.
MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Well, I think that if it was really money in politics or the impact of the gun lobby, the reality is that Democrats had control of the House, the Senate, and the White House last Congress. They didn't pass gun control legislation.
So it's not so easy as we want to portray it as, Jake. But I also think the reality is that, this year, there have been 13,000 deaths by gun violence. The vast majority, 95 percent of them, are in inner cities, where you have some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
We're not being tough on crime in general. I think we could actually have a much stronger impact if we got serious about getting tough on crime in our inner cities.
FINNEY: But then why...
SCHOLTEN: No. No.
Respectfully, Marc, last Congress, we did pass a once-in-a-generation Safer Communities bill to combat this. There are -- I have personally co-sponsored eight different pieces of commonsense gun control legislation that has the majority of Americans backing it.
And Republicans refuse to bring it to the floor. We can preserve the Second Amendment and protect our children. This is not a zero sum game.
TAPPER: But he's -- if I could just make the point that Marc's right in the sense that the AR-15 mass shootings get attention for obvious reasons, but it is the one-offs in the inner city that are actually more deadly and bigger threats to the survival of Americans.
SCHOLTEN: What have Republicans done about it? Their debt ceiling proposal defunds the police, cuts tens of thousands of law enforcement jobs.
SHORT: Come on. Stop it. Come on.
TAPPER: To be fair, they haven't been specific about any of the cuts, which is not a compliment, but it's accurate. SCHOLTEN: But, in reality, what are Republicans doing about it? The Democrats are out there with bills that will increase law enforcement on the streets, funding the police, and...
SHORT: The vast majority of the cities are Democrat-controlled, as you know, Democratic mayors.
FINNEY: OK, but there's often been plenty of studies that show, actually, crime rates are higher in red states than blue states. So, if we're going to go down that road, let's talk some facts.
I want to clarify, though, I'm not saying that money in politics is the only reason.
FINNEY: I'm saying, with the numbers you just showed about the will of the American people, there should be more -- you would think Republicans should be more willing to come to the table and pass legislation with Democrats.
TAPPER: I do want to change the subject, if I can, because we have a lot to discuss today, because there's a new poll out this morning from ABC News and the Washington -- poll, comparing mental sharpness of President Biden and former President Trump. Pretty stark numbers there.
Do Biden and Trump have the mental sharpness to serve? Thirty-two percent of the American people say Biden does not, 63 percent -- I'm sorry -- 32 percent say he has the mental sharpness; 63 percent says he does not. There's me not being so sharp this morning.
TAPPER: And then Donald Trump, 54 percent say, yes, he is sharp enough to be president; 43 percent say no.
Karen, that's not a good number for President Biden. Two-thirds of the American people say he's not sharp enough to be president.
FINNEY: And yet he's doing the job. He's getting record victories. We got gun legislation. We just had a great jobs report on Friday.
I mean, look, this is why we have a campaign, right? We will -- this will be tested in the context of this campaign. You also, in that poll, had people -- majority of people think that Donald Trump should -- should face accountability for his actions.
So, look, we know this is going to be an issue. The White House knows it. The campaign knows it. We're ready for it. They're off to a great. start. We're raising money. He's got a great record to run on.
TAPPER: Does this worry you at all?
SCHOLTEN: It's not surprising that individuals would have concern. President Biden would be one of the oldest presidents ever elected.
TAPPER: No, the.
TAPPER: The. The. Not even close.
SCHOLTEN: The -- the oldest president. All right, the oldest president ever elected.
TAPPER: Eighty-six at the end of his second term.
SCHOLTEN: All right, well, people tend not to believe what they have never seen. As the first woman to represent my part of the country, I can tell you that for certain.
But here's the thing, this election is going to still be a referendum on whose vision for America people want. Do they want the extremism of today's Republican Party that's allowing our children to be obliterated in classrooms, rescinding our rights, or do they want a pragmatic, steady hand at the wheel that's increasing jobs, improving infrastructure, and growing and expanding our freedoms?
SCHOLTEN: In a swing district like West Michigan, we saw what the answer was in 2022.
TAPPER: Jonah's face is wincing.
GOLDBERG: Yes. I mean, look, that all sounds great. It's great talking points. It's great rah-rah Democrat stuff. We will get some good Republican stuff from Marc and all that kind of stuff.
SCHOLTEN: It's lived experience.
GOLDBERG: What a profoundly unserious moment America is living in.
We got one guy who is the likely nominee on the Republican side who is fundamentally and indisputably unfit for public office, that a majority of Americans think should be charged with crimes, including trying to steal an election.
We got another guy who is definitely the nominee for the other party who a majority of Americans think does not have all the marbles to be president anymore, that is too old to run for office, the party taking enormous, enormous risk putting this guy out there on the campaign trail when one fall, one bad moment could erase all possible trust in the guy.
Much like a replay of 2016, where we had two candidates that were so unpopular they each had a chance to lose to the other, we are now going to have a race between two candidates that are so unfit they have a chance to lose to the other.
SHORT: I think that the polling supports what Jonah is saying.
SHORT: The reality is that people want neither, that people want neither.
TAPPER: Right. Perhaps you have another idea for somebody who would be a better Republican nominee?
SHORT: Based on the sanity acumen, I think the reality is that the polling also shows, on the policy, he's at his lowest point so far of his presidency.
SHORT: So, I think Americans are asking for someone different.
TAPPER: Just in case people don't know, Marc used to work for Vice President Mike Pence.
TAPPER: That is an important subtext.
TAPPER: Thanks, one and all, for being here. Really appreciate it. Great to have you.
We will be right back.
TAPPER: (AUDIO GAP) be charged with a crime?
This week, voters will get the chance to ask the former president questions themselves in a CNN town hall hosted by our own Kaitlan Collins. You can tune in Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN for that.
Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.
I will see you Monday.