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STATE OF THE UNION
Texas Mass Shooting; Hurricane Dorian Targets Florida; Interview With Federal Emergency Management Agency Acting Administrator Peter Gaynor; Interview With Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke; Interview With Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 1, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Deadly rampage. Another tragedy in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God, they're shooting right there.
BASH: Four people killed and dozens injured after a shooter opens fire from his car, targeting law enforcement officers and other drivers. Will anything change?
2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke joins me next.
Plus: bracing for impact. Intense winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall threaten the Southeast coast.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The hurricane is roaring it, and it could be a big one.
BASH: Are we ready for Hurricane Dorian?
I will speak to acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor and Florida Senator Rick Scott next.
And making the cut. Only half the 2020 Democrats make the next debate.
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to make very clear the cost and consequence of Donald Trump.
BASH: As the field of candidates starts to narrow, is there still time for someone new to break out?
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is on edge.
We begin today the same way we did exactly four weeks ago, the news of another tragedy, more lives lost in a horrific mass shooting. Four people were killed and more than 20 injured yesterday in West Texas after a man went on a shooting rampage through the streets of Midland and Odessa in Texas.
Lawmakers' hands must be tired from typing out thoughts and prayers they offer after every one of these mass shootings. But, so far, Congress has taken no action to try to prevent more attacks.
We're also following breaking news off the Southeast coast. Hurricane Dorian has just been upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, more bad news about an unpredictable monster storm that could wreak havoc up the southeast coast.
And we will have the latest on Dorian's shift in its track as it makes landfall in the Bahamas.
But I want to first go straight to Texas. Ed Lavandera is there in Odess -- in Odessa, rather.
What's the latest?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dana.
Well, here, investigators have been working throughout the night, securing the multiple crime scenes that are scattered all across the city. Odessa police tell me this morning that this is one of the things that has compounded the chaotic nature of this particular mass shooting, that this wasn't in one isolated area.
Instead, it involved a shooter driving around the city randomly shooting at people. So, we have seen this. As you drive around town, you come across little small crime scenes that are secured by one officer. That kind of speaks to just how chaotic all of this was.
And then, in the midst of all of that, the shooter commandeering a U.S. Postal Service truck, switching out of the car that he was originally driving in, and then carrying out more attacks, four people killed, five including the gunman, and nearly two dozen injured.
One of the dead is a high school student here in Odessa. One of the wounded is a 17-month-old child that had to be airlifted to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, north of here. We're told that that child is now in satisfactory condition.
Authorities here say that they will have a press conference in about four hours to update on more information. But, right now, all we know about the gunman is that he is a white male in his mid-30s -- Dana.
BASH: Ed, thank you so much for that former.
Former Texas Congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is focused on combating these kinds of attacks after a deadly shooting in his hometown of El Paso last month.
And he joins me now.
Let's start on the shooting.
I want to play for our viewers your reaction at a campaign stop last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: Don't know what the motivation is. Do not yet know the firearms that were used or how they acquired them.
But we do know this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
O'ROURKE: We do know...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: Yes, the rhetoric that we have used, the thoughts and prayers that you just referred to, it has done nothing to stop the epidemic of gun violence to protect our kids, our families, our fellow Americans in public places, at a Walmart in El Paso, where 22 were killed, in Sutherland Springs in a church, one or two a day all over this country, 100 killed daily in the United States of America.
We're averaging about 300 mass shootings a year. No other country comes close.
So, yes, this is fucked up.
And if we don't call it out for what it is, if we're not able to speak clearly, if we're not able to act decisively, then we will continue to have this kind of bloodshed in America. And I cannot accept that.
And so we're going to speak as defiantly and as strongly as we can. But we're also going to take action, universal background checks, red flag laws, an end to the sales of weapons of war, and buying those AK- 47s and AR-15s back so that they cannot be used against our fellow Americans.
BASH: So let's talk more about some of those solutions.
You made an unusual campaign stop a couple of weeks ago. You went to the red state of Arkansas, and you went to a gun show.
What did you learn there?
O'ROURKE: The first person who approached me introduced himself, recognized me. And I said: "Look, I got to be honest. I'm here because we lose more than 40,000 Americans a year. We have got to find a solution."
And he said: "I shouldn't be here. If you have a pulse, if you're 18 years old, I sell you the gun. I shouldn't be able to do that."
He, at a gun show, selling guns, was advocating for universal background checks.
Another father of 3 says: "I own an AR-15. I'm not sure if I agree with your policy on weapons of war, but I have got three kids in school, and I'm worried about them, and they're -- they're afraid to go to school on Monday. We got to do something."
Another guy said: "I voted for Trump, have an AK-47, but I would be willing to give it up if it means that we're going to save lives in this country."
The challenge is so grave, the threat is so great, we can't meet it with half-measure or only half the country. We have got to bring in Republicans, gun owners, Democrats, non-gun owners alike into these solutions, and save lives, or else be complicit in the continuing carnage that we see throughout America.
And I will not be part of that. We're going to be part of the solution.
BASH: So, one of the parts of your solution includes mandatory buybacks for so-called assault weapons.
The "USA Today" editorial board -- board argued against that. They said that you are playing into the NRA's hands. And here's what was part of that editorial: "The legislation would absolutely be doomed if it included a mandatory buyback provision. Anything smacking of confiscation would breathe life and energy into the not from my cold dead hands crowd, endangering law enforcement, and likely putting a full stop to any further gun safety measures."
What's your response?
O'ROURKE: You know, more than I worry about the politics or the polling, more than I care about what the NRA has to say on this, I care for my kids, and this country, and people who live in terror every day, people in El Paso, Mexican Americans who say: "I feel like I have a target on my back. I'm afraid to go out in public."
Kids who, thinking about going to school tomorrow, having gone through active shooter drills, already know which bookcase they're going to pull down, which window they're going to jump out of.
This is not right, and we should not accept it. And we should be honest with ourselves. Universal background checks will help. Ending the sales of weapons of war will help.
But if millions of them remain on the streets, they will still be instruments of terror that terrify and terrorize us and take our lives. And...
BASH: But what about...
O'ROURKE: ... I'm not going to accept that. BASH: But what about the kind of real world dynamic that "USA Today," the editorial board, is putting in there, that if you go too far, that it'll kill the whole thing?
O'ROURKE: This triangulation calculation, poll-testing every move, that's what got us here in the first place.
I listened to those students from Parkland, Florida, March For Our Lives. It came out with a bold plan for peace that talks about many of the measures I just described, a national gun registry, licensing for every American who owns a firearm.
Use that gun for self-protection, to hunt, to collect, to shoot at target practice. But you don't need an AR-15, an AK-47. That is a weapon of war designed to kill people as efficiently, as effectively, in as great a number as possible.
That high-impact, high-velocity rounds, it distributes its entire kinetic energy in your body and destroy your insides.
We talked to the surgeons who treated the victims in El Paso. Many of them had been on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said these are wounds of war.
Let's not sell those anymore, and let's bring them back off of our streets.
BASH: OK, let's change topics to what we're going to see in 11 days, the next Democratic debate. You're one of 10 who made the debate stage.
One of the key issues, of course, will be health care. Senator Sanders floated a plan this weekend that would cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt. Is that something you could support?
O'ROURKE: Perhaps, yes.
There's no reason that you should go into bankruptcy or not be able to make that payment on a prescription medication that will save your life. So, first order of business is to enroll everyone in Medicare who's uninsured today.
Everyone who's insufficiently insured, cannot afford that co-pay or that premium or bridge that deductible, they should be able to enroll in Medicare. Those who have employer-sponsored insurance that works for them, members of unions who have fought for a health care plan that they like for themselves and their families, they should be able to keep that as well.
And then those who have accrued that medical debt, if we can help them as well, let's do that.
But I think the goal should be universal, guaranteed, high-quality care, primary care, mental health care, and every woman making her own decision about her own body and having access to the care that makes that possible.
BASH: OK, so you just suggested this in your answer. You do not support Medicare for all, which Senator Sanders and some other opponents of yours do.
You said it would -- quote -- "force 180 million Americans off their insurance."
Do you think a candidate who supports Medicare for all can beat Donald Trump in 2020?
O'ROURKE: Yes, I do.
I think anyone in the field of candidates who's running right now not only would be a better president, but will be able to beat Donald Trump. If I'm not the nominee -- I'm going to do everything I can to win that nomination.
BASH: And you don't think a Medicare for all plan would hurt that?
O'ROURKE: But, if I'm not, I'm going to get behind whoever the nominee is, and work my heart out and work with my fellow Americans to make sure that, not only do we defeat Donald Trump, but that we achieve these priorities, health care, making sure everyone can participate in the economy, rewriting our immigration laws, and confronting the challenge of climate change before it's too late.
BASH: So, obviously, you just made clear you're going to be behind the -- the nominee.
You have staked out more moderate positions on several topics than your opponents, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are, frankly, doing better than you are right now in the polls. Do you worry that the Democrats are moving too far to the left in order to win in 2020?
O'ROURKE: No. I have no worries about that at all.
I think our party is big enough, our democracy is big enough to have this competition of ideas and vision for the future of our country. And I'm grateful for everything that every candidate has contributed so far.
My positions, I don't think, are moderate or conservative or liberal. They're reflective of the people that I have listened to, those union members who've said, look, we fought for this health care plan, I want to be able to keep it, and I want to make sure that we also extend health care to those who do not have it today.
I don't know where you put that on the political spectrum, but it makes sense to me. It made sense to them. And I want to make sure that I'm representing their interests and serving them as president of the United States.
BASH: Congressman, Beto O'Rourke, thank you so much for coming in today. O'ROURKE: Thank you.
BASH: Appreciate it. Appreciate it.
And up next: Hurricane Dorian's track shifts again, closer to Florida's coast, as the Category 5 storm makes landfall in the Bahamas.
Stay with us.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Dorian is now a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour. And its unpredictability has Americans from Florida up to the Carolinas bracing for the worst.
CNN's Allison Chinchar is live at the Severe Weather Center.
Allison, the hurricane has become the most dangerous kind of hurricane, which is, of course, a Category 5.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and now all eyes are on the Bahamas to see exactly what happens there.
We are getting that imminent landfall now over some of those eastern islands in the Bahamas. But, really, the majority of the Bahamas are already starting to see the impacts in the form of very gusty winds, very heavy rainfall.
And those conditions will likely deteriorate from here on out. Sustained winds at 160, but they're gusting up to 185 miles per hour. That eye wall is getting even larger. We have seen the pressure drop, meaning that the storm is not weakening. If anything, it's continuing to intensify.
The track still takes it farther west even after the Bahamas. The question is, when does it make that northward turn? At this point in time, Florida is still in play in terms of a landfall.
We know it will turn north. We just don't know exactly when. And that could be a huge factor in determining whether or not it's Florida that gets a landfall or perhaps a state like Georgia, South Carolina, or even perhaps North Carolina.
We do have hurricane warnings out for a portions of the Bahamas and hurricane watches as well. Newly added this morning, tropical storm warnings for portions of Florida, including West Palm Beach, as well as Vero Beach.
But, Dana, more areas along Florida may start to see an increase of those tornadoes -- or the tropical storm warnings as we get a little bit closer to that system making its way towards Florida. BASH: Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.
BASH: Joining me now is acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor.
Thank you so much for joining me.
First, we keep seeing this forecast for the hurricane change.
So, the big question is, is FEMA prepared for anywhere this unpredictable storm may hit?
PETER GAYNOR, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: So, that's the -- the thing that we're worried about is the unpredictability and the uncertainty of this hurricane.
It just turned into a Cat 5. That kind of raises everyone's awareness a little bit more. We are ready. We have been active for five days. We have been moving food, water, supplies, generators in and around Southeast United States.
We'll continue to make those preparations until we're clear of Dorian.
BASH: So, President Trump tweeted on Saturday that Dorian is -- quote -- "one of the biggest and strongest hurricanes that we have seen in decades."
Exactly how dangerous will it be?
GAYNOR: Well, this is what -- I think we want to get the message out today.
You know, this has been a slow-moving storm. Just turned into a Cat 5. The models have it earlier coming over Florida. Now it's going to go up the coast a little bit. It's going to stall out tomorrow off of West Palm.
This is a serious storm. You can't take your eye off it. You have to make preparations now. Again, it's going to move up the coast to Georgia and the Carolinas. This is going to be with us probably until next Friday.
BASH: Until next Friday. Wow.
So you told Congress in June that FEMA was struggling to maintain a staff big enough to deal with disasters like this. You said that you were more than 2,000 employees short.
Is that still the case, sir?
GAYNOR: It is. And that's really on the recovery side.
What you see behind me is the whole-of-government response, so not only FEMA partners, but our partners from across federal government, our non-governmental partners, our private partners. [09:20:03]
Again, this is just not FEMA by itself. When it comes to response, we are more than ready to deal with anything that Dorian delivers us this year or any other storm that may come this season.
BASH: OK, but 2,000 employees short even, and maybe even I would say especially on recovery is a potentially huge problem for a Category 5 hurricane heading towards the U.S.
GAYNOR: Well, again, you know, our mission right now is response, preparing for response, making sure that no needs from states, locals or counties goes unmet.
And, right now, that's where we're putting all our effort. And we have plenty of people, plenty of material, plenty of supplies to make all the necessary response requirements to satisfy all those needs.
BASH: Let me ask you.
This is your first major hurricane since becoming acting FEMA administrator. In fact, there are about a dozen senior leaders in an acting capacity at the Department of Homeland Security right now, including the secretary of homeland security.
Wouldn't the response to hurricanes, especially ones like this, be more effective if there were permanent leaders in those roles?
GAYNOR: Well, I will tell you what I know.
So, behind me, 200 people from, again, across government, they represent 20,000 FEMA employees that have been battle-tested, battle- hardened from 2017-'18. You know, it's just not about one single person at the top. It's really about a team effort.
And that team effort starts with the individual in the communities. It starts with the local government, state government, county government, and, of course, the federal government.
For this to work properly, we all have to be in it. And we have a great team behind us. And I have no worries that we'll meet whatever demand, whatever response is required for Dorian.
BASH: Researchers say that we're going to see even more very intense due to the climate crisis.
Do you agree with that?
GAYNOR: You know, you can look through the history of the past 25 years or so, there's been more hurricanes, more intensity.
Again, I think we can -- we can look to that at another date. But I think the message today is, for residents, especially with the newly -- new Cat 5, is, don't take your eye off the storm. Take the time to prepare right now. It's going to be with us for a long time, long duration. And, again, now is the time to prepare yourself and your family for anything that may happen.
BASH: All right, well, we will be keeping in touch with you.
Thank you so much for your time. I know it's a very busy day for you.
Acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, thank you.
GAYNOR: Thank you.
BASH: And Senator Rick Scott is warning Florida residents not to let their guard down ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
He's here and joins me next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.
The latest forecast shows Hurricane Dorian shifting closer towards Florida's coast.
And my next guest joined the president yesterday at Camp David for a hurricane briefing there and has a lot of experience leading disaster response.
Joining me now is Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida.
Thank you so much for being here.
You were governor of Florida for eight years, so many hurricanes during that time. Put this in perspective for us. How bad could this be?
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Category 5. You know what the best to picture look at? Remember Mexico Beach? I mean, devastation along there.
The issue is, one, the wind, two, the rain, but the storm surge. If this turns due west and hits right at Florida, we're going to see significant storm surge.
The other issue is, everybody's got to understand that don't look at the middle of this, where they said, oh, this is the track. Look at the whole cone, because that's where it could go. And if it does that late, are you going to be ready? Do you have your food, your water, your medicine?
And have you evacuated if you have a good chance that you might have to evacuate? You need to really think about it today, not -- don't -- don't wait. Don't assume it's going to go right up that track. BASH: And you feel confident that there are avenues for people to evacuate? We're seeing reports of gas shortages and other problems.
SCOTT: The -- there's -- there's good emergency management at the state and at the local level.
I mean, I went -- I went through, what, four hurricanes my last four years as governor. There's good teams there all across the state. But you have to take care of yourself first. And so if you decide not to evacuate when they tell you to, or if you wait, then that's -- that's really the risk. Or you wait to go get ready.
So you got to think about it all along. Watch it. Watch the news. Watch what you guys are putting out, because it's very helpful.
BASH: So the Trump administration recently told Congress it plans to move at least $155 million from the FEMA disaster relief fund to immigration enforcement.
Do you think that money would be better spent fighting and responding to natural disasters like Dorian?
SCOTT: Well, I -- I have talked to -- I have talked to FEMA. I have talked to the White House. And they have all convinced me that there's plenty of money there to take care of them.
I know there -- I was just down at the border two days ago. I know we still have issues at our border. But they have assured me they're going to do it. They have got -- FEMA has got a great team.
By the way, one thing people can do is download the -- download FEMA's app, because it does give you a lot of good information.
BASH: So, you specifically talked to the president about this?
SCOTT: I talked to the White House.
BASH: And you're confident that they're going to have every resource they need?
SCOTT: That's what they told me.
And I was at FEMA yesterday. I will be going back there today with President Trump. They have told me they have all the resources. They have -- in my disasters in Florida, they have always shown up and done their job. FEMA has done a good job.
BASH: So you're comfortable moving the money?
SCOTT: Well, that's what they have told me.
BASH: OK. Hurricane Dorian, as it seemed to be approaching Puerto Rico this
week, President Trump went on Twitter, and he called a Puerto Rico one of the most corrupt places on Earth.
And that, of course, came just weeks after he tweeted that Congress -- quote -- "foolishly gave hurricane relief money to Puerto Rico after Maria."
So you're thinking about Americans who live in Puerto Rico, not to mention Puerto Rican residents who moved to your state because of...
SCOTT: A lot.
BASH: A lot after Hurricane Maria.
Can you guarantee that the president has their backs?
SCOTT: Well, if -- I mean, I know Congress does.
And the -- I worked hard to get funding for them. They had -- and also the safeguards. They have had problems, as we know, in the past. They have a new governor. I spoke to her quite a few times before the storm.
And House and the speaker -- speaker of the House and Senate president, I have good relationships there. I'm going to do everything I can. I wish there wasn't rhetoric like there is. And it's a new day. We have a new governor. So let's figure out how to work together.
BASH: So you wish the president would not tweet and make statements like this about Puerto Rico?
SCOTT: Well, there -- look, I know there -- I know that he has a disagreement with the mayor of San Juan. I actually have never met her.
But I talk to the politicians over there. I worked hard to put in safeguards to make sure money wasn't wasted. They all are supportive of that, and I'm going to continue to work for them.
BASH: OK, let's turn to the shooting in Texas.
You are the only member of Congress with recent experience actually enacting a solution to the problem of gun violence. You signed a sweeping gun reform bill into law when you were governor after Parkland's shooting.
Is gun reform legislation doable this month when you all come back to work here in Washington?
SCOTT: I'm hopeful.
I mean, I think they ought to do what we did. What I did, as soon as Parkland happened, is, I got law enforcement together within two or three days, mental health counselors and educators. I said, what would you do?
Because we -- we can't have this happen again. We all have kids or, in my case, grandkids. You don't want this to happen.
And so we did. The biggest thing we did was this red flag law that says that, if you are threatening harm to yourself or somebody else, through due process, through the court system, you don't have access to any weapons, not just a gun, but any weapons.
Now, there's still due process. You can go back and look and review it. But we did that. Plus, we added law enforcement at every school in the state and more mental health counselors.
So I think what we ought to -- what we ought to be doing is saying, OK, so we have a problem. Young men are doing things that, when I was growing up, nobody even considered. Something's gone wrong. Something's in wrong right now in our country. So let's figure out, what's gone wrong and what can we do that's doable, and do it.
BASH: Let's just put this into context.
Since Parkland, since the shooting in your state -- it was a year-and- a-half ago -- there have been several major, major shootings, 12 people killed at a Virginia Beach city building, 12 people killed in Thousand Oaks, California, 11 people killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue, 10 people killed at Santa Fe High School, just in the last month, of course, 22 people killed in El Paso, nine in Dayton.
And this is not even an exhaustive list.
How do you explain to the American people why Congress isn't acting?
SCOTT: Well, this -- I have been up there eight months. I'm going to do everything I can.
I think the way you do it, the way we did it, you bring people together, and you -- this is not a -- this is not a partisan issue. This is an issue about, how do we keep Americans safe? And so I'm going to do everything I can.
I'm giving you steps, but what I'm frustrated about is, I still do not have an answer from the FBI. They had prior knowledge of the shooter at Parkland, prior knowledge of the shooter at our airport, at Fort Lauderdale Airport. They today will still not tell me if they have reprimanded anybody, if anybody's been held accountable.
So we need to pass laws, but we need to hold everybody accountable also. And the FBI still won't tell me what happened.
BASH: OK, that's fair.
But you're in the business of passing laws, since you're a senator. So...
SCOTT: Fixing problems.
BASH: The House passed a bill that requires universal background checks. They did that in February; 93 percent of American voters support universal background checks; 93 percent of Americans don't support anything.
I mean, that's a huge number. Do you?
SCOTT: Well, here's what I did in Florida.
We saw a problem at the state level, where the -- your mental health issues were not being put on your record. So we worked on that. There's lots of proposals. I'm going to review them and work to figure out how to do it.
I believe in the Second Amendment. I don't want to take guns away from law-abiding Americans. But I do want to solve problems. So that's why I think we ought to look at really what we did in Florida, because that really works.
Beto O'Rourke was just on -- on the set, on this program. He supports a ban on so-called assault weapons, as do many others.
How do you explain to him and 60 percent of Americans who agree with him why weapons of war should remain on the streets?
SCOTT: Well, I believe in all the amendments, including the Second. I don't want to take weapons away from...
BASH: Even weapons of war?
SCOTT: Well, everybody has their definition of things.
But what we ought to look at, why don't we look at the people that have the problems that say -- and look at taking all their weapons away from them.
BASH: And why not do both?
SCOTT: I want to do things that I think work.
I think the red flag laws work. I think, in school situation, we have put in mental health counselors and law enforcement. After the Pulse, I added more counterterrorism experts.
So what I'm trying to say, what actually would solve that problem? And that's how I think we ought to all do it in Congress.
BASH: So, just to put a button it, an assault weapons ban is a nonstarter in this current Congress?
SCOTT: No, I'm focused -- I'm focused on the people that have problems.
BASH: Thank you for coming in today.
BASH: Good luck in your home state. And we're all going to be watching you. And we will be back in touch.
SCOTT: Get -- get prepared.
Thank you very much.
And in Texas, as we were just talking about, just hours after the latest mass shooting, several new laws are going into effect that actually loosen gun restrictions. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I and our administration remain absolutely determined to work with leaders in both parties in the Congress to take such steps that we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocities in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Vice President Mike Pence reacting to yet another mass shooting in Texas, a rampage that left at least four dead and more than 20 people injured. Let's discuss with our panel.
And, Congresswoman, I want to start with you. You were in Congress until 10 months ago. Knowing your former colleagues is anything going to get done?
MIA LOVE (R-UT), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE: Unfortunately I don't think anything's going to get done.
LOVE: I really don't. I think there is going to be discussions. I think that it's -- I really doubt anything will get done. And anything that gets done in the House, you have to get it through the Senate and it has to be signed by the president. And so everything is so incredibly partisan right now that nothing is going to get done.
I did have -- my daughter approach me in -- she was in school and she said she had an experience where the teacher was asking, what are you going to do after this, what do you guys -- where want to be when you grow up? And everybody had this idea of what they were going to do and one kid said, I want to be Satan when I grow up. And all of a sudden we're just sitting there going, oh, my gosh. And never -- that's never come up in our conversations, ever.
And now we're thinking, OK, what do we do, what do we do to help this kid, like what's going on? And so those are the type of things that you have to start, you start paying attention to and watching. And members of Congress, really, they need to stay as close to home as possible so they know that these things are actually happening in school. But I highly doubt that anything substantive is going to get done in Washington.
BASH: So, let's talk about where the American people actually stand on the gun issue. This is according to the Quinnipiac poll most recently. Ninety-three percent support universal background checks. Eighty-two percent support requiring licenses to buy guns. Eighty percent back red flag laws. Sixty percent, assault weapons ban. Forty-six back mandatory assault weapon buyback.
Senator Santorum, you were in Congress back when they actually got things done. These kinds of numbers, big, big majorities, actually swayed members of Congress.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I -- as you know, I was never a member of Congress who put my finger in the air and said which way is the wind blowing? Obviously we have a lot of horrific things happen and people react emotionally to them. I think what found is that when you actually have these debates, if you think about the consequences of a lot of the things that are being talked about and the particulars, the American public and certainly members of Congress both -- and frankly in both parties back down and say, you know what, it is important to answer your question you posed to Rick Scott, it is important that people have the right to defend themselves, that people have the right to have weapons that are commensurate with what may be some -- somebody is going to use against them.
And so the idea as to why is because people have rights in this country and they don't want to take rights away from law abiding people because there are some very bad actors, primarily young males, that we should be focused on.
XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I put my son to bed last night. He's 11 months old. There is a mother who did not do that because her daughter was shot in the face. When is it enough?
And the president said not even a month ago, I'm from Texas, the president said, OK, let's pass background checks. What ended up happening? He backed down and told the NRA that's not realistic. You know what? It is realistic, because the House passed a background check bill already.
Where is the Senate? Where is the president? The president could call Mitch McConnell right now if he wanted to do something and say pass this bill, bring it to my desk, people are dying. That's what people care about. They don't -- they want guns for hunting, not for killing people.
SANTORUM: The problem, Xochitl, is that none of the crimes that were mentioned by Dana would have been stopped by the background checks you're talking --
HINOJOSA: So, you're telling me you wouldn't even protect one life because of a background check?
SANTORUM: The reality is quit proposing things that limit people's rights when they don't address the problem. Let's address the problem. And the problem you know very well --
HINOJOSA: There's a huge problem.
SANTORUM: -- are young males and it's a multifaceted problem and all the left wants to talk about is one aspect.
HINOJOSA: Our children -- our children --
SANTORUM: That's what America --
WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, thoughts and prayers -- have released a statement and thoughts and prayers have said we need gun control. And a majority of Americans as you just read over 90 percent say they want background checks. Eighty percent said they want at least some registration. Over 60 percent say they want the removal of assault weapons which these young men carry to carry out these mass shootings.
We don't need these cartridges, we don't need these weapons of mass destruction. There's death. Also 38 mass shootings in 2019. Fifty- one people killed by gun violence, by mass shootings right here in this month, August, we just had --
ALI: Wait. Real quick.
ALI: El Paso shooting, August -- what, 4th, was it?
ALI: Four weeks ago. Now we have Odessa. And Governor Greg Abbott of Texas in July --
SANTORUM: -- the issue --
ALI: NRA praised him because he signed --
ALI: -- 10 NRA legislations in July.
SANTORUM: But nothing you're suggesting is going to help. ALI: What do you mean?
LOVE: I have to say this --
BASH: Let me -- let me just in real quick just to follow up on what you just said, Wajahat. Because starting today --
ALI: That's it. Today.
BASH: -- those laws go into effect.
SANTORUM: So people can protect themselves --
BASH: To be specific, weapons at school, a school district cannot prohibit licensed gun owners including school employees from storing a firearm in a locked vehicle or parking lot, weapons at church, easier to keep weapons there.
And also in foster homes.
SANTORUM: Gun free -- gun free zones invite people to come and shoot. And what the Texas law is -- says is, we're going to -- we're going to make sure that we're not creating soft targets for people to go in and harm people.
LOVE: It's about doing the right thing. It's about -- so you have to make sure that legislation -- you're not legislating just to legislate, because criminals aren't
concerned about breaking the law, OK?
So, when I'm thinking about my daughter and what she has to deal with at school, I'm not thinking about how am I going to stop Americans from getting weapons. All Americans from getting weapons. How am I going to stop that young man from getting a weapon? Because he obviously lacks the ability to make a rational decision.
BASH: So, that means background checks.
ALI: Background checks.
LOVE: You know what? And here's the other thing. In the House, we've actually worked on passing, right, the bills that would actually stop people from committing these crimes. But to go and legislate blindly and to do everything you can to keep rational, law-abiding citizens from getting -- from being able to hold a firearm, you're really going down a slippery slope.
ALI: There's a bill at the footsteps of Mitch McConnell. The House passed it. It's right there.
LOVE: You have to protect -- you do have to protect Second Amendment rights though. I mean, you don't want to trample upon the rights of people to --
ALI: But a young man doesn't need an assault rifle.
BASH: Everybody stand by, we have a lot more to talk about. Stay with us.
BASH: Welcome back.
President Trump seems to be banking on a strong economy to carry him to victory in 2020, but there are some cracks in what was one of his greatest strengths, at least that according to some new polls including a new one from Quinnipiac this past week. For the first time since President Trump's election, more voters say that the national economy is getting worse than getting better. And that number is up 14 percent since June.
For the Republicans who are at this table hoping that you keep the White House, how much of a warning sign is that for you?
SANTORUM: Well, look, I mean, the tariff and trade wars are having an impact -- they're having an impact on the economy. They are creating uncertainty. Business investment is down. I mean, there is a lot of negative things going on. And I think that the administration has recognized that.
The administration is also -- and the president has made a calculated risk which is it's more important to fight the battle in getting China in a good trade relationship that is mutually beneficial to both countries which we don't believe it is right now and -- then the short time affect on the economy. And there's no question there is a short term affect.
So in a sense I give the president credit for sticking to his guns, fighting this fight in spite of the short term problems --
BASH: And that could get worse because today -- today an additional 15 percent tariff on variety of Chinese goods --
SANTORUM: Yes. This is a high risk strategy for the president. But I give him credit for fighting the fight.
LOVE: I'm a free trader. I've always been a free trader this -- even in the House of Representatives this was always an issue.
We talked about what this was going to do with our farmer, what you can't -- it is not in the Republican wheelhouse to say we're going to hurt the farmers and then try and bail them out. That's not -- that's not what's supposed to happen.
BASH: But that is what you are doing. ALI: And that's also socialism.
LOVE: That's exactly what they're doing.
LOVE: And I don't agree with that. I think that you first do no harm.
He has to fix this, he has to fix it fairly quickly. Or this is going to be something that really does hurt him. I mean, he can still talk about low unemployment rates, he can talk about those things. But Twitter is always going to be a problem.
LOVE: And the trade war is always to be a problem. So this is -- he has got to fix it because our farmers are really -- they are starting to feel the --
HINOJOSA: Well, he is the one who's causing the uncertainty in our economy right now and polling shows that the American people want to know who has got your back. They don't want a president who is tweeting. And that is a constant problem.
You know, picking a fight with Fox News as he did this last week, that is not what people want. They want to know how are you going for raise my wages, how are you going to keep my job here in Milwaukee, how are you going to help me. And if he continues on this track, he will not win.
ALI: The art of the deal means raising the debt, raising deficit, having Mexico not pay for the wall that will never be built. The trade war which is going to be destructive and disastrous and by the way the average cost of goods is going to go up $450 for -- American consumers are going to pay for the tariffs and it also means passing a highly unpopular tax cut that will not stimulate economic growth by 4 percent and add $1 to $2 trillion worth of debt. So, thank you, Donald Trump. Everything you touch --
SANTORUM: Whoa, whoa --
LOVE: Debt. I'm mean, seriously. OK.
ALI: Everything Trump touches dies and I want your optimism, Rick.
LOVE: I'm not -- I am not an apologist for this president, but when we are talking about raising the debt, we see all of the Democratic candidates that are out there talking and everybody is talking about free everything --
ALI: But Trump --
LOVE: -- and without any way of paying for it. ALI: But Trump promised to eliminate the debt in four years and yet the debt has gone up under Trump. And he's the president.
LOVE: It is not the president's -- wait a minute. It is not the president's job to enact legislation. And I keep saying this, stop giving the president so much power.
HINOJOSA: He is the leader of the party --
LOVE: It is Congress' -- it is Congress' job. He is not the leader of the party. I'm sorry.
ALI: He is the leader of the party. Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. He's the Republican president.
LOVE: Wait a minute. Back it down -- back it down for a second. First of all, I follow a set of platforms and principles, not a person and I think that every Republican should do the same thing. Follow a set of principles and when somebody is wrong, you call them out. When they're right you say that.
But when we're talking about the debt, by the way, it is Congress' job to enact laws that the president is supposed to execute
LOVE: They have to do their job.
BASH: You follow a party and not a person. The president is hoping as you mentioned that a network follows him or vice versa.
You mentioned Fox earlier. The president was highly critical of Fox News tweeting, "Just watch Fox News heavily promoting the Democrats through their DNC Communications Director, spewing out whatever she wanted."
You were that person. He tweeted at you, you tweeted at him back. Did you ever expect as a staffer at the DNC that the president would be talking about you?
HINOJOSA: Absolutely not. And the fact that he is watching television at 9:30 in the morning instead of dealing with a hurricane, instead of dealing with passing things like background checks and real solutions, people wonder why in the world does our president not have my back and he is talking about Fox News? I thought he had better things do than to watch television all day, but he obviously doesn't.
ALI: It's like saying Dr. Frankenstein is getting angry at Igor for not being loyal. That's the best part.
BASH: OK. Everybody, on that -- on that colorful note, thank you so much this morning for coming in.
Up next, Fareed Zakaria hosts a special edition on the "State of Hate." Stay with us.