Mass shootings renew calls for stricter gun legislation

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 6, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We are saying to Leader McConnell, do the right thing. Gavel the Senate into an emergency session we can take immediate action on the bipartisan, already passed gun legislation.

REP. PETE KING, R-N.Y.: All this legislation does is basically say that people who are criminals, people who have been adjudged mental patients, have mental issues, and people who are spousal abusers or guilty of domestic violence will not be able to purchase guns.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He has said he is looking at background checks. He also has given credence and a very strong look to the red flag legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, HOST: OK, so let’s bring in our panel to talk about that, Byron York, chief political correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," Amy Walter, national editor for the "Cook Political Report," and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist." Byron, I’ll start with you. What is the appetite for any of this getting done on Capitol Hill?

BRYON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Congress has a really long history of not doing anything after these shootings, no matter how horrible they were. It does appear that there’s growing support for these red flag laws. And this is not for Congress to pass a national red flag law, but to pass a law encouraging states to pass their own red flag laws.

BREAM: Some grant money. Some funding to --

YORK: Some grant money to do so. It’s not clear whether it would actually help in this mass shooting problem. Certainly, it appeared to be an issue in the Parkland shooting. Actually, experts say it would help a lot more preventing suicides, which is a good goal as well. But beyond that, as far as the background checks that you just heard about are concerned, Democrats are saying in the House we have passed it, it’s in the Senate. Mitch McConnell should call the Senate back to pass it immediately. In February, President Trump issued a veto threat of this bill. He wrote it down and put it out. It’s an actual threat to this bill. It would have to be some sort of different bill for Republicans even to think about it.

BREAM: Amy, do these circumstances change the dynamics now with the president himself talking about and his staff talking about possible executive actions? He definitely must feel the need to get something done.

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": And where the pressure is coming from, right. We know that in politics the pressure, first it comes on to the individual members of Congress from their individual districts. And when you look back at the history of gun policy, the last time we really had bipartisan legislation on this was back in the 90s, and that was also the time when we had moderate Republicans who were from the northeast and from suburban areas, and we had conservative Democrats who voted against then President Clinton on the assault weapons ban and the Brady bill from the south and from rural areas.

The realignment over last 25 years has meant that there really aren’t any Democrats left in rural America, and there aren’t many if any Republicans left in those suburban, urban area. And so where the pressure is coming is from the places that have already flopped. So they are pressuring Democrats to do something, which would be Republicans in those districts to do something. Now those are Democratic districts. And Byron is right about the Senate, the challenge there is a presidential veto and the filibuster, which those two things are very difficult, especially when you know that rural states do have significant influence when you need 60 votes.

BREAM: Yes, absolutely.

Mollie, I want to ask you about something we noted at 11:00 last night when this started bubbling up. "The New York Times" had a headlight out originally talking about the president had in his speech in the morning. It said "Trump urges unity versus racism." Then there were all kinds of tweets from 2020 Democratic contenders, Beto O’Rourke saying "Unbelievable," Cory Booker, "Literally lives depended on you doing better, "New York Times." Please do." Kirsten Gillibrand, "That is not what happened." Then the updated headline was "Assailing hate, but not guns." And there were a number of folks on the left who that wasn’t good enough for them either.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": Clearly, the first headline was more factual and less opiniony than the second headline, which was not a very well constructed headline.

More interesting, I think, is that "The New York Times" was bullied and pressured by an online mob consisting of a lot of journalists to take that factual headline and change it into something else to fit a narrative that has been promoted by a lot of people. You hear a lot of people asserting things about Donald Trump without actually showing their work or showing evidence in support of it. But it can be scary to watch media companies or corporations like "The New York Times" fall prey to these type of online mobs.

BREAM: OK, so as this continues to play out, the president has got some foreign policy issues to deal with as well, primarily this issue of the escalating trade war, now, could it be a currency war with China. The president tweeting today after some, Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat in the Senate, who has talked about farmers in her state in California are going to get hit hard by this. He says, "Massive amounts of money from China and other parts of the world is pouring into the United States for reasons of safety, investment, and interest rates. We are in a very strong position. Companies are also coming into the U.S. in big numbers, a beautiful thing to watch." He also talked about American farmers, saying they know that I’m going to stick up for them. I’m the person to do it. Byron?

YORK: This has really escalated, and we knew or should have known that it was going to happen this way. China has been abusing its trade relationship with the United States for a very long time, forced technology transfers, currency manipulation, all sorts of things. Stopping it was not going to be easy.

And I think there are two important things to watch now that this trade war has morphed sort of into a currency war, it could get even bigger and uglier. Two things to watch. One, those farmers. We have had indications that a lot of Americans support, a lot of American farmers support the president on this because they know somebody had to do something about the way China was behaving. Will that stay? And will Chuck Schumer continue to stay? The Senate minority leader has been a vocal supporter of the president on China specifically, and also of declaring China a currency manipulator. So we’ll see if his good friend from New York can hang with him.

BREAM: Chuck Schumer has urged him openly, you need to be tougher on China. We’re with you on this.

WALTER: It’s interesting, I was in China at the end of last year, and what I was picking up from being there was there was a lot of pressure on President Xi then to be tougher on Trump. They felt like he was rolling over and getting pushed around by Trump.

A lot of the folks there in the business community like the idea actually of better trade relations, of course, with the U.S., even some of the things that the U.S. is asking for. But as a leader Xi has to be very careful with his own party and his own political standing not to look like he is getting bullied. And so I think what we have now is this very intense standoff with neither man blinking. And I think Byron is right, too. The bottom line isn’t even so much what happened in the agricultural community, but if indeed consumers start to feel a pinch and if there is an impact on the economy, the Chinese are hoping that we blink first because there is an election coming up much sooner.

BREAM: Right. They don’t have a reelection next year, their president. And Larry Kudlow saying today, consumer spending is up. It’s one of the real bright points right now in the economy that has a lot of bright points. And so he doesn’t think that it’s impacting the way Americans view this back and forth yet.

HEMINGWAY: And yesterday was a very scary day. It was a big drop in the Dow, and people are very concerned with it. Today was a much better day.

I think there is a way to interpret what happened yesterday with the currency devaluation and not a show of strength for China. They are really struggling to figure out how to manage this process, and the U.S. seems to think that maybe this is now the time to squeeze them a bit more. You talk about what people thought about China not being strong enough. We did have a deal with them, and they backed away from it in part because they wanted to save face. And that didn’t work out well for them. We didn’t get the deal. But as time goes on, everybody is going to want to get on the same page.

BREAM: Find some kind of resolution. You are right, the markets had some rebound today we noted that at the top of the show. And the administration continues to say that there are meeting still planned in September, so we will see as we move forward.

Next up, by the way, President Trump versus Google.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUNDAR PICHAI, GOOGLE CEO: I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions, and there are no shortage of them amongst our employees.

KEVIN CERNEKEE, FORMER GOOGLE ENGINEER: When President Trump won in 2016, Google executives went up on stage right away and cried, literally tears streaming down their faces over the fact that President Trump won. They vowed that it would never happen again. When I joined Google, I saw a lot of conservative employees being mistreated. They were being harassed. They were being threatened. They were being blacklisted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: We are back with our panel to discuss the president versus Google. Mollie, I’ll start with you. Today the president said he is watching Google very closely.

HEMINGWAY: And I’m not sure exactly what that means.

BREAM: Don’t know either.

HEMINGWAY: Or what proposals people have in mind. The idea, though, that Google is not beset by systematic bias is absurd. This is something that people have been able to witness for a long time, whether it’s not allowing certain ads for certain political causes, de-platforming people. There are all sorts of structural problems built into the algorithms made by their largely liberal workforce, or almost exclusively liberal workforce. And it is a big issue, and that type of censorship that is coming from corporations is something that people are rightly concerned about.

BREAM: Amy, today, a number of groups and outlets reporting on this, saying the president is essentially making accusations without anything to back up what he’s saying, the fact that there could be bias against conservatives or specifically against him. But certainly he looks at the at the anecdotal data, like 95 percent of donations from Google employees last year were to Democratic candidates in the midterms. That’s got to give him a little fuel for his fire.

WALTER: I guess so. But are we going to go to every company in America and say let’s look at the donations that you’ve given? Obviously, this is a search engine, so it’s different than, say, an energy company or something. But the fact is when I talk to people who study this and cybersecurity and the issues of the Internet, the number one thing they are concerned about is how effectively misinformation is built in. If you want to talk about a bias in algorithms, there is a bias in there, and it has been exploited. And the challenge going forward for the Google, the Facebook, everybody in this community is to figure out how to root out the disinformation that is spreading and is allowing conspiracy theories to take hold. And that is a lot more dangerous, I think, than whether or not what percent of people who work at Google are donating to Democrats or feel that they’re liberal.

This is a very popular thing for the president to say for his base because basically Google and all of big tech are saying we are on the left. We’re almost 100 percent on the left, but we are playing this straight down the middle. You all can trust us. And I think the president’s base certainly just doesn’t believe that. But I think the bigger questions for big tech right now are their fears about privacy and antitrust, and what is going to be done at the capital about that.

And to the degree that Republicans believe that big tech is putting its thumb on the scale against conservatives or against Republicans, their problems on those issues of privacy and antitrust get more serious.

WALTER: They are on the left. It’s Elizabeth Warren who wants to break up big tech, and is actually doing more to mess with their business model than anybody on the Republican side.

HEMINGWAY: Also, you said that the big threat would be proliferation of conspiracy theories. The big threat might be also tamping down some of those, how we handle that. We have conspiracy theories that have beset this entire country over the last couple of years, some of them promulgated by people within the media, and they were allowed to fester and spread. If you start limiting speech from individuals while privileging the false information that is coming from people who are supposed to be trustworthy, that’s a very dangerous situation that could blow up as well.

WALTER: Yes. But we have also seen Pizza-gate. So to say that there’s conspiracies that are only --

HEMINGWAY: Very back to take part in conspiracy theories without evidence.

WALTER: The challenge is these take hold because they are believable enough. They are conspiracy theories that are not believable to most people, but they are believable enough because of the way that all of us are taking in media. We already come in with a certain level of bias. But this idea that the big issue is certain views -- it’s the same thing about "The New York Times" headline.

I think the frustration for so many is that voters aren’t behaving the way the partisans would like them to behave given what the news is. How can you think this way? Don’t you know if you just change the headline people would change their opinions. If you just change the algorithm, voters would have a different opinion about this. Trusting people to make their own decisions based on what they are getting is the most important piece of this.

BREAM: Byron, of course, what the president is saying is they are not getting accurate information. That’s his accusation.

YORK: That is right. The striking thing about the "New York Times" headline flap was the degree to which many people in the Democratic Party on the left felt like this is our bulletin board, and you are not playing by the right rules. And I think to a certain degree many people on the left feel the same about big tech. And what happens, I think, when big is under attack for bias, is they retreat to safety and say, well, we will use sources from "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," which of course increases the accusations of bias from conservatives. They’re in a semi no-win situation there.

BREAM: And as you said, Amy, this comes from the left and the right. I interviewed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard after the debate last week. We were there with her in Detroit, and she talked about how after the first debate, she had a real spike where people were searching for her, one of the biggest names, what is she doing? She claims that Google hurt their ability for the ads to air during that time period. She is suing them. So they are people on the left and the right who are saying that this is a problem. If Google decides your voice is the one they want to silence, that’s the accusation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative or liberal.

WALTER: It is ridiculous that the regulation, it is still the Wild West when it comes to regulation on this. We have figured out T.V. over the years and how to regulate that. We still haven’t figured out how to do this correctly.

BREAM: Well, and Mollie, we have the conversation that some of these tech companies are hinting that they do want to be regulated. They want to know where the boundaries are.

HEMINGWAY: They want to be regulated in part because they have such market control that they know that they can handle regulation, but that upstarts wouldn’t be able to handle that same level of regulation. That makes them very friendly toward working with the regulators to see how they can keep competitors out.

BREAM: Final word to you, Byron.

YORK: These companies, a lot of them started out as platforms that had semi-neutral purposes. They were going to be a way for people to get together and share some sort of information or just to find information on the Internet. They have turned into actual platforms. They’ve turned into publications where they have huge staffs that curate which information their users can see and cannot see. And that gets them into trouble. They’ve turned into publishers, and they’re going to have to deal with Congress on that.

BREAM: OK, that may be coming as well, because there is a bipartisan call for that as well. Panel, thank you.

When we come back, a funeral for a real hero.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BREAM: Finally tonight, no man left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m here out of respect for this gentleman who served his country, and no veteran should travel to his final resting place alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREAM: The funeral of Navy veteran Bradford Parker was supposed to be a small affair. The 66-year-old from Troy, New York, had only one known relative in the area and no close friends. But an appeal on social media resulted in hundreds of people, most of whom who have never met this gentleman, attending the funeral which was held with full military honors. In this day and age we knew more stories like that. God bless him for his service.

Thank you for watching “Special Report.” I’m Shannon Bream in Washington.

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