This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 7, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: We will be meeting with first responders and law enforcement, some of the victims, and paying my respects and regard.
NAN WHALEY, D-OH, DAYTON MAYOR: We reiterated to the president the importance of action around these issues in guns, and that the people of Dayton are waiting for action from Washington, D.C. I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN, D-OH: The president said we want to give honors and awards to these police officers. Actually the most important thing you can do for these police officers is take these assault weapons off the streets so they don't have to go out against those assault weapons.
BETO O'ROURKE, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is in large part to blame for what has taken place. This community needs to heal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: The president and first lady traveling to Dayton, Ohio, first, then to El Paso, Texas. There you saw a press conference with Sherrod Brown and the mayor in Dayton. The president tweeting "Just left Dayton, Ohio, earlier today where I met with the victims and families, law enforcement, medical staff, first responders. It was a warm and wonderful visit, tremendous enthusiasm, and even love. Then I saw failed presidential candidate zero percent Sherrod Brown and Mayor Whaley totally misrepresenting what took place inside of the hospital. Their news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place with those incredible people that I was so lucky to meet and spend time with. They were all amazing."
With that, let's bring in our panel and start there, FOX News media analyst and host of FOX's "Media Buzz," Howard Kurtz, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at "USA Today," and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist." OK, Howie, sum up this day. The president is pushing back on his critics who obviously have tied his tweets, his rhetoric to these actions, at least the ones in El Paso.
HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA ANALYST: Beto O'Rourke trying to restart his whole campaign by saying Trump is largely responsible for mass killing. I just think it's sad that on a day when Donald Trump goes to these two cities to play the role of healer in chief that so many past presidents have done, that some Democrats and his other critics are saying he shouldn't go. They're dissing the trip in advance. And it tells you something about the state of political polarization that we're in right now. It is absolutely fine to say, as many of his detractors do, that Donald Trump is a flawed messenger because of his sometimes divisive rhetoric. But to go from there to poor all this animosity on him, when you are making the case that he is the one who is spreading animosity, I think shows how some of his critics are, have just become unhinged over this.
BAIER: Listen to the president and Joe Biden on hate groups.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate. I don't like it. Any group of hate, whether it's white supremacy, whether it's any other kind of supremacy, whether it's Antifa, whether it's any group of hate, I am very concerned about it.
JOE BIDEN, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation. He has poured fuel on the fire. He's retweeted postings from extremists and white nationalists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Susan, I heard a number of channels talking about this today, and everyone has the caveat, I don't want to make this political, and then they say, but boy, these people are really well-positioned to take on President Trump on moral questions, and in this clinical moments, Joe Biden is succeeding, all of this stuff as a result of the weekend.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": It is a political debate. I think it's probably unrealistic to think we're going to have more mass shootings, which have become a regular feature of American life - - today the "USA Todays" headquarters was evacuated with what turned out to be, thank goodness, a false alarm about a man with a weapon -- and expect it not to become part of the conversation with the campaign debate. I think it is going to be part of that.
Now, in the past it hasn't really been one of the dominant issues in national campaigns. I don't know, maybe that will be different this time.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": I think it's important to be clear about what's happening here, which is a tragedy -- two tragedies occurred this weekend, neither of which had anything to do with Donald Trump. And many people in the media and many Democratic politicians are actually blaming him or accusing him of directly causing these horrible things. This is really not healthy as a society to be experiencing this type of thing. It's a very frustrating thing to see people be so frenzied in their attack.
It is good -- I think most people in America have natural responses to this. Their hearts are grieving. They are thinking about the families whose lives are forever changed, the loss of all these precious lives, the bravery of the first responders. That is not what we are seeing in our media coverage in our political discussion.
BAIER: There is the political moment of possibly doing something, at least talking about it. The president has indicated that background checks, red flag laws, are something that he would be in favor of. Where does that go?
KURTZ: I think that's the most important thing that happened today, because he said it to reporters on camera and not just in the tweet. And I think President Trump is uniquely positioned to actually make something happen in this moment of national fear and anger and frustration or these mass killings. He could bring Republicans along to a common sense compromise on background checks. And we've been through it. We've seen this movie before, because the president last year after the Parkland high school shootings in Florida said he brought together members of Congress for televised sessions, he's going to take on the NRA, and then he let it drop.
But he's kind of like, it could be a Nixon to China moment. He could give enough Republicans cover to not do sweeping bans on assault weapons necessarily, but commonsense background checks that something could pass, but also this moment can very easily slip away.
BAIER: All right, let's listen to Sherrod Brown and the president on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Both the mayor and I asked the president to call on Senator McConnell to bring the Senate back in session this week.
TRUMP: You know you have two sides that are very different, and let's say all good people, but two sides that are very different. If we get close, I will bring them back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: If we get close, I will bring them back. Will they get close, Susan?
PAGE: And of course, he can't bring them back right away. Only the Senate majority leader can bring them back. He didn't sound to me like a man who was going to invest a lot of his capital in this. It sounded like he was waiting for things to brew in a way. And I think one of the things that's so discouraging for Americans is that a sweeping majority of Americans already support these things, support tightened background checks, support a ban on assault weapons, support red flag laws. There is not a debate in the country about this. There is a consensus. And yet for the past several years these gun measures have been nothing except stalled in Congress. I guess I'm just skeptical that this is going to prove to be different.
HEMINGWAY: President Trump didn't do nothing. In fact, I think if President Obama had done what President Trump did on guns there would have been much more outcry. He, of course, did the executive action that a lot people think is unconstitutional to ban bump stocks. But in general, I think there is this bipartisan consensus of people rush to do something that might not actually have any effect, unfortunately, on mass shootings. Background checks would not have stopped these things. There is room for discussion about what to do, but I think the larger issue is we have completely destroyed the institutions that served as guardrails where communities and families and churches could see problems that were developing and have ways of fixing it. And we don't have the ways of fixing it. Those are such difficult problems to fix that instead we think that government action is going to solve what is actually a much deeper problem, much more serious problem.
BAIER: We will have more on this and also the politics of this day, one particular with the panel after a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, D-TX: My post was actually a lament that these folks, many of whom are prominent business owners in San Antonio, a city that's about 65 percent Hispanic, and they're giving their money to a guy who is running ads talking about Hispanics invading this country. But what I hope is that this has started a conversation about what exactly Donald Trump is doing with these people's money.
DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: Now you are going after ordinary citizens, people who just are taking part in a political process.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is trying to make life miserable or worse for law-abiding citizens who are expressing their First Amendment right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: This is about Joaquin Castro, brother to Julian Castro running for president. Joaquin, Congressman from San Antonio, posted a tweet saying "It's sad to see so many San Antonians 2019 maximum donors to Donald Trump." And then he goes on to list them and list the names. "The contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as invaders," lists all of these names, including at least one who donated to his campaign as well. In the past, and there are some who are currently doing it. Wayne Harwell told Fox News "I was also on a list of people that gave to Castro. And if he dislikes me enough that he puts my name out there against Trump, I'm not going to give money to him. Obviously, Castro feels pretty strongly against me. I'm pretty independent, but I support Trump. A lot of in San Antonio are independents. I think the San Antonio community needs to take a real deep look at what Castro is doing." What about this? Back with the panel. Mollie?
HEMINGWAY: This was actually a really terrifying thing to see. This type of action used to be reserved for the dark corners of the Internet where you target someone and release information about them in order to harass them because you don't like something that they said. To have it now being done by an actual representative of the U.S. government is deeply alarming, and it's something that people really need to condemn.
BAIER: Willie Geist pressed him on this very fact. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIE GEIST, JOURNALIST: If you agree that rhetoric can lead to incitement, even if it just triggers one person to do something terrible, does it give you any pause about putting these people's names out in public?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, D-TX: Willie, they are already public, they're already out there.
GEIST: There were land retirees and one homemaker who were not public.
CASTRO: And this was already circulating. I shared it, so I didn't create the graphic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAGE: I think we should know this is a publicly available information. There's not an example of doxing.
HEMINGWAY: You wouldn't want that released.
PAGE: That's right. But let's just make the point that he didn't release secret information. That said, I am concerned about the coarsening of our political debate. And the way that words matter, we say that about President Trump, that matters for Congressman Castro as well. And I worry just as Willie Geist did about whether this could create actually a dangerous situation for people who were indulging, doing their political right of making a contribution to a candidate they supported. And he also -- this graphic also listed the companies they worked at. So that suggests and effort to try to have some kind of boycott, perhaps.
BAIER: Listen, if this is the new bar, think about the groups on the right or the PACs on the right who would say, oh, really, who's contributing to Elizabeth Warren, who's contributing to Bernie Sanders, let's put them out in a tweet.
KURTZ: Then it becomes an ugly arms race. Look, I don't buy the dodge this is public information. It takes a long time to look up how many donors live in San Antonio, nor do I accept the fact that he just deleted the tweet. This was not only dangerous for Joaquin Castro to do, but then he committed the really dumb move of doubled down on his mistake, as we saw in that show, and the whole thing was designed to get his face on television, I think. And the idea that he would play dumb, that he's putting a target on these people's backs, and essentially accusing them of being complicit in racism and white supremacy simply for the utterly legal act of donating to a presidential candidate they support I think nobody is going to buy. And I think it really is shameful what he did.
BAIER: We have live pictures from El Paso, the president touring an emergency operation center there. We'll put them up on the screen as we continue our conversation. If he stops to talk to the cameras, I will listen in there with the first lady, and shaking hands with some of the emergency responders to this horrible shooting in El Paso. Is there a time, is there a moment where the president can be seen as trying to heal things by these visits, by his words, post these horrible events, Mollie?
HEMINGWAY: The story of the last several years has been of a resistance that is unwilling to see the president as president. So after these horrible mass shootings took place, he publicly spoke against hatred, violence, political violence. And many people either downplayed that or rejected it or ignored it in the face of a false narrative that they are constructing.
KURTZ: Or that he didn't really mean that somehow, just dismissing the words that we all saw and heard.
PAGE: But I'll tell you, he looks exactly appropriate in these pictures. And apparently the event in Dayton also he was well received by the first responders and the victims of the shooting there. On the other hand, he undercuts his own message by in the middle of this day sending out very disruptive, negative tweets with a very political tone at a time when the country is really reeling from these two things.
HEMINGWAY: That's fine. When he's criticizing the people who are criticizing him, I don't think he's blaming them for the violence that took place. And I think that is an important distinction. There are these ways of people having this particular standard for Donald Trump that is not shared for other people, or people who claimed that they don't like the way he is talking. They talk worse than he does.
BAIER: I just want to listen to his talking. Let me listen in here for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had an amazing day. As you know, we left Ohio. And the love, the respect for the office of the presidency, I wish you could have been there to see it. I wish you could have been there. And it was no different here. We went to the hospital, just came from the hospital. We were there a lot longer than we were anticipated to be. It was supposed to be just a fairly quick. We met with numerous people. We met with also the doctors and the nurses and the medical staff. They have done an incredible job, both places just incredible.
And the enthusiasm, the love, the respect, and also telling me, let's see if we can get something done. And Republicans want to do it, and Democrats want to do it. And by the way, here is a great hero. This man, the job he did it, you all know who it is. The whole world knows who you are now, right. You could be a movie star the way you look, that will be next. Who knows, right? But what a job you did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
TRUMP: There are a lot of heroes. There are a lot of heroes, a lot of people did just incredible work. Now we're going in, and I believe you can say hello to some of your folks. This is one of the most respected men in law enforcement. And I want to thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, you said today about the community, and attacked a number of your critics, Vice President Biden, Senator Brown, Mayor Whaley as well as various members of the media. Can you explain --
TRUMP: They shouldn't be politicking. They shouldn't be politicking. today. I had it with Sherrod Brown, he and the mayor, Nan Whaley, they asked could possibly go in and make a tour with you. I said, yes, let's do it. They couldn't believe what they say. And they said it to people, they've never seen anything like it. The entire hospital is no different than what we had in El Paso. The entire hospital, everybody was so proud of the job they did, because they did a great job. They did a great job here.
And then I say goodbye? I took them in at their request, we made the tour. They couldn't believe it. She said it to people. He said it to people. I get on Air Force One where they do have a lot of televisions. I turn on the television, and there they are saying I don't know if it was appropriate for the president to be here, et cetera, et cetera, the same old line. They're very dishonest people, and that's probably why he got I think about zero percent and he failed as a presidential candidate.
We're going to go in and see some, very quick, people, and I wanted to meet this hero before I did anything. And we appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
BAIER: The president of the United States is in El Paso, Texas, thanking one of the heroes of that particular shooting. And he was the officer who took down that shooter. And he's thanking all of the first responders at the emergency operations center. Howie, this is sometimes the president at his best when he's connecting one-on-one with people. Sometimes when he explains things in retrospect, you get a sense of his thinking of the day.
KURTZ: Susan says sometimes he steps on his own message with the tweets, but that was exactly the right tone. And he didn't make it about himself. He made it about this law enforcement officer. And it was kind of heartwarming to watch.
PAGE: But he also criticized Sherrod Brown and the mayor for something they did not say.
KURTZ: But he would say it was in response to their criticism.
PAGE: But they did not criticize him for coming to Dayton.
KURTZ: They criticized him on guns.
PAGE: They said the event went well, they said that he was warmly received. What they went on to say is they wanted him to do something more about guns.
BAIER: And he hinted at that, Mollie, that there is some Republican, Democratic coming together, we just don't know exactly what that is going to look like in a policy sense.
HEMINGWAY: Right, and there is a rush to do something right now. There really might be something to do about if carefully crafted legislation, red flag laws, which would help deal with some of these shootings that we have seen, people have been giving indications that they may be violent prior to committing them. It's very important that you craft those in such a way as to respect due process, and not take away constitutional rights from law- abiding citizens.
BAIER: It's a big moment when a president of the United States goes anywhere, especially when you are dealing with law enforcement, but because of this president, does it change that dynamic, Susan?
PAGE: I think for those law enforcement officials, I think that was probably a very meaningful, and a they were proud to see the president there. And I think for some of the victims as well, I think that people do is see our president, whoever he or she is, as someone who has that kind of role in our nation.
KURTZ: And respect for the office, I think, is something we should all keep in mind, even though the politics surrounding this are so polarizing. But we are at an inflection point here. It is possible that something could get done. I think President Trump would like to be the one to do it. Or he could throw up his hands and say Democrats and Republicans are too far apart. But I think he has an opportunity here, Bret.
BAIER: OK panel, thank you. A little adlib there at the end as we saw the president in El Paso, bringing that to you live as it happened.
Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight and every night. That's it for the “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and still unafraid. "The Story" hosted by Martha MacCallum in New York starts right in about eight seconds.
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