Acting White House chief of staff: Trump is 'saddened...angry' about shootings

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney responds to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio on "This Week."
8:58 | 08/04/19

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Transcript for Acting White House chief of staff: Trump is 'saddened...angry' about shootings
President trump responded to the shooting in El Paso on Twitter calling it an act of cowardice, adding, I know I stand with everyone in this country to condemn today's hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people. For more on the white house response let's bring in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Welcome to "This week," Mr. Mulvaney. I understand the president's been briefed on both of these shootings. What can you tell us about what more he has learned? Jon, I talked to the president obviously yesterday at some length after the shooting in El Paso and very early this morning again on the tragedy at Dayton. You know, he's a human being and I think his reaction is the same as most folks watching this program which was he's a combination of saddened by this and he's angry about it. The first call, he talked to the governor of Texas yesterday. He's talked to the governor of Ohio this morning. I'll tell you the first call he made yesterday was to the attorney general to find out what we could do to prevent this type of thing from happening, what we could do to send a message to the sick people who would do this kind of stuff that this is not appropriate. Thiss way beyond the pale. These are sick people. We need to figure out what we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again. We see 20 killed in El Paso and we just heard from the mayor of Dayton that the death toll there has gone up to 10. These are both just the latest in a string of mass shootings since the president was inaugurated. We've seen Virginia Beach, Thousand Oaks, California, the tree of life synagogue, parkland and of course the massacre in Las Vegas. What is he doing? I understand he called the attorney general, but what is he doing to stop these killings, these mass shootings? You make an excellent point there which is this cancer, this difficulty that we face as a nation, predates this administration by many, many years. What can you do? You have to try and fix the society, right? You have to figure out why people now take it upon themselves to take guns into large groups of people. It's happened for many decades now. We have to figure out a way to heal the nation. I've talked to several folks this morning about what they thought we should be focusing on this week in the white house and certainly we'll be talking to the FBI, to the department of justice. We also need to start talking about social media. In your introduction you mentioned that the shooter had his manifesto on social media. We've given a wide audience to these people. We've made them celebrities. We've allowed them to spew their hate without any restrictions whatsoever. Not saying we're going to regulate social media. I'm just saying we have to have a broad-based discussion about the causes here. Are we going to talk about the role of guns, certainly we are. But to think that this is just a gun issue that many people make it out to be is not right. We've had guns in this country for hundreds of years. We haven't had this until recently and we need to figure out why. But let's look at the gun issue for a moment because after parkland the president said that he was considering a ban on assault weapons. He talked about universal background checks. And then as you know, he met with Chris cox of the national rifle association. Those ideas went away. Are those ideas back on the table for the president? Is he willing to now look at a ban on assault weapons? In fairness, Jon, those ideas did not go away. This administration banned bump stocks. Remember, automatic weapons in this country are illegal, semiautomatic are not. There was a device that could easily turn a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic weapon and this administration without congress, this administration banned those things. We also signed with congress bipartisan legislation to fix the background check system, the background check system was broken. Go back to the Charleston shooting that I'm very familiar with, a gentleman who bought that gun and committed a heinous act should not have been able to buy a gun but did because the background check system was broken. We signed legislation to do that and are improving that. I don't think it's fair to say those things are off the table, in fact, this administration -- I just mentioned two big ones that the president said he was looking at right after parkland, a ban on assault weapons, not the bump stocks issue which is much narrower, a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks. Are those ideas back on the table? We can always -- listen, if we can agree on one thing as a nation, Democrat, Republican, independent, I don't care, it is that crazy people like this should not have been able to get guns. In fairness, I don't think we know if the people involved in the shootings, the shooters over the last 24 hours, acquired their guns legally or illegally. I think we all agree that sick people who are intent on doing things like this should not be able to buy guns legally. The challenge of course is trying to identify who is sick when they try and buy their weapons and that's the type of discussion we have to have. I go back to the thing about assault rifles. Again, military automatic weapons are already against the law in this nation. The things that could turn regular legal weapons into illegal weapons have been banned by this administration, so I don't think it's fair to say the president hasn't followed through on some of his promises. We've heard Beto O'rourke say that the president's rhetoric is fueling more hate in this country. The president has used, as you well know, words like invasion to talk about illegal immigrants. He did -- he tweeted at the four Progressive congresswomen, all women of color, saying they should go back to their countries. Isn't this kind of rhetoric and especially in light of what we've just seen, isn't it just dangerous? Let's not lose sight of the fact that Beto O'rourke, a former colleague of mine who I hold in high regard, is running for president and to the extent he can make this an issue, he's going to. Here's the question you can ask Beto and I would if he were sitting here. It's a fair question, I think, to ask, which is, look, did anyone blame Bernie Sanders for the congressional baseball game shooting? I don't think so. Did anyone blame Alexandria ocasio-cortez for the gentleman -- the crazy guy who tried to blow up the dhs office in Washington state taking I think a homemade bomb and an ar-15 to shoot up what he called a concentration camp, the exact same rhetoric that AOC was using? Did anybody blame her? There's no benefit here to try to make this a political issue. This is a social issue and we need to address it as that. But you know this is more than Beto O'rourke. What do you say to Americans who look at what happened in El Paso and say that the president's rhetoric is in part to blame? What do you say to those Americans? You know there are many. The president is just as saddened by this as you are. The president is just as angry by this as you are and wants to do something about it just as much as everybody else does. I hate to draw attention to the manifesto but if you actually go and look at it, what the guy says is that he's felt this way a long time before Donald Trump got elected president. This was a sick person. The person in Dayton was a sick person. No politician is to blame for that. The people responsible here are the people who pulled the trigger. We need to figure out how to create less of those kinds of people as a society and not try to figure out who gets blamed going into the next election. I want to read you something that George P. Bush said yesterday. He said there have now been multiple attacks from self-declared white terrorists here in the U.S. In the last several months. This is a real -- there's a real and present threat that we must all denounce and defeat. Mick, why has the president downplayed the threat of white nationalism? I don't think he has. Look at what he said yesterday -- But now -- He condemned this without reservation whatsoever, Jon. I don't think that's fair to -- Wait a minute. Can I read the president's words? Back in March he was asked directly, do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world? His answer, I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have a very serious problem. He downplayed the threat of white nationalism. Was he wrong to do that? No, I don't believe that's downplaying it. Look at what he said -- He said I don't really. Read the last sentence. I don't have it in front of me. This is a small group of people. And finish the sentence from the tweet. I'll read the whole thing again. He was asked directly, do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world? His answer, I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have a very, very serious problem. That's exactly -- look, this is not the same international sort of nuclear weapons. This is a serious problem. There's no question about it. But they are sick, sick people and the president knows that. Again, Jon, I don't think it's fair to try and lay this at the feet of the president. There are people in this country this morning thinking that president trump was happy by this. That's a sad, sad state of this nation. He's angry. He's upset. He wants it to stop. I don't think it's at all fair to sit here and say that he doesn't think that white nationalism is bad for the nation. These are sick people. You cannot be a white supremacist and be normal in the head. These are sick people. You know it, I know it, the president knows it. This type of thing has to stop. We have to figure out a way to fix the problem, not figure out a way to lay blame. All right, Mick Mulvaney, acting white house chief of staff, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks, Jon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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