Trump 'can give cover to' Republicans for passing gun control bills: Rahm Emanuel

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, including whether President Trump and Congress will pass meaningful gun control legislation.
15:54 | 08/11/19

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Transcript for Trump 'can give cover to' Republicans for passing gun control bills: Rahm Emanuel
He's also made that very clear. He can't be trying to stir this up, give aid and comfort, be embraced by the white supremacists and then say, oh, but not me. He's someone who gives -- who empowers white supremacists and who condones their behavior. They call anybody a racist when they run out of cards. I'm winning in the polls. They're desperate. That was the debate this week. Let's talk about it on our round table. Joined by Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey. Raum Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago. White house chief of staff under president Obama. Republican strategist, Sara Fagen. And also ABC news contributor, Patrick Gaspard, you're also the political director in the Obama white house. Rahm, are we in a new moment on the issue of guns, on the issue of violence, on the issue of domestic terror? The same ritual again as we have seen before? Spike an interest and then recedes? I think we're in a new moment. Going back to the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban. One, I would suggest focus on the people that use it. Not just the weapons. That was key to both passing the Brady bill and the assault weapons. I don't think that Democrats should be so quick on background checks. For background checks. As part of the whole package. There hasn't been gun legislation since Bill Clinton in '94 passed the assault weapons ban. This is an important moment. They're trying to narrow the debate. Last thing you should do right now is change it. I think president trump, he said NRA is weak, this is the opportunity. The question is, does he as he has said before, want to focus on the suburban vote, this is an opportunity, he has to make a decision. This goes to one person. He can give every Republican the cover. This isn't a democratic problem. I want to bring it to Chris Christie and then Sara, doesn't the president have to choose here? Doesn't he have to choose between the NRA and getting something done? I don't think he has to choose that. One thing, George, he has to decide, he wants to see expanded background checks. The real question is, Rahm is an expert on legislative negotiations. In the end, Democrats have to decide whether they're willing to take a deal. Right. Because I think there's a deal to be made on red flag and expanded background checks and I think the president has made that really clear and I believe he'd be willing to make that deal. Now, are Democrats going to be willing to give that win? If you really care about this issue take what you get now. But a real background check bill, Sara Fagen, is opposed by the NRA recently opposed as Friday night. I heard you say right to Chris Christie. Ready to forsake the NRA? I think there's an increasing will among Republicans to do something. Including many gun owners in America. The question is, what and how it's put together and how background checks go. All these questions need to be ironed out. You know, as it relates to Democrats, you know, Rahm brings up the assault weapons ban, which I don't think there's will to get done in the U.S. Senate. What we heard on the campaign trail, Beto O'rourke is for mandatory buyback programs. That's another word for confiscation. Democrats are going to go too far and potentially risk an opportunity to do something on this issue. What does it mean to go too far here, Sara? Confiscation is too far. Let's look at the stats at this whole week from the years 1949 to the assault weapons ban being passed in 1994, there were ten mass shootings in the America. Ten years when it was active, there were two mass shootings. In the years since Republicans haven't allowed it to continue, 29 mass shootings in this country. Right now today, there are 400 million guns that are in the hands of civilians in the united States of America. So, I think that the question of universal background checks is probably low-hanging fruit now, 90% support in this country. It hasn't been low-hanging fruit before. So, Patrick, I worked with democratic -- Wait. I didn't jump on you. We move around here. Eight years I worked with democratic legislature. Every time in a Democrat state, I had to decide, was I going to take a deal that was there and move the ball down or was I not -- Democrats don't want to do it. Governor -- Patrick said I was right, so let him finish. Bring it back over here. Let's remember when Rahm and Democrats and some Republicans passed the ban in 1994 it had 77% support in America and again it still took the active lobbying of former presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan all coming together with president Clinton to get this darn thing done. I think that president trump is inconsistent at best and actually schizophrenic on policy. We don't know what he'll say tomorrow. I think that Democrats are right to continue to force the president -- Let me push this -- Back to Rahm, if the president is for a real background check, only open question right now, if he's for a real background check bill and a real red-flag bill should the Democrats take that deal? Yeah. First of all, right now, it's way to quick to say that, and there's mismatch. Let's be honest, there's the policy that Patrick talked about the assault ban worked. It expired under George Bush. Let me finish, second is, what is doable in the legislative branch? Part of being leadership is matching politics and policy together. Does it mean that you narrow down this quickly? I would not. I would also add to the issue, it's very clear that there's a lot of holes as it relates to domestic violence abuse in relationship to guns. Before we go to background checks, red flags, there are other two issues a part of this discussion. The discussion not only from the policy standpoint be narrowed to the politics, there are a lot of issues that Republicans, they want to get this issue quickly as possible off the table. This is a moment to fundamentally to change the safety of Americans. This is a moment, to take a deal or not take a deal. That also applies both ways. That's right. If the president is ready to make progress on background checks and red-flag laws -- if Democrats want to put politics ahead of policy -- But here's the thing, we can talk about an assault weapons ban. This is such a multifaceted problem. It's important to note this, because part of the reason for rise for these incidents the feedback loop being created on the internet. Where people who are vulnerable, go online, feel validated. This has to be solved through technology, there's mental health issues that need to be addressed. What you didn't mention there is, also the rhetoric inspired from the top on there. I think that's fair. And the research shows there's no real causal relationship between -- That's not true. The rhetoric from the top matters. The president has to identify that it's not an I moment in history but we. We have a president who's creating a photo-op. Giving a thumbs up. Who's attacking Democrats and politicizing this moment through the lens of an election. You don't have leadership right now. If we want to talk about politicizing this moment -- Governor. Beto O'rourke -- Governor. Beto O'rourke, in the last week, Patrick, has politicized this moment in an -- Beto O'rourke is not the president of the United States. Beto is not the president of the United States. He wants to be president of the United States. This is moment of crisis for the soul -- He has politicized this moment in a way -- he should be thoughtful. Governor. Like senator booker did. Governor, you -- He's thoughtful on this issue. He is. I could -- some of us are old enough to remember that when we had a president of the united States in Barack Obama and he dared to put his feet on the resolute desk in the oval office, conservatives and Republican leaders lost their hair and said that he was debasing the office. Now we have a president who in this moment has retweeted white supremacists, who has expressed sympathy to those who are espousing violent hatred in this country, and who has been inconsistent on leading on this legislation. The focus there, governor. Patrick is 100% right. The president of the united States has the responsibility of the office. You have the responsibility to lead this country. Every moment from challenger, 9/11, Oklahoma, to the Baptist church in Charleston, to speak to the better angel of this country, that out of many comes one. This president who was at one time of a symptom of the problem, is now the cause of the problem. In my view, he has a chance to raise his and use the presidential soapbox but the voice and moral voice, he has abdicated the responsibilities because he's stirring and actually giving voice to the dark forces, he was once a symptom he's now a cause of the problem. But, I agree the president should use different rhetoric often. George -- In these debates. George Bush was the model of it. President Clinton and others as well. But it's also important to note that you have a president calling for background checks which is against where his party has been. Which is against where other Republican presidents have been. That's real progress. We have to give him credit. Okay, great. But there's a moral component to this. Give you two juxtapositions on the camera. In Hong Kong, he's silent where he need to raise his voice. Here at home, he's using a megaphone where he should be silent and hear what's happening to the anguish. This country used to be assimilate people. Today we alienate people. That's a crisis. Let's talk about the president responded to the crisis in the last week, the way he responded to it has been to visit El Paso, to visit Dayton and to call against the wishes of the NRA, Republican president has called for universal background checks and a red-flag law. That's leadership, too. I've been critical. Patrick, please -- I have been critical of the president's rhetoric at times as you know sitting at this table and I have been critical to him personally at times about his rhetoric. But this week he has moved further than George W. Bush has ever moved on this issue. So, if we're going to criticize the president at this time, then we need to give him credit that he's trying to move the Republican party in a different direction than has been done before. The president visited those communities and used the opportunity to attack and take on political opponents and to launch a campaign-style video about himself. Let's be honest about what happened. Now, on, background checks, governor, you're spot-on, that the president has indeed said this, but this is the same president who an hour from now will send another Valentine to the dictator of North Korea. We don't know where he'll be on this policy. Let's see whether he's prepared to use -- Let's see if he uses political currency -- That's my question. It's different moment now. I can tell you that the president has decided that he wants to move in this direction. And against not only the NRA, but also people like senator barrosso. The question will come down to Democrats, George. Should ask Mitch Mcconnell to bring the senate back from recess. Like the soldier in Hanoi, saying one thing and his eyes were blinking in Morse code. Is there a moral component to the office of the president? Yes. Has he used that position? You can say in 9/11, they'll hear our voice. In Oklahoma, we'll be here as many tomorrows. In Charleston, South Carolina, "Amazing grace." Here, there is no rhetoric or line that speaks to what out of many is one and we have Americans that are hurting and he has not found that voice or spoken to that but what he does is speak to the worst forces in the American right now. Do you buy the idea, Sara, if the president cuts ties with the NRA, continues to push on the background checks that Mitch Mcconnell, 60 votes in the senate will fall in line? I think if the background check bill accounts for concerns that many who are pro-second amendment supporters are concerned about, you figure out how to pass guns in families and so forth, yes. This president has 95% approval rating among his base. If he's for it his base is likely to follow and the NRA -- That's why it's such an opportunity. That's why it's an opportunity. And the NRA, you know, look, NRA came out and supported bump stock legislation, which has passed. You know, they will move on issues when they understand -- That was actually executive action. You're right, it was executive action. But they supported it and endorsed it. He can also move the NRA if he chooses to. The stars have lined up. You have a weaken NRA. You have a president with -- you don't have to worry about a democratic vote. The question is, will he use his political capital to move the senate, senate Republicans specifically, on specific legislation? The house already passed background checks. We'll update your political -- We'll see what bill the senate passes. It won't be an identical bill. Hold on. Sorry, George. George, the assault weapons ban it passed in the house by one vote. I remember all the phone calls, 3:00 in the morning, I told president Clinton, at 3:00 in the morning people are sleeping. He passed it by one vote. How many Republicans will go on in the senate? And I would not go on only -- with the history of domestic violence -- you know this as governor and I as mayor, we know the correlation between domestic violence and what else happens. There's a red flag when somebody does that. Focus on the people who use the guns. That's how we did the Brady bill. But George -- We're out of time. Coming right up, Al gore on the climate crisis, 2020 and

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

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