Less than 24 hours after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, fill-in host Jonathan Karl interviewed Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday’s edition of ABC’s This Week. During the interview, Karl repeatedly slammed President Trump’s “rhetoric,” implying that it deserved “part of the blame” for the mass shootings that took place over the weekend.
Karl’s interview with Mulvaney came just about an hour after he argued that it was “fair” to blame President Trump for the mass shootings during an appearance on Good Morning America. The reporter picked up on that idea during his interview with Mulvaney, mentioning that Beto O’Rourke said “the President’s rhetoric is fueling more hate in this country” before editorializing: “the President has used, as you well know, words like ‘invasion’ to talk about illegal immigrants...He tweeted at those four progressive Congresswomen...all women of color, saying they should go back to their countries.”
Karl asked Mulvaney: “Isn’t this kind of rhetoric, especially in light of what we’ve just seen, isn’t it just dangerous?”
In his response, Mulvaney told Karl not to “lose sight of the fact that Beto O’Rourke… is running for President and… to the extent he can make this an issue, he’s going to.” Mulvaney proceeded to suggest some questions that Karl should ask O’Rourke “if he were sitting here.”
First, Mulvaney asked, “Did anyone blame Bernie Sanders for the Congressional baseball game shooting? No. I don’t think so.” Mulvaney was referring to the shooting carried out by Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson that injured House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Mulvaney asked another question: “Did anyone blame Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for…the crazy guy who tried to blow up the DHS office in Washington state…what he called a concentration camp, the exact same rhetoric that AOC was using? Did anybody blame her?”
Rather than address the points Mulvaney brought up, Karl basically repeated his question, asking “What do you say to Americans who say look at what happened in El Paso and say that the President’s rhetoric is in part to blame?” Mulvaney assured “those Americans” and Karl that “the President is just as…saddened by this as you are.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of This Week is below. Click “expand” to read more.
This Week With George Stephanopoulos
JONATHAN KARL: 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…I understand the President’s been briefed on…on both of these shootings. What can you tell us about what more he has learned?
MICK MULVANEY: Yeah. 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 that he’s a combination of saddened by this and he’s angry about it. The first call, he’s talked to the governor of Texas yesterday. He’s talked to the governor of Ohio this morning but 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 people, the sick people who would do this kind of stuff that this is not…this is not appropriate. This is not…this is way beyond the pale. These are sick people and we need to figure out what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
KARL: We see 20 killed in El Paso and now we heard, just heard from the mayor of Dayton that the death toll there has gone up to ten. This…these are both just the latest in a string of mass shootings since the President was inaugurated. We’ve seen, you know, Virginia Beach; Thousand Oaks, California; the Tree of Life Synagogue; Parkland and of course the massacre in…in Las Vegas. What is he doing? I understand he called the Attorney General…
KARL: …but this has been going on, what is he doing to stop these…these killings, these mass shootings?
MULVANEY: Well, face it. You…you make an excellent point there; which is this, this, 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…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, certainly we’ll be talking to the Department of Justice. We also need to start talking about social media. In your…in your introduction, you mentioned that the…the shooter had his manifesto on…on social media. We’ve given a…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, a broad-based discussion about the causes here. Are we going to talk about the role of…of guns? Certainly, we are. But to think that…that this is just a gun issue that many people make it out to be is, is not right. We’ve had guns in this country for…for hundreds of years. We haven’t had this until recently and we need to figure out why.
KARL: But…but let…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?
MULVANEY: In fairness, Jon, those ideas did not go away. This administration banned…banned bump stocks. Remember, automatic…
MULVANEY: …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 that 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 so no, I don’t think it’s fair to say that all those things were off the table. In fact, this administration…
KARL: Well, well, I…
MULVANEY: …has made some sensible…
KARL: Mick, I…
KARL: …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?
MULVANEY: Background checks. We can always…listen, if there’s…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 and in fairness, I don’t think we know if the…the, the, 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 but I…I go back to the…the thing about assault, assault rifles. Again, military automatic weapons are already against the law in this nation and 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…on some of his promises.
KARL: We’ve…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, at those four Progressive Congresswomen, all…all women of color, tell…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?
MULVANEY: Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Beto O’Rourke, a former colleague of mine who I hold in…in high regard, is running for President and the…to the extent he can make this an issue, he’s going to. So, 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? No. I don’t think so. Did anyone blame Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the gentleman…gentleman, for the, 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? Look, there’s…there’s no benefit here to trying to make this a political issue. This is a social issue and we need to address it as…as that.
KARL: But…but you know this is more than…than Beto O’Rourke. What…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.
MULVANEY: The…the President is just as sad 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…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 pull the trigger. We need to figure out how to, how to create less of those kinds of people as a society and not trying to figure out who gets blamed going into the next election.
KARL: 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 is a real and present threat that we must all denounce and defeat.” Mick, why has the President downplayed the threat of white nationalism?
MULVANEY: I don’t think he…I don’t think he has. Go look at what he said yesterday. He condemned…
KARL: No, no, no…
MULVANEY: He condemned this without any reservation whatsoever, Jon, so I don’t think that’s fair to…
KARL: Well, wait a minute. Can I read the President’s words because back…
KARL: …in March he was asked directly, “do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?” And his answer? “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have a very, very serious problem.” He downplayed the threat of white nationalism. Was he wrong to do that?
MULVANEY: No, the…I don’t believe that’s downplaying it. Look at what he said.
MULVANEY: 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. What did he say?
KARL: I’ll…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.”
MULVANEY: These…that’s exactly…that’s exactly…look, this is not the same as 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. So, I…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, was, 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…that he doesn’t, 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 and this, this type of thing has to stop and we have to figure out a way to fix the problem, not figure out a way to lay blame.
KARL: All right, Mick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff, thank you very much for joining us.