War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
The Friday News Roundup: The latest on the investigation into the Orlando mass shooting. Debate over gun violence heats up again in Congress. And a new Congressional report raises questions about American Red Cross finances.
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. The investigation continues into the mass shooting in Orlando as new questions emerge about the killer's background. The debate over gun violence heats up again in Congress in the wake of the massacre. And Bernie Sanders he'll help defeat Donald Trump, but he doesn't endorse Hillary Clinton, at least not yet.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining us in the studio for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, Naftali Bendavid of The Wall Street Journal, Olivier Knox of Yahoo News and Juana Summers joining us on the roundtable for the first time since taking her new job at CNN Politics. Congratulations, Juana.
MS. JUANA SUMMERSThanks so much, Susan.
PAGEWe invite all of you join our conversation. You can call our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter. We'll Olivier I think we have to talk -- start with this terrible news out of Orlando this week. This is, of course, the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the church in Charleston, South Carolina. And just yesterday, President Obama and Vice President Biden went to another scene of horrific gun violence, trip he has taken too many times in his presidency.
MR. OLIVIER KNOXSo many, many times and I should point out that your paper had a nice story about how he has ordered the flag lowered to half staff more times during his presidency than any of his predecessors. Just to give you a sense of the number of times that he's done this. It was notable to see the vice president and the president together, also with Republican Senator Marco Rubio paying tribute to the victims of the attack.
MR. OLIVIER KNOXHe's done this a lot. His speeches are starting to sound very similar. Sorrow, anger and a little dose of politics, saying how do we keep letting this happen as a country.
PAGEJuana, tell us what we know about this shooter, now dead, Omar Mateen.
SUMMERSSo there was a lot of information coming out, particularly what CNN's been reporting and focusing on this morning is some of the background information. This is someone who had, from a lot different angles, it seems a very troubled past. There are these reports that he had been suspended, spent, I believe, more than 40 days out of high school, which is pretty striking number, had disciplinary record tracking back to his days in elementary school.
SUMMERSThere's also reporting out there looking at the fact that this is a man who went to work prior to the attack and so we're trying to find out now just what his mood was like, what kind of his attack -- what his mood was like prior to the attack, talked to his father, apparently, that day as well, too. But it sounds like, from all accounts, from reporting from CNN and other organizations, that this is somebody with a troubled past that was known in his school years, that had a disciplinary record, had felt that he had been discriminated against in the workplace.
SUMMERSSo there were a lot of signals out there that I think people now are wondering, like, what was missed and why didn't we know more about this person and see that he was a troubled individual who was planning something of this nature.
PAGESo Naftali, a troubled individual, but he pledged allegiance to ISIS during the attack.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDHe did, but in some ways, that seems like more of a pretext, really, than a motivation. For one thing, he pledged allegiance to several groups, including al-Nusra and Hezbollah, some of which are very much at war with each other. So this isn't a guy who was sort of otherwise rational, then became radicalized by this awful ideology. He was somebody who was troubled from the very beginning. He was the opposite of the cliché sometimes where people say, oh, he was always so quiet. I never knew he would do anything like this.
MR. NAFTALI BENDAVIDRepeatedly, he told people he wanted to commit violence, he wanted to kill people, starting at a very young age. And so the ideology, clearly, was part of a fairly complex mix of motivations and I think that's something that, right now, people are trying to sort out.
PAGEBut, you know, one thing that I think is so frustration to Americans is that they look at this as the FBI was aware of him. The FBI had interviewed him multiple times and still, it did not take steps to prevent this from happening. Why not, Olivier, and is there going to be any changes in the future to keep this from being repeated?
KNOXWell, the FBI looked into him in 2013 and 2014 because of some of the comments that Naftali mentioned, some of the threats to do violence. He claimed to have affiliations with various terrorist groups. They looked into this. They spent months. They interviewed him and they came back with no evidence that he'd committed a crime and uncertainty about whether he would -- was the kind of person who would carry out a plot. I spoke to the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, and he said that they ran a confidential source, in other words, an FBI informant they way they have so many times before when they found people with -- that they think might have propensity for violence and that nothing materialized is what Adam Schiff told me.
KNOXThat basically, what they've done all these other times is they've identified individuals who might be lead to commit a crime, they've run an informant, they've given that person -- they've given the potential suspect the opportunity to break the law and then they've arrested him. The national security writer, Marcy Wheeler, who blogs over at emptywheel.net, has raised the question of whether this means that the FBI, all this time, has been catching the sort of dimmer terrorists.
BENDAVIDThe problem the FBI has is that there are thousands upon thousands of these sort of loudmouths, if you will, people who, to their friends or on social media, talk about terrorism, talk about radical Islam and it's an extremely difficult task for the FBI to know which one, which .01 percent of these people will turn out to be dangerous 'cause when they are, it's horrific. But 99.9 percent of them talk big and are never going to do anything. And it's an extremely difficult intelligence and law enforcement task to figure out which tiny percentage is the one that really has to be kept on top of.
PAGEAnd, of course, it's not illegal to have outrageous views or to express them. That's one other complication. Well, we saw the -- John Brennan up on the Hill, an intelligence official, making -- giving some warnings about future attacks. What did he tell us, Juana?
SUMMERSSo what we heard from John Brennan is that this is, obviously, a very complicated issue. I’m not familiar with the entire context of his remarks, but I think that we're likely to see this renewed push, as even in an election year where these kinds of things are very difficult to get through Congress on Capitol Hill from both Republicans and Democrats. While they may disagree violently on what it takes to stop these types of attacks from happening to make sure that we don't see President Obama or a future president lowering the flag and having to give another one of these somber speeches and meet with mourning families, they may not agree on how to get there, but I think that there is some resolve on Capitol Hill of saying how do we figure out how this doesn't happen again, but from an intelligence angle and from laws on the domestic front.
KNOXJohn Brennan really highlighted the complexity of the escalating war on the so-called Islamic State. He looked at a couple different -- I'm going to call them baskets. One is what's happening on the battlefield in Iraq and in Syria. And there he said, yeah, you know, the U.S.-led coalition or U.S.-backed coalition, however you want to phrase it, has made battlefield gains, has taken out a number of fighters, has made it harder for fighters to come Western Europe and other places to help the Islamic State, has taken out some of their finances. There have been battlefield successes.
KNOXYou know, they've taken away territory. This is a very important part of the anti-ISIL campaign. But, what John Brennan said, is that in response, the Islamic State is trying to send attackers into the West to carry out the kinds of attacks that we've seen in San Bernardino and Paris and Brussels and elsewhere. And -- and this the law enforcement nightmare -- the difference between and ISIS-directed attack, which is to say an attack where ISIS is picking the target, picking the operative, picking the timing, and just an ISIS-inspired attack, something where someone is looking at ISIS propaganda online and decides to do this.
KNOXThe ISIS-inspired stuff is so hard to stop and that's a point we've been hearing from absolutely ever administration official since Sunday morning.
PAGENot only hard to stop, but easy to do, right? And ISIS is urging its followers to do things, say you can do something as small as take a knife and stab an infidel. I mean, these are low tech attacks that put people everywhere at some sort of risk. This, of course, Naftali, immediately became an issue in the presidential campaign. Donald Trump renewed his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, argued that this attack shows he was right.
BENDAVIDYeah. I mean, excuse me, I think he more than repeated what he had said. He sort of doubled down on it. He talked about banning entry not only of Muslims, but of anyone from a country with a history of terrorism. He talked about surveilling mosques, which is something he said before, but not for a while. He talked about the Muslim community in the United States as potentially harboring terrorists and not telling law enforcement about them.
BENDAVIDNow, he went so far as to imply that President Obama may have -- it was vague, but may have sort of been in cahoots with some of the terrorists. There was some sort of innuendo to that effect. He decided -- this was a big moment in his campaign in a way. He's the presumptive Republican nominee. This was a massive national tragedy. He reacted with extreme force, with aggressiveness, with, I think you could say belligerence, and the reaction not only among Democrats, but among many Republicans, was to recoil a little bit and to talk about how he'd gone too far. The reaction was not great.
PAGEYou know, Juana, not only did Donald Trump attack President Obama in that kind of obscure way that you mentioned, but also directly saying his policies had contributed to the rise of ISIS. We've heard President Obama, in effect, respond to him in a way that's very unusual for a sitting president to do in the presidential race to succeed him. What did he tell us when he gave that speech Tuesday from the treasury department?
SUMMERSI think when we heard President Obama respond to Donald Trump, this is a reflection of his view, a view shared by many Democrats in Washington, that Donald Trump and the rhetoric that he is using as the presumptive Republican nominee, as, in effect, the figurehead of the Republican party, is dangerous when it comes to combating those who are overseas. And I think that that's what -- and I think that a lot of Republicans, also, who we've spoken to on Capitol Hill are coming around to that view.
SUMMERSAnd that's why you're hearing this more forceful language from Democrats, from some Republicans in muted tones, who are not obviously willing to attach their name to that for fear of ruffling, at times, their party's nominee, but that this is actually a really dangerous situation that we've found ourselves in. And I think that you're likely to hear that -- more strong rhetoric from President Obama because, you know, we are at the end of the Democratic primary. He has come off the sidelines.
SUMMERSHe has endorsed Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee and all signals suggest that he will be more forceful in doing what Democrats have said their top priority is, which is to make sure that Donald Trump is deprived of the White House.
BENDAVIDYeah, I think a really striking feature of this week is that perhaps, in the past, an event like this would have brought this country together and would've brought politicians of all stripes together at least briefly. In this case, it took no time at all for Donald Trump, for Hillary Clinton, for President Obama to stand up and make fairly strong comments criticizing one another, forceful statements in favor of their policies, instead of unification, instead of coming together.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break and then we'll come back and we'll talk about what effect this might have in the debate over guns on Capitol Hill. We'll take your calls, 1-800-433-8850, or shoot us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio for our domestic news roundup, Juana Summers, editor at CNN Politics, Olivier Knox, he's the chief Washington correspondent at Yahoo! News, and Naftali Bendavid, an editor and reporter at The Wall Street Journal. We were talking about this terrible attack in Orlando and it's revived this debate that have after each one of these attacks, it seems, over guns. Juana, is this going to be different? Is this attack going to prompt action on guns that Congress has been unable or unwilling to make for years?
SUMMERSSo I'm actually really skeptical of that, Susan. If you look at -- so the Senate reached a deal after Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, represents Sandy Hook, led a filibuster and he stood on the Senate floor with his colleagues for, I believe, a little bit over 14 hours talking about this issue. And we heard yesterday news that the Senate's expected to vote Monday on four proposals. The thing about that is though, all four of these proposals -- two that come from Republicans, two that come from Democrats -- are -- they are legislative items that the Senate has considered before. And aides on Capitol Hill say that positions really haven't changed.
SUMMERSWhile there are going to be these votes, it looks like they're very likely not to end up positively. And even if they were in fact to pass the Senate and the much more conservative, Republican-controlled House, the odds just aren't that good. So, yes, there will be votes. But whether or not that actually turns into new action I'm just not sure. To me this seems like the false starts we saw after, one year ago, at the Charleston shooting we talked about gun actions. There were some legislative movements, some public outcry for something to happen. Nothing changed.
SUMMERSWe saw, after Sandy Hook, the most expansive list of votes on gun laws that we've seen in quite some time. Nothing changed. So I'm not really sure. This is obviously a very horrible and horrific shooting that's happened. There's been a lot of discussion about wanting to move forward. But voting on four proposals that have already been voted on and failed with little changeover in the membership of Congress, little new appetite for compromise on that, I'm just not sure it's going anywhere.
PAGESo the thing I think that surprises some Americans is, when you look at the polls, there's a consensus about universal background checks, including for gun sales at gun shows and over the Internet. There's a consensus about banning gun sales to people who appear on the terrorist watch list, at least in public opinion. So why doesn't anything ever happen, Naftali?
BENDAVIDWell, the politics of gun control for a while has been that the people who are opposed to it may be smaller in number but they're greater in intensity and that makes it very difficult for certain groups of politicians to oppose them. It does feel to me like there's a little bit of a change, even though I agree that ultimately nothing's, you know, likely to pass. It feels to me that people on the gun control side are more willing to stand up and make that case than they have been in a long time. You know, after Al Gore lost the presidential race in 2000 -- so it was a long time ago -- Democrats, rightly or wrongly, concluded that a big part of the reason was his stance on gun control.
BENDAVIDAnd they were so skittish about it. And now you're seeing President Obama talk about it all the time, Hillary Clinton embrace it. This 15-hour filibuster by Chris Murphy and others on the Senate floor. There's a discussion, there are votes. You know, the outcome isn't going to change this time, but there's a little bit of a sense of the ground shifting.
PAGELet's talk to Michael. He's giving us a call from Denver, Colo. Michael, hi, you're on the air.
MICHAELThank you, Susan. I found it inspiring that thousands of other people besides me were watching the filibuster and tweeting in solidarity with Senator Murphy and his two colleagues. You know, I heard Juana Summers say not much is going to change legislatively. But, in Colorado, my Democratic Senator Michael Bennet is up for reelection this fall and I would have had a tough time voting for him in November if he had not joined the filibuster. So is it the new normal that Democratic candidates for Congress have to be openly pro gun control?
PAGEMichael, thanks so much for your call. What about that, Olivier?
KNOXThat's a really good question. You have seen some shift on that score. You saw President Obama say that he would not campaign for Democrats who did not line up behind his gun-control views. The White House has a wish list on this. They want universal background checks. They want a -- what's been called a no-fly, no-buy rule, which is if you're on the no-fly list, then you shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun. They want the renewal of the assault-weapons ban that lapsed in 2004. And they want more money to enforce existing laws.
KNOXThe White House has been saying, look -- look carefully at the lobbying effort. For years, the National Rifle Association has just -- their efforts have just dwarfed those of gun-control groups. But you're seeing a rise, after New Town, of other organizations -- there are some billionaires that are backing some of these campaigns, there is -- I don't think things will change on Monday. I think we're going to see the same politics play out. But there's been this definite shift in terms of Democrats not only wanting to but having to support these efforts.
PAGEWell, and talking about the Republicans, the presumptive Republican nominee sent out a tweet. Now it's hard to make a lot of textural analysis off 140 characters, but he said he was going to meet with the NRA, which has endorsed him, and Donald Trump said he wanted to talk about keeping people on terror watch lists from being able to buy guns.
SUMMERSAbsolutely. And you heard Donald Trump say, Wednesday night on "Fox News" he gave a little bit more clarity to this, saying that he'd be looking, I think the phrasing was, very seriously about the terror watch list and the no-fly list. But it is, as you noted, Susan, very difficult to kind of discern what that meeting between Trump and the NRA might entail. But a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pretty outspoken about this and are very skeptical that what Trump said about his meeting with the NRA and possibly looking at this very seriously, whether he would -- that would lead to more Republican support for the Democratic-backed gun-control proposals.
SUMMERSSo we'll be waiting to see what that meeting with Trump and the NRA comes out of. I'm sure that he'll say that he agrees that terrorists shouldn't have guns. But what will the actual action be, what will the policy be and whether there's a shift in Republican thinking and the Republican platform, I'm very skeptical that we'll see a big statement from Trump on this.
PAGEOur thoughts, of course, are with the victims in Orlando and with the victims and their families in Charleston on this one-year anniversary of the massacre at the church there. Let's talk now to William. He's calling us from Charlotte, N.C. William, you're on the air.
WILLIAMYes, ma'am. Earlier you referred to -- or one of your guests referred to 99 percent of the people that FBI check out being mostly talk. But is the act of making terrorist threats not a crime in this country? There is an individual from Charlotte that I believe was prosecuted from making threats on social media towards President Obama.
WILLIAMAnd that seems like it would be in line with at least granting -- putting somebody on probation, which might prevent them from purchasing a weapon.
PAGEAll right, William. Thanks very much for your call.
KNOXWell, when you make a direct threat against the president, the Secret Service will come visit, knock on your door, talk to you, investigate you. But, no, they will not arrest you. There are very specific contexts in which, if you made a threat, you would get into more trouble. If -- but typically you don't get arrested for that. So, no, as we've said before, there's no crime in having outrageous views. But you will get investigated. And that's what happened here. The FBI did spend 10 months looking into this guy, apparently running a confidential informant at him. So they did look at this.
PAGEIs a view of law enforcement that the system worked because they were aware of this guy and they talked to him -- or that the system didn't work because they didn't stop them?
BENDAVIDWell, it's a little bit of both. I mean FBI Director Jim Comey said very specifically that he can't, for the moment, see anything the FBI agents involved in investigating Omar Mateen that they could have done differently. On the other hand, they're going to do a more general investigation on whether they need to do something differently going forward.
BENDAVIDAnd in terms of all these people that sort of talk big but aren't necessarily doing anything immediately dangerous, you know, there's a couple schools of thought even within law enforcement. There are people who just think the FBI needs more resources to check these guys out more thoroughly. And then there are people who talk about programs to sort of divert these people into more constructive paths, maybe using social workers or other caregivers like that. So there's a very live discussion, which this is only going to intensify, particularly because this guy was significantly investigated and essentially, you know, cleared before going on.
PAGELet's go to Toledo, Ohio, and talk to Alan. Alan, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
ALANHi, good morning.
ALANLet me say that I -- you're right on the topic that I'm interested in. I'm irate that the gun dealers reported this guy to the police. They did not do anything effectively that -- what I'm hearing anything about. I think the onus of guilt falls on them very heavily for failure to follow up. This is our security. I don't know what the heck's going on. You know, but it -- whenever they investigated before should have put red flags all over this phone call from the gun dealer.
PAGEAll right. Alan, thanks for your call. We do have reports that a gun -- that this shooter went to a gun shop, tried to buy bullet-proof armor, was told he couldn't buy it, then tried to buy ammunition, they refused to sell it to him. So kudos to that gun show owner that sensed that this was not somebody he wanted to sell this stuff to, called the police but didn't have a name to give them. And I think, in that case, it didn't go anywhere. Well, let's talk a little bit about the campaign, which is kind of over, the primary campaign at least. We had the D.C. primary on Tuesday, the final contest of the year. Hillary Clinton won it in a walk. Bernie Sanders spoke to his supporters last night. Juana, what did he tell them?
SUMMERSBernie Sanders -- actually, this video is really incredible. It sounded like, with a couple of mentions of Hillary Clinton, they were a bit more favorable -- it sounded like a stump speech all over again. The message was that Bernie Sanders isn't going anywhere and he's encouraging them to stick with him, which is a really incredible statement to hear after, you know, he's had this meeting on Tuesday night with Hillary Clinton, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee. He is -- he cannot mathematically get the nomination. He -- there was a recognition of that. But he's still sticking with it.
SUMMERSHe is trying to keep people on the ride for the Bernie Sanders political revolution. So it was really interesting to hear and I think that he just signaled that he wants people to stick with him. He's going all the way to the convention.
SUMMERSAnd I was speaking with some Bernie Sanders supporters last evening, actually, and they -- the sense in the room was that, you know, we're not going anywhere. We're sticking with Bernie, despite the fact that, again, mathematical odds are against him, and that they really want to see this come down to a convention play and to see what kind of policy issues on the platform that Bernie Sanders can push to the left in order to get things like the $15 minimum wage that he's campaigned against to have possible changes to the election process in the future. They're holding out for those types of policy changes. And those are the kinds of things that we heard Bernie Sanders talk about.
PAGESo smart, on Olivier -- Olivier, smart on Bernie Sanders' part to not endorse the presumptive nominee?
KNOXWell, you're seeing some of the people who've endorsed him come out and say it's time to hang it up and we're supporting Hillary Clinton. But, you know, he's run an unorthodox but extremely successful campaign. Ultimately, you know, his fundraising strength and the challenge he ran against Hillary Clinton have been pretty good. I don't know -- it depends what Bernie wants, which is sort of the thing that we don't...
PAGESo what does Bernie want?
KNOXWell, in his video message, he said he wants to transform the Democratic Party. And in there was an indictment of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. I mean, let me just read what he says. He wants to, quote, "transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people and not just wealthy campaign contributors. A party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life." Hey, Democrats, how do you feel about that?
KNOXI don't know. It depends on what he wants. You know, I'd be surprised if he were satisfied with getting the issues on the platform. The platform doesn't actually shape the incoming president's agenda that much. So even if Hillary were to win in November and even if he were to get everything he wants into the platform, there's no guarantee that his agenda would move forward.
PAGEWell, Naftali, he also had suggested earlier in the week that he wanted to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, replace new leadership at the top there. Will that happen?
BENDAVIDMy gut is that may be the least likely thing to happen. I mean, I think party leaders, whatever they think of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, might look askance at a candidate sort of dictating who the chairman is and sort of making it personal in that way. But I do think the party is still on the -- in the path toward unifying. I mean, despite the fact that Bernie is, you know, throwing up some last-minute flares. He's got to be careful, too. I mean, if he holds out for too long, much of the party turns against him. I think there's a delicate dance going on where he wants to time this exactly right and the party leaders want to time it exactly right. We're in a little bit of a murky area.
BENDAVIDHe doesn't seem like a guy who's campaigning for president really anymore. He talks about what he believes in. So I think we're just in this interim period. I don't know exactly when it will end. It could go to the convention. It could end before that. But I think the party is in the halting, difficult, sort of struggling process of coming together.
PAGEWell, they've come together, right? They have a nominee. Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. Right?
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean, right.
PAGEI mean is there any chance she's not the nominee?
BENDAVIDNo, there isn't, unless somehow...
KNOXHeaven help, you have Twitter mentions, Susan.
KNOXGood luck. Good luck with that.
BENDAVIDI mean, you know, we talked about how on Tuesday she won the D.C. primary. But that wasn't the important thing. The important thing is it's the end of the primary process. She's won more states, more popular votes and more delegates. There really isn't any argument Bernie Sanders can make for why he should be the nominee. And I think you are seeing some unity. And, you know, she rolled out and a super PAC supporting her rolled out a huge ad buy recently. I think she has a lot more money than Donald Trump. Her polls are starting to improve. I think there's a real shift in dynamic.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls. Give us a call, 1-800-433-8850. Well, here's an email from Nancy. She writes, with all of the energy Bernie generated, is there any talk about redirecting those supporters to regain the Senate? Maybe we could see Bernie as majority leader. So let's deal with the first part of that. Could this be a factor? Could Bernie Sanders become a force in this effort to regain the Senate?
KNOXWell, sure, he could. He hasn't shown much inclination to date to steer his fundraising machine, which has been very impressive, toward helping Democrats. I mean, we haven't seen a lot of that. He hasn't done a lot of endorsements. He hasn't done -- he hasn't really campaigned for any other candidates. So could he? Of course, he could. But he has said repeatedly that he does not direct his voters, that it's up to individual Democrats to win them over. So while he could be a force in the election, I don't -- he hasn't given me any indication that he wants to be.
PAGEOkay, Juana Summers, how about this idea, we could see Bernie as majority leader of the Senate? Is that in the cards?
SUMMERSI have a hard time thinking that that's something that we would see happen. Bernie Sanders, obviously an Independent senator, though he does caucus with Democrats. If Democrats do in fact regain control of the Senate, I don't know that he would be likely in that mix. I just -- I think that's a little bit out in left field.
PAGEI think a lot of Democratic senators would like to elect someone as their majority leader who's been a Democrat for more than a year.
PAGEI mean, we talk about the Bernie Sanders supporters, and of course they need to be treated with great respect, they've shown huge energy in this campaign. On the other hand, the Hillary Clinton supporters could say, hey, she won the nomination. She deserves some respect as well.
BENDAVIDYeah, absolutely. I mean, that's why I say it's sort of this delicate dance between the two factions. And speaking of the Senate, there's another element here, which is that Bernie Sanders, I don't think he's going to be majority or minority leader. That's going to be Chuck Schumer. But that he could be a very powerful committee chairman. And that is something that he wants. That would give him influence that he has not had in the past. And so the Democrats and the Democratic Party have things to hold over his head as well as he has things to hold over their head.
PAGEYou know, Donald Trump had a big advantage over Hillary Clinton in that he had about a month where he had clinched the Republican nomination. She was still continuing to face Bernie Sanders in these final contests. How did he use that month, Olivier?
KNOXPromising to become more presidential and failing. This has been a really interesting dynamic in the Trump campaign, such as it is, where he makes periodic announcements that he's going to shed his primary persona and become more of a general election candidate. That just hasn't happened. He has gone after the judge overseeing a lawsuit against his Trump University. He'd gone after the judge saying that the judge can't be fair to him purely because he's of American-Mexican heritage. He has doubled down on the Muslim ban and even possibly expanded it, although his rhetoric is a little unclear.
KNOXSo he has, in the view of a lot of Republicans, at least in Washington, he has been -- he has squandered it. In fact, some of them are making noises that he has a very limited amount of time now, going forward, to sort of right the ship and become a more general election candidate. And that's borne out by a lot of polls that show him in trouble in some battleground states.
PAGESome senior Republicans are increasingly frantic about this, even though he had consolidated support and a lot of senior Republicans like Paul Ryan had endorsed him. They seem to be getting more nervous, not less so.
BENDAVIDYeah, I mean, it's early to lose sight of how bizarre this campaign is, because we've sort of, you know, become inured to it. But, you know, this week showed yet again, there were leading Republicans, including the speaker of the House, criticizing comments that he made. And he turned around and said, look, if you guys can't be with me, if you guys can't be tough, I'll do this by myself. And I'll do a really good job. And so you have this nominee who's in some sense at war with his own party. I -- it's -- I've never seen anything like it.
PAGEHe told his own congressional leaders that they should be quiet if they weren't going to support him. We'll see how that works. We're going to take a short break and, when we come back, we'll continue our conversation. We'll talk about that American Red Cross report that came out of the Senate raising questions about the fundraising they did for the earthquake in Haiti. And we'll take your calls. We've got a couple open lines. 1-800-433-8850. Give us a call.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And joining us in the studio for the domestic hour of our weekly News Roundup, Juana Summers from CNN Politics. Olivier Knox from Yahoo News. And Naftali Bendavid from the Wall Street Journal. And we want to take your calls and emails. Here's an email we got from Charles in Houston. He writes, politicians will provide various policy descriptions in the wake of Orlando, but the truth is that millions of people are eligible to buy semi-automatic weapons.
PAGEAny one of them can wake up one day and go to a place where many people are gathered and create another mass shooting event. An attack like that probably can't be stopped, no matter what. Can't be stopped, no matter what. What do you think?
BENDAVIDWell, what President Obama says is that, yes, we can't stop every single attack, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to stop some of them. I'm not, you know, his spokesman, but I mean, that's his, that's his argument, right or wrong. I mean, one of the interesting things about what's happened recently, I think, is this focus on the no fly list and other terrorist watch lists. I think it's been a very successful device for pro-gun control advocates to say if somebody can't fly, if somebody's being watched for potential terrorist acts, then they shouldn't be able to buy a gun.
BENDAVIDAnd it's also the issue that's attracted, perhaps, the most attention legislatively.
PAGEHere -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
KNOXNo, it's interesting, because of the terrorism watch list has long been a bug bear for liberals, who hate it. Because it is this -- no fly, you at least have a concrete moment where someone tells you, no, you can't get on the plane because you're on the no fly list. You have a possibility of challenging that. The terrorism watch list, because it's so shrouded in secrecy, you don't know when you've been put on it. You don't know where it is. There's no obvious -- the way that you appeal to get off of it -- first, you have to find out that you're on it, which is hard.
KNOXAnd then the appeals process is complicated. So in the past, liberals have hated this. It's interesting to watch Democrats glom on to this flawed device as a way to advance the gun control issue.
PAGEAnd of course, we know that peoples' name are erroneously placed on the watch list and on the no-fly list. People who have no criminal history. Sometimes they just have a name...
KNOXThe late Senator, at one point, was on the no fly. I mean, it's -- these are flawed devices.
PAGEHere's a question from Elroy, who posted this on our website. He writes, who removed the Orlando shooter's name from the terrorist watch list and why? Because, of course, we know that he was on the list for a while, and then he was not.
BENDAVIDWell, he was put on the list, because he was under investigation for making inflammatory comments. And they, and they used informants, they followed his electronic communications, they put surveillance on him, but after 10 months, they concluded they just didn't have enough to believe that he was any sort of a threat. During those 10 months, he was on the watch list. So, it wasn't so much that he was officially taken off, as that when the investigation concluded and was closed, he was no longer on it.
KNOXYeah, they don't have a choice. When they wrap up the investigation, if they haven't found the evidence that they need to move forward, they actually have to take him off, the FBI, has to take him off the list.
PAGEHere's an email from Ben. He writes, I hear that since nothing happened after Sandy Hook, nothing will happen now. Let's go to Seth calling us from Owings Mills, Maryland. Seth, thank you for joining us.
SETHYes, my question was, or comment was, it seems like there's, with the second amendment, you have individuals who look at the Constitution as strict Constructionalist or as a living document. Is there any conflict of interest within the country assigned a view limiting second amendment rights and the types of weapons versus seeing other aspects of the Constitution as living an evolving. And some seeing it as strictly how it was written at that time.
PAGEAll right, thanks for your call. None of us, I think, are lawyers. Are there any lawyers on this panel? No. And I'm not sure we're the best people to address that question. Does anyone want to take a shot at it?
BENDAVIDWell, I'm not sure exactly what the questioner's asking, but even when there's a right enshrouded -- enshrined in the Constitution, that doesn't mean it can't be limited in one way or another. And right now, what the legal argument's focused on is okay, we have a second amendment right to bear arms, but in what ways can governments limit that right in order to protect the public? And that's something that's very much in play.
PAGEAll right. Seth, thanks very much for giving us a call. We'll go to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and talk to Lawrence. Lawrence, hi.
LAWRENCEHi, how are you guys doing?
LAWRENCEGood. I have a -- the question that I pose is basically, you know, the fly list and all that and relating that to the no gun sales list is fine, but I think we're missing the overall connections with the majority of the lone shooters. A mental health aspect. Our mental health care system is broken, and the majority of these people that did most of these shootings here in America, or in the United States, basically had a long mental health history of problems. I think we need to make more of a connection on how to document and track them to make sure they don't buy guns, because I think that's our biggest problem here as far as on our nation's soil than a lone terrorist, so to speak.
PAGEYeah. Lawrence, thanks very much for your call. Is there much debate, in the wake of this attack about trying to address some of these problems we've seen over and over again with our mental health system?
SUMMERSWe are hearing a little bit of that. Earlier this week, the House was debating a bill that was in the Energy and Commerce Committee called the Health and Families and Mental Health Crisis Act. It's a bill that was introduced after the shooting in Sandy Hook and Newtown. So, there has been some talk about that, and there was an attempt by some Democrats to attach other gun control related measures, if I'm remembering the debate correctly, but that bill obviously, its origins are back in 2012. It hasn't really made an impact and I think you see this reckoning every time we have one of these shootings.
SUMMERSIn Congress that the caller mentioned, are that are we going to look at this from a mental health aspect or are we going to look at this from a gun control aspect? And I just think that there's still a lot of friction between those two opposing viewpoints on Capitol Hill.
PAGEOf course, it's possible we need to do more than one thing. Right?
KNOXThe same way that every shooter's motivations are sort of this, you know, toxic cocktail, especially in this instance, in the, since Orlando, maybe what, what we need is a, you know, an all of the above response.
PAGEHere's an email from Mark. He writes, please discuss the remarks Senator McCain made yesterday about the President being responsible for the Orlando shootings. Naftali, first of all, just explain to us what it was that Senator McCain said.
BENDAVIDWell, first, I think he used the term directly responsible. You know, for the shooting. His thinking was that because, in his view, the President has contributed to the rise of ISIS, and because this shooter was inspired by ISIS, at least as I understand his thinking, the President was directly responsible. He did try to backtrack from that, to walk it back a little bit and say, well, what he meant was the President's policies, in leading to the rise of ISIS, played a contributing role here. But it was somewhat surprising coming from him.
BENDAVIDWe've come to expect it from Donald Trump. And, but it shows you kind of the incendiary environment that we're in right now, where somebody like John McCain, you know, he's in a tough re-election race, and he does tend to say things when he's facing political challenges that he sometimes then takes back. But it was still striking.
PAGEYou know, it was interesting. He cited, the withdrawal from Iraq, which he said contributed to the rise of ISIS. He talked about the failure to act after -- in Syria, including after the red line was crossed, as fueling the rise of ISIS. And when he walked it back, Juana, walking it back from saying he's directly responsible to saying his policies are directly responsible. I don't think that's a huge step back.
SUMMERSNo, I didn't feel like it was either. It felt like a non-walk back walk back to me, actually. But this -- it's important to note that statement that John McCain made, Senator McCain made, goes far beyond the criticism of Obama that you've heard from many other Republicans on Capitol Hill. It does sound a lot more Trump-esque than some of the comments that we've heard come out of the Senate. And when he's pressed about this, he didn't really, he didn't really leave much distance between his walk back.
SUMMERSSo I think it will be interesting to see how -- McCain is in a tough race, how these comments are used against him by his challenger in Arizona even after he's said he's misspoke. Maybe he didn't mean it. I think these are ones that are going to hang on to him for a bit.
KNOXWell, the walk back was really just stripping away directly responsible because that implied a personal responsibility. And they wanted to get away from being tied to Donald Trump's comments, the sort of weird, dark insinuations that, you know, there was more, that there was something going on with President Obama and this shooting, which he followed up, by the way, with an explicit tweet, saying that Obama had been training and supporting ISIS. So, it wasn't even just an insinuation. He just said it.
KNOXIn McCain's case, I think he was trying to find some daylight between his long standing criticisms of Obama's foreign policy, and they are long standing, to get away from the Trump-esque, you know, this is, this is Obama's personal responsibility in some weird, dark...
PAGESenator McCain, of course, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the 2008, the party's 2008 nominee against Barack Obama, so a person with a lot of seniority. Is he really in trouble in his re-election race?
BENDAVIDWell, you know, some of that may even depend on Donald Trump, to tell you the truth. One of the great fears of the Republicans is that not only that Donald Trump would lose, by a significant margin, but that he'd bring down a ton of, particularly Senate, but also House Republicans with him. It's a good year for Democrats, anyway. There are a lot of Republicans who are up in swing states. Democrats have a lot of strong challengers and if Donald Trump knocks a couple of percentage points off an array of Republican Senators and Senate candidates, that could make a big difference.
BENDAVIDAnd particularly in Senator McCain's case, there's a large Hispanic population in Arizona that he, himself, has said, he said it privately and then unwittingly it became public, could create the toughest race in his life, because of the mobilization of the Hispanic community against Donald Trump.
SUMMERSThere's another aspect to that, too. Is that Donald Trump, as the presumptive Republican nominee, isn't doing one big thing that nominees usually do. That's raise money down the ticket. Donald Trump has eschewed fundraising, as he was in the primary process. He's just now starting to ramp up his own high dollar fundraisers, but you don't see him out there sticking his neck out for candidates of his own party. As fact, as you said earlier Susan, he's told them to just be quiet if they're not willing to help him.
SUMMERSHis party leaders, so I think that also has a lot of Republicans concerned as to whether or not they'll have the war chest they're traditionally used to having when they're in competitive election years.
PAGEYou know who is raising money for Republican Senators? That would be George W. Bush, the former President who has said he's not supporting Donald Trump, staying out of that Presidential race entirely. I think that a -- I believe that was a scoop by the New York Times this morning, that he's agreed -- he's done two fundraisers for two endangered Republican Senators. He's going to do them for at least three more. Because Republicans, Olivier, are quite concerned that if they lose this Presidential race in a big way, that the Senate will go with it.
KNOXAbsolutely. And if you look at John McCain's race, the last poll I saw had Trump leading Hillary Clinton by just three points. Which, considering that the Trump campaign is not really building a traditional turnout operation, while Senator McCain, doubtless, has a sophisticated machine by this point, that still suggests trouble for him. Yes, a lot of, a lot of these vulnerable Republicans are very concerned. You've seen Paul Ryan try to sketch out a policy agenda that would let them run as Ryan Republicans, not Trump Republicans. But the fact of the matter is, you know, a lot of voters are going to go in there and see Trump's name.
KNOXAnd when you listen to these Republican Senators, you can tell that they're very, very, very worried.
PAGEYou know, and historically, the Presidential race has had often, not every time, but a big impact on races down the ballot. Especially if it's a blowout. Let's take a quick call from David, calling us from Fairview Lanes, New York. Hi David.
DAVIDHi. How are you today?
DAVIDWell, I'm glad -- thank you for taking my call. There's a lot of things going on behind the scenes here that I think has not really been looked at. One of the things is we have become so politically correct in what we say or how we say things that so many people are now afraid to look at, you know, the bigger picture of what's really going on. You know, we talk about the gun problems and the shootings, but there's other things going on. We didn't look about who's doing the shooting or why the shooting occurred. Which is the bigger problem.
DAVIDYou know, we have alcohol related accidents and it's illegal to use alcohol and drive, but yet that still happens. And yet, we don't outlaw alcohol. We don't outlaw driving. We don't take the cars away.
PAGEAll right, David. Thank you so much for your call. I'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've been taking your calls. 1-800-433-8850. I want to touch briefly on this report from Congress about -- from Senator Chuck Grassley about the American Red Cross. Of course, we know the American Red Cross does enormous good works around the country when there are emergencies. But this report raises questions about their fundraising and spending. Tell us about it, Olivier.
KNOXSo, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley's released a report that says that the American Red Cross spent 125 million dollars, about a quarter of what they raised after the -- for the, or no, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. On what are called internal expenses, which is a lot more than they previously disclosed. The report also suggests that the American Red Cross sort of sidelined its internal auditors and bucked various investigations, including one by the Government Accountability Office. It's bad news for any charity to have that kind of a report come out.
KNOXAnd, you know, they, they need to show that they are, you know, effective, that they're not spending money on themselves when they raise it for charity.
PAGEYou know, because people want to respond. You know, you see something like that earthquake in Haiti, Americans want to help. It's part of the American instinct.
SUMMERSYeah, and it's important to know what the Red Cross has said about this, too. They've said that they haven't seen it. And when they responded to Senator Grassley's report, they said that the spending was, quote, I'm quoting them, entirely justifiable, given the size and the complexity of the Haiti program. But in this report, that's a little bit hard to square when you see statistics where the Red Cross has said that all but nine percent of donations spent go to humanitarian programs, but the Grassley's office found that 25 percent of donations sent to Haiti.
SUMMERSAnd that's somewhere around 125 million dollars, were spent on fundraising and management and quote, unquote, program expenses. Those are two really hard things to justify. So, the Red Cross has gotten very favorable ratings from watchdog groups in the past, but it will be interesting to see if this changes their standing and what happens next.
PAGELet's take a final comment from Lou in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He says, why does the press treat Donald Trump with such kid gloves? Naftali.
BENDAVIDWell, that's, that's perhaps a fair question. I think at the beginning, it wasn't so much treating him with kid gloves, it's just sort of this fascination, almost, that this guy was out there saying the things he was saying and acting the way he's acting. I do get the sense that it's changing a little bit. I think more and more people, in the press, are willing to take on what he says a little more directly. To question the things he says and to describe what he's doing in a little bit more concrete terms. I mean, it also has to be said that he's begun to turn on the press.
BENDAVIDI shouldn't say begun to, but sort of intensified his attacks on the press himself. He's barred the Washington Post from attending his events recently. He's had a press conference, not long ago, where he, to his face, called the reporter sleazy and there's developing a little bit more of I think open warfare between the press and Donald Trump. And we'll see how that is going forward. But I think some of what the caller is talking about, or the writer is talking about, is I think some of that dynamic is starting to change now.
KNOXWhat, what race is that person watching? A year ago yesterday, Donald Trump came down that escalator at Trump Tower and announced his candidacy and for a week, all we talked about was his equation of undocumented immigrants equals racists and murderers. You know, I don't -- I just completely dispute that it's been done with kid gloves. What has happened though is that a lot of the things that he has said, things like John McCain's not a war hero because he got captured. You know, a lot of the things that he's said haven't alienated his base.
KNOXThat's different. Now, there have been, been major flaws in the media's handling of Donald Trump. But I think those are mostly questions of training your camera on an empty podium for an hour waiting for him, and then giving him another hour to speak. That's not coverage. Coverage is putting someone's remarks into context. So I don't disagree that there have been flaws, but I mean, his breaks with Republican leadership, you know, what the Muslim ban really means. His attacks on John McCain. All this stuff, I don't think he has been treated with kid gloves.
PAGEWhat do you think, Juana?
SUMMERSI think we've seen a number of journalists from a variety of outlets who have asked Donald Trump pointed, tough questions repeatedly. Interviews by Jake Tapper at CNN, Chuck Todd at NBC come to mind. They're asking these hard questions, they're getting answers from Trump, who repeatedly does not add specificity to sweeping policy statements that he's made. And they're being -- he is being questioned aggressively. That said, for whatever reason, and I'd love to read the academic on this later on, but the rules of political gravity, no matter how hard you press, do not seem to apply to Donald Trump.
SUMMERSThe things that he has said, there's a lengthy list, that would sink any other Presidential candidate, that he just keeps going, and comes out of these situations like that announcement and those comments that he made stronger. But I would agree with Olivier that the coverage, I do believe, especially since he has clinched the nomination, has been incredibly robust.
PAGELou, thanks very much for your comment. And I want to thank our panel for joining us this hour. Naftali Bendavid, Juana Summers, Olivier Knox. Thanks for joining us on The Diane Rehm Show.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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