Former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa on Wednesday accused President Trump of inspiring mass shootings in Texas and Pennsylvania, CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe and CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson report.
"We have a problem with a rising tide of white supremacy in America. And we have a president who encourages and emboldens it," Biden told several hundred people at an event center in Burlington, Iowa.
"How far is it from Trump's saying this 'is an invasion' to the shooter in El Paso declaring 'this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?' Not far at all. How far is it – from the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville – Trump's 'very fine people' – chanting 'you will not replace us' to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh saying Jews 'were committing genocide to his people.' Not far at all. In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation."
Biden, the Democratic Party frontrunner, noted that white nationalist and Ku Klux Klan leaders had celebrated Mr. Trump's 2016 election.
"We're living through a rare moment in this nation's history. Where our president isn't up to the moment. Where our president lacks the moral authority to lead. Where our president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington," Biden said.
"Trump is trying to weaken our institutions – the press, the courts, the Congress – precisely because they are a check on his power. That is what this is all about. The abuse of power."
As Biden spoke, Mr. Trump tweeted from Air Force One, calling Biden's speech "So Boring."
When told about the tweet in Iowa, Biden replied, "He should get a life."
CBS News has learned Biden was "outraged and furious" by the shootings and the president's response to them and began writing his speech over the weekend. But Trump campaign aides pointed out that the president's response to the shootings on Monday included denouncing white supremacy. Trump aides also noted that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter had posted anti-Trump messages on the internet.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
SETH MOULTON: Rep. Seth Moulton rebuffed a report that his 2020 campaign is shedding staff. "It's absolutely not true," the Massachusetts Democrat told CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga in an interview. The long-shot candidate added, "That's about as accurate as a Donald Trump press conference."
The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning that Moulton recently informed his campaign team that he planned to lay off at least half of its staff members.
"It's just patently false that we're playing to fire half of our staff," Moulton stated. "So it's just wrong." The former Marine Corps captain conceded that the campaign underwent a "transition" in weeks past.
"We did do some restructuring over a month ago. And we transitioned some people, including hiring some new people," the Massachusetts Congressman explained. "So maybe that's what the report is referring to. But it's just patently false that we're planning to fire half of our staff."
STEVE BULLOCK: In an address at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock criticized his 2020 candidate rivals for favoring left-leaning policies that may not appeal to all Democratic voters, CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson and CBS News Political Unit Intern Julia Cherner report.
Bullock stated that as he stood on the debate stage last week, he saw Mr. Trump's "reelection become more likely with each passing minute." Bullock said that while he will support the Democratic nominee, his "fellow Democratic candidates aren't making it easy." Taking a swipe at Sen. Bernie Sanders' health care policy positions, Bullock said, "That may sell in Burlington; it won't sell in Billings." The governor also spoke in favor of greater gun control legislation after the two mass shootings this past weekend.
CORY BOOKER: New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker said that he wasn't bringing politics into the pulpit when he addressed a crowd of nearly 100 people during a 25-minute speech about gun violence and white supremacy at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston. Laced with scripture, historical references, and even a quote from beloved novelist Toni Morrison, Booker's remarks hearkened a familiar stump theme of his—the power of love, according to CBS Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell.
Days after horrific shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Booker's message seemed to dare the country to confront its past."[T]o love our country in this moment means that we have to step outside our comfort zones and confront ourselves," said Booker. "Bigotry was written into our founding documents...white supremacy has always been a problem in our American story—if not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it."
The location of Booker's address was as much of the headline as his actual remarks. Mother Emanuel AME church is no stranger to the devastating impacts of gun violence. Four years ago, a shooter took the lives of nine parishioners as they attended Bible study. Booker read the names of the Charleston Nine during his speech today and says that even in the midst of the tragedy four years ago, it was the Mother Emanuel community that showed the world what it meant to love.
"And when evil showed itself in this church basement four years ago, this church again showed that faith, you showed what faith in action looks like," said Booker. "This community, this church showed us how not to allow hate—when it comes into our lives—to take root in our souls."
Even though the New Jersey senator said he wasn't there to ask for votes, some felt his speech was still political.
Tamika Gadsden, a Charleston-based social justice activist, says that politicians should stop coming to the church just for a polling bump and that political visits have the potential to disrupt the healing process.
"Black folks in Charleston, black residents...we are more than our pain. Our story does not begin with Dylann Roof walking into that church so if you want to connect with this base, if you want this base to come out and rally for you, don't start with our pain and our oppression," said Gadsden.
"I'm not saying don't address the Mother Emanuel massacre, we have current legislation that can't get through. Talk about the 'Charleston Loophole' [but] you can do that somewhere else on Calhoun Street—you do not have to go to Mother Emanuel...if you really cared about guns, you wouldn't have to use that church as the backdrop."
But Wanda Boyd, who is a member at Mother Emanuel AME church, thought Booker's remarks were courageous and necessary.
"[He's] shining a light on this issue, holding a light on this issue, not letting people say 'oh you're using this as part of your political agenda to push your presidency...that's what critics want you to say, that's what they want you to believe [so] that you will stop talking about it," said Boyd. "What just happened in El Paso and Ohio is real. As a member of this church...this is real. This is an issue that we have to address and we can no longer sit back and not talk about it."
LATE NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI: Tuesday's Mississippi gubernatorial primary has resulted in a GOP runoff, after state Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, considered a frontrunner for most of the race, was one percent shy of winning the Republican nomination.
Reeves will face former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. on August 27, who got 33 percent of the vote, and the winner will take on Democratic candidate Jim Hood in November. A surprise from the night was the performance of state Sen. Robert Foster, the third GOP candidate Tuesday night. He surpassed expectations from many early polls that had him in single digits and garnered close to 18 percent of the primary vote.
A GOP strategist familiar with the race told CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro something to watch is if Foster's voting base sides with Reeves, since they seem to be more in line politically. Foster and Waller have similar stances on expanding Medicaid and instituting a gas tax, but Reeves bested Waller by at least 25 points in districts that belonged to Foster.
While Foster did go on the attack against Reeves during the campaign, the state senator has not endorsed anybody yet and said in a Tweet, "We'll do our part in this election after we take time to clear our minds, pray, and discuss with family what's in the best interests of Mississippians."