Transcript: Michael Bloomberg on "Face the Nation," August 11, 2019

Full interview: Michael Bloomberg on "Face the Nation"

The following is a transcript of the interview with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg airing Sunday, August 11, 2019, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." We begin with the question on everyone's minds a week after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio: What can be done to prevent these in the future? 

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who founded the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, hosted a candidate forum in Des Moines yesterday. We spoke with him there and began by asking if he thinks Congress will pass a background check bill when they return in the fall.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I'm optimistic. It still depends on Mitch McConnell bringing a bill to the floor in the Senate and it still depends on the president of the United States signing a bill. I think that the more you see things like this event where- if I'd done this 10 years ago we wouldn't have gotten any Democratic candidates for president to come.

Today, almost all the 20 are here. That they see the public has said enough is enough and that's why we're here. And that's- the impact is not just on the Democratic Party- which many of the Democrats were cowed by the NRA as well for a long time although today, in all fairness, they're not. It's the time is to say we just have to stop this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said that when you launched this group, that just like the NRA - "We need to make them afraid of us." That is going out there and challenging politicians who don't support this kind of platform.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: What I did in the 2018 election, was we supported 24 candidates for Congress. The criteria were they had to be good on guns and good on the environment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You spent about a hundred million dollars.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Spent about one hundred million dollars and twenty-one of the twenty-four won and replaced "A" rated Congress people from the NRA- NRA "A" rated. The NRA takes no prisoners whatsoever and they lost 21 seats in the House. Flipped the house. And so now is the time to start working and helping the Republicans to see the light, because I don't think this is a partisan issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what does this mean for 2020? Are you going to go out there and fund candidates to challenge those who--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We'll see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- don't fund or vote for things like background checks or red flag laws?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: It is very early and the best thing would be that we have action in Congress- on the Republican Senate side as well as the Democratic House side, so that you won't be able to ask that question because we will already be where we want to be.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is this a- a threat or warning from you?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: There's no question that I think this is one of the real key issues in our country. We cannot have a society where you go out in the street and you can get blown away. It's just not tolerable. We- we just have to say enough is enough.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said that essentially the NRA model, of taking people directly on if they are not supporting your platform should be replicated--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I think that should be--

MARGARET BRENNAN --if- if Mitch McConnell doesn't--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: --but if everything--

MARGARET BRENNAN: bring this to the floor in the fall, will you look at funding his--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Mitch--

MARGARET BRENNAN:--opposition?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: --Mitch McConnell is up for re-election, and he's running against somebody who I'm told is an attractive candidate. Mitch McConnell is going to look and say, "What does the public want as well?" So I am optimistic that even Mitch will change his mind. I hope so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Red flag laws. Those were in place in Connecticut before Sandy Hook. They didn't stop that massacre--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: No but they stop some things--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --background checks would not have stopped these two shooters from getting these guns, at least as currently written.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: OK, that is true. No one law is going to stop everything, but there's just no question when you put in background checks, suicides with- with guns and murder rates go down. When you get rid of assault weapons you stop the mass murders. These are not public health things. This is too much of a access to- to- to guns and particularly to assault weapons, which were designed to kill the maximum number of people as quickly as possible, and as gruesomely as you could possibly do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The NRA has been having some internal disputes and problems. They were the largest donor to--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I noticed that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- to President Trump--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: -- what a shame.

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- in 2016. Will they be able to bankroll to the level they did in 2020? I mean--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you see an opportunity--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I think the NRA has been very badly hurt by this. The NRA- 90 percent of NRA members are in favor of background checks. So the NRA is not in the place of most of its members. And in fact if you go back you can see Wayne LaPierre, who runs the NRA, testifying before Congress in favor of background checks 15 or 20 years ago.

WAYNE LAPIERRE FROM 1999: We think it's reasonable to provide for instant gun checks at shows, just like at gun stores and pawn shops.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: They've changed their views, they went towards- away from background checks. The time is for them to come back and if they want to be an organization rent- representing gun owners, that's fine, nothing wrong with that. But we- they should not be somebody representing the view that everybody has the right to go kill everybody.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well I- I want to ask you about some of the choices the candidates are making. Joe Biden has said the president encourages white supremacism. Bernie Sanders said the president's a racist. Elizabeth Warren said he's stirring up racial conflict. Beto O'Rourke said he is making the risk of violence like this in El Paso more real. Do you think that it's a mistake for Democrats to tie the president's rhetoric to these mass killings?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: No, I think words matter. People look to their leadership for guidance and to say that it doesn't have an effect is wrong. So what the president says is very important, and if he supports or says nice things about racists, it encourages racism. If he goes and says nice things about white supremacists, he encourages that kind of violence. He's just- I hope he understands this. He cannot go and just have- shoot off his mouth and say anything, he's the president of the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You decided not to run for president. Is there anything that would make you reconsider?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: No, I don't think so. I thought about it a little bit when I was driving into Des Moines today thinking, you know, I've thought- had- I came here and I spent a good chunk of a month meeting the people of this great state and in some senses I miss being on the campaign trail. I ran- I had three elections I won them all I know how to put together a team- I know how to put together a team not just to win elections, I know how to put together a team to actually deliver the services you promise. But I did that, and now it's time to do something else.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can Democrats win if they bill themselves as progressives?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I think if you are very progressive, no. I think the public wants evolutionary change, not revolutionary change.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that Democrats need a new generation?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I think there's an awful lot to be said for experience and accomplishment. There's a value to having been there, done that, and to understand if there was simple solutions to complex problems we would have solved those problems. I'm not a believer that, oh, there's a new generation coming along and they own the right to set the agenda. I think you earn your spurs, and you earn the right to set an agenda by showing people that what you've been doing is working.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have business in China and you know--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --business people for decades have been complaining about China not playing fair.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: That's correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump's been really aggressive--

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --on this. You don't like the tactics, but is he doing what is needed on this front? And how do Democrats say that they're going to be stronger?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: People that think Donald Trump will have- is not re-electable are wrong. I think a lot of people look at exactly what he is doing with China and they think he's at least taking on the Chinese and they should be taken on is their belief. Now I would argue some of the things he says are right, that we really shouldn't have this asymmetrical trade relationship. But you don't do it by walking up and having public fights. You don't do it by changing your mind all the time. You don't do it by being a bully with tariffs. So it's the president's methods of trying to deal with China that I object to, not the fact that they have- the Chinese have their interests, we have ours.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think he may be re-elected?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I hope not. I will, I'm sure, support somebody who's running against him in the end. But I think- to anybody that thinks that he does not have support is badly misinterpreting what the public believes. There is a revolution that has been taking place around the world where the public thinks that the establishment has not recognized their needs. And you see that in Donald Trump getting elected. You see that in Brexit. You see that in a lot of things where we're doing things differently and the old line stuff is being thrown out. And that's not necessarily good.