Transcript: Rep. Steve Scalise on "Face the Nation," August 11, 2019

Scalise warns of "slippery slope" in blaming Trump for shooting

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana that aired Sunday, August 11, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We now turn to the number two Republican in the House, Steve Scalise, he joins us this morning from New Orleans, good morning Congressman. 

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE SCALISE: Good morning Margaret, good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump says he wants meaningful background checks. Why aren't you supporting him on that? 

REP. SCALISE: Well, first of all, I have supported him on that and in fact, we got a bill to President Trump's desk last year, the "FixNICS" bill, which truly does go after some of the real problems we saw where people were falling through the cracks and not getting into the background--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, he wanted something new and now. 

REP. SCALISE: --check system, like so many shootings, like Charleston, like others. Well, the president said he wants to make sure especially that people with mental illnesses don't get guns. And in fact, there were a lot of people that we were finding that weren't getting put into the system. We need to keep working on that and make the background check system work better. We passed a very bipartisan bill to do just that, and Donald Trump signed it into law just last year. Let's focus on making that work better so a lot of these people that slip through the cracks don't- don't slip through the cracks again or in future attempts where they might try to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean that you do not expect Republicans to support or vote for new legislation on background checks? 

REP. SCALISE: Well, first of all, let's see what bills are being brought forward. I know what Nancy Pelosi called for the Senate to come back and vote on, was a bill that they passed through the house, or two bills, that wouldn't have actually done anything to stop these shootings because the shooters in- in both in El Paso and in Dayton, passed background checks. So her bill wouldn't apply to them, but her bill is very dangerous in a number of ways of how it stops law-abiding people from being able to transfer guns, including if you loan your gun to your neighbor because she's afraid that her ex-boyfriend is going to come and beat her up. You loaning your gun to her would put you in federal- in- not in federal- put you in prison for up to a year. That's what Pelosi's bill does. Wouldn't have stopped the shootings, but actually makes it harder for law abiding citizens to do things that are currently legal and frankly currently helping improve safety. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think domestic terrorism should be a federal crime?

REP. SCALISE: I do, and in fact I applaud what's being done both at the FBI and with our new Acting Homeland Security Secretary. His first week in office he put in place a task force to go look at a lot of the online recruiting that's going on to radicalize people. We're seeing a very alarming increase in domestic terrorism. The FBI has been focused on that. Last month alone they saw it was in the hundreds, the number of domestic terrorism cases that they're looking at. So we need to make sure that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have the tools they need to go and root out whether it's white supremacists, whether it's radicals from the left that are committing some of these crimes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what tools-- 

REP. SCALISE: We need to make sure that they--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --do you think Republicans--

REP. SCALISE: --have the tools they need to root it out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What tools will Republicans vote to give law enforcement? What- what are you suggesting there? 

REP. SCALISE: Well first of all, if you look at what the FBI just set up recently and what the Homeland Security Secretary just did recently to put a renewed focus on this, to put a new focus on what's going on online, the recruiting that we all know has been going on online. They're actually focusing on it. They do need more tools. They've asked for more resources. We have a budget process that's coming up when we return in September. Let's make sure that in the budget process that is a very high priority because right now it's not a high enough priority. We need to make sure it is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll have to wait for the fall to see what comes up. But I do want to ask you, because you've voiced some concern about tone and conversation about these killings in this country. In the case of El Paso, it is the largest anti-Latino attack this country has ever seen. The killer said that he went to a border town to kill Mexicans. Given this particular context, can you understand the sensitivity to language used by the president when he refers to migrants as "invading this country"?

REP. SCALISE: Well, first of all, I- I- my heart breaks as everybody's does when you see what happened. There's no place for it, whether it's somebody that's racist that- that hates a certain ethnic group. There's no place for those kind of attacks and attacking people based on- on their ethnicity. But to try to assign blame to somebody else I think is a very slippery slope because the president's no more responsible for that shooting as your next guest, Bernie Sanders, is for my shooting. And he's not, by the way, responsible, the shooter is responsible. What we need to do is find out those people that have slipped through the cracks, and we've seen it in shooting after shooting; Sutherland Springs, Charleston, even in Dayton. He had a hit list and a rape list and yet none of that was in the system. Let's make sure these background check systems work properly and are rooting out the people that shouldn't be able to legally purchase a gun but currently are because the system hasn't worked.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you have not advised the president to reconsider some of his words that many in the Hispanic community consider inflammatory? 

REP. SCALISE: Well, first of all, the president was very clear just the other day that there's no place for this. He spoke out against racism, he spoke out against these kind of attacks. And so to try to assign blame, you know, go look at some of these presidential candidates who made some of the most ridiculous statements. I mean Joe Biden just said that he was vice president when the Parkland kids--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

REP. SCALISE: --came and met with him, he wasn't vice president. You know, so some of these things that are being said are- are beyond ridiculous. I- I know they're running for president, and they might not like Donald Trump's views, but stop this- this ridiculous assessment of blame to somebody other than the person who's responsible. And again, you know, just- just- you talk to- to other people who were motivators- look at the Dayton shooter and what his motivations were. Is anybody asking about that? Anybody from the left--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

REP. SCALISE: --who he was inspired by. There's no right- there's no place for it. The shooter's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you're--

REP. SCALISE: --responsible. Let's try to identify these shooters in a better way which right now we're working on doing let's put more emphasis there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to give you a chance to respond to what Mayor Bloomberg said about the NRA. He said, "It should be a group allowed to represent the gun lobby, but not to represent the view that everybody has the right to go kill everybody." Do you think the NRA is out of touch with some of its members who do support background checks and that it's been weakened?

REP. SCALISE: Well first of all, you know, the NRA has millions of supporters and- and people that are actual members just like any other group that can advocate for an issue. They're advocating for something that's in the United States Constitution: the Second Amendment. But let's look at some of the things that Michael Bloomberg has talked about. You know, he says he wants a better background check system, yet every single person that he defeated last year, that he spent over- about 100 million dollars of his money to defeat, voted to fix the background check system last year. So what's his real motivation? I mean he literally spent about a hundred million dollars of his money for members of Congress who voted "yes" to fix the background system and close the background check system and close these loopholes. 

So- so again, I mean, I- I'm sure he says certain things, but what is his real motivation when he spent that much money to defeat people who voted to fix the system? And by the way, Margaret, name one single bill that Nancy Pelosi put on Barack Obama's desk when they had the House, Senate and the White House to address any of these issues. There was not one bill she put on his desk. We put a bill on Donald Trump's desk last year to fix the NIC system, the background check system, and he signed it into law and is actually working to make it address those loopholes, the people that fell through the cracks, and he banned bump stocks, which were used in the Las Vegas shooting. Those by the way were legalized when Barack Obama was president. Donald Trump is the one who said "this shouldn't happen." He banned bump stocks, and they're not legal anymore.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Scalise thank you for joining us. We'll be back in one minute with Senator Bernie Sanders. He's standing by live in Iowa.