Transcript: Sen. Bernie Sanders on "Face the Nation," August 11, 2019

Sanders says Trump doesn't want "to see people mowed down"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that aired Sunday, August 11, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Moving on to campaign 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders joins us from the campaign trail in Greenfield, Iowa. Senator, good morning. 

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Good morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to give you a chance to respond to Congressman Scalise who brought up the fact that the man who shot him back in 2017 had been a volunteer for your campaign. He said he doesn't blame you and therefore by the same token no one should blame President Trump for the shootings that we've seen in the past few days. How do you respond?

SEN. SANDERS: Look, as- as soon as I possibly could, I was on the floor of the Senate condemning that action. What we are is a nonviolent, political movement. I condemn all forms of violence. You know, we had 13 million people voting for us, and I'm afraid I can't just tell you that every one of them was the kind of people- kind of person that I would like. But we must bring about the fundamental changes that this country requires in health care, in education, in climate change. We do it in an absolutely nonviolent way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you believe, and in some of your language in recent days, you- you've said President Trump is a racist, you've called him a xenophobe--

SEN. SANDERS: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe he is directly or indirectly responsible for what happened in El Paso? 

SEN SANDERS: He create- look. President Trump and nobody else wants to see people mowed down and killed, and I've never said that. He does not want to see that. But I think what he has created in this country with his incredible rhetoric, his racist rhetoric, where he calls Mexicans rapists and criminals, where he almost condones-- when in- in a rally when somebody was attacking somebody he said, "I'll pay the legal bills" for violence. I think he creates a climate where we are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes in this country, hate crimes against Muslims, against Mexicans, against Jews. He is creating the kind of divisiveness in this nation that is the last thing that we should be doing. So he creates the climate. But do I think that he wants to see somebody get shot? Absolutely not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect that Republican leadership, when they come back in the fall, will bring any kind of gun control legislation to the floor? 

SEN. SANDERS: Well, Margaret, I certainly hope so because this is what the American people want. The American people are sick and tired of powerful corporate interest determining what goes on in Washington. You know that's whether it's the healthcare industry, whether it is the fossil fuel industry, whether it is the NRA. Poll after poll shows that, overwhelmingly, the American people want to expand background checks. They want to do away with the gun show loophole. They want to do away with the straw man provision. And more and more people agree with something that I have been saying for thirty years, is that assault weapons are weapons of war, they are military style weapons designed to kill people-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

SEN. SANDERS: --as rapidly as possible. They should not be sold and distributed in this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, we're going to take a quick break and continue our conversation on the other side of it. So don't go away, and we have a lot more to talk about.

[ANNOUNCEMENTS] 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." We're back now with Senator Bernie Sanders who joins us from Greenfield, Iowa. Senator, I want to pick up where we left off on the issue of gun control. You said now you do support more efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. But you have in the past been skeptical of federal gun control. You voted against the Brady Bill in '03 and '05. You voted for a law to shield gun manufacturers. And I'm wondering how you explain your change of heart. 

SEN. SANDERS: Well I think, first of all, for 30 years, I've been advocating for the ban on assault weapons. Year after year I have an 'F' voting record from the NRA. I think the last one was a 'D minus,' and as president I'm confident that I'll have an 'F' minus. The world has changed in 30 years, and even in rural states like my state of Vermont, which until last year had virtually no gun control. The people of this country are sick and tired of seeing the horrific mass murders that we have been seeing year after year, most recently in Dayton and El Paso. And the American people want us to stand up to the NRA. The American people want strong gun control legislation. I have demanded that Mitch McConnell do the right thing, do what the American people want, bring us back to Washington right now. Let's pass what was passed in the House, let us go further. So to answer your question Margaret, over the last 30 years the world has changed. It has changed in rural states like mine. And it has changed all over this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you protect civil liberties and do things, like Congressman Scalise advocated, which is giving law enforcement more tools to root out those who might carry out these killings? 

SEN. SANDERS: Well, it's not only giving law enforcement more tools. We have got to do a lot better job than we are doing right now in fighting the rise of white nationalism in this country. We need to understand that in El Paso what was committed was an act of domestic violence, and we need to be much more aggressive than the Trump administration has in- in going after those people. So, I am a strong civil libertarian. But on the other hand, I want to make sure that we do not see the rise of neo-fascism in this country and that we understand that those white nationalists are, in fact, when your- get involved in violence they are terrorists and they should be treated as terrorists. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you support red flag laws?

SEN. SANDERS: Yes, I do. I do. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Alright, Senator, thank you for joining us from the trail.

SEN. SANDERS: Thank you.