CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with John Garamendi


Date: March 31, 2018
Issues: Foreign Affairs


NOBLES: Protesters marched again last night -- a fourth night of demonstrations.

And joining me now is Congressman John Garamendi whose district borders Sacramento. Congressman -- thank you for joining me. Obviously this is an emotional --

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

NOBLES: Yes. Obviously this is an emotional situation for your city. I'd like to get your reaction to these autopsy results.

[11:20:00] GARAMENDI: Well, this is a tragic death and frankly, an unnecessary situation. What I'm looking for is what will come of all of this? How will this be dealt with in the future?

The protests understandable. But what needs to be done here -- and I know the city council, I know the mayor so very well, more than 30 years. They're good people.

I think what's going to happen here is something similar to what took place just 20 miles to the west in a city of Vacaville where a new police chief came in and established a very serious training program for his police officers and the community policing organization set up.

Crime rates went down. Deaths have not happened. And I think Sacramento's going to change its procedures and its community policing procedures as a result of this tragedy.

So perhaps -- perhaps something will come of this that will be better for the community. Obviously -- a tragic situation. I can understand why people are in the street. I can understand why the family is so terribly, terribly upset by this.

NOBLES: Well, you mention the local response. The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders this week called the Stephon Clark case a local issue. Do you believe that this is just a local issue?

GARAMENDI: No. No, it's not. This is a national issue. We've seen too much of this across the nation. And what we've seen has resulted in protests and in many places appropriate changes are taking place. And we need to understand from the point of view of the police officers, the confrontation, the adrenaline, the challenge that they're faced with and all too often police officers are also killed in the line of duty.

And so what we need to do is to go in to these communities where these situations have occurred and in communities where they could occur in the future. Make sure that the police are very, very well trained; that they understand the confrontation that they will have in the line of duty; and that the best way to handle it.

And there are certainly, certainly better ways to handle it than what we saw in Baton Rouge and unfortunately here in Sacramento. It's going to take a very well trained police force and what I don't understand is why you shoot to kill.

NOBLES: Right.

GARAMENDI: I'm a gun owner. I've been around many, many situations; obviously, nothing like this. But shoot to kill and multiple shots -- I just don't understand how that happens.

NOBLES: Ok. I want to get your reaction to some other topics as well, Congressman.


NOBLES: Let's talk about the President's proposed border wall. This week the President floating the idea of using Pentagon money to pick up the construction costs. I mean you're a member of the Armed Services Committee. You know a lot about the Defense Department's budget. Do you think that's the right course of action?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely not. I mean this is -- this is crazy -- among the many crazy things. And by the way, Mr. President, you are trying to keep your campaign promise of building a border wall. How about the rest of the promise, Mr. President? You said Mexico will pay for it.

No, no. You're going to take that money out of the military, out of military preparedness, out of the necessary weapons and ammunition that our military needs so that you can build your border wall? Maintain just one half of your promise? Let's stop this.

Let's be very, very rational here. First of all, a border wall $28 billion -- it borders on insanity to do that. And by the way, most of the drugs captured are captured on the high seas by the Coast Guard. Ten times more than are captured on the land. This is just beyond, beyond being foolish.

NOBLES: Other topics I want to get to.


NOBLES: We learned that a National Security Council meeting is set for this Tuesday to discuss Syria. This comes after the President's comments on Thursday. Take a listen to what the President had to say.


NOBLES: Now this obviously comes as some staffing is going to be changed on the National Security Council. The main national security adviser H.R. McMaster -- he's going to be presiding over these discussions. But it's not long before John Bolton the former ambassador to the United Nations assumes his job at the White House. How important do you think this meeting is on Tuesday?

GARAMENDI: It's extremely important. The fact of the matter is the ISIS defeat began with a very serious program put together by President Obama three years ago, carried out for -- during his entire administration. And then appropriately finished or nearly finished in the last year by the Trump administration. The military's done a good job with it.

But beyond all of that is, what is the American policy in Syria. The situation in that country is extraordinarily of concern to certainly myself and to this nation.

[11:25:06] Russia is playing a major role. In fact, Russia has in Syria men who are perhaps disassociated or not directly associated with the Russian army but they are little green men operating and they did, more than 200 of them, attack an American-Kurdish position. Fortunately, we were able to strike back and stop that attack and to the detriment of many of those soldiers.

Now what is this policy? We have not heard a rational long-term policy about how we're going to deal with Syria. We know that Iran is seriously in the Assad government now.

We know that this is a great concern to our principle ally, Israel. We know that Turkey has problems with the Kurds who happen to be the force that we have been working with to defeat ISIS. We need to have a very clear, comprehensive strategy of how we're going to go forward or else we're going to turn Syria over to both Iran and to Russia -- right in the heart of the Middle East. And that is not a good thing for this nation nor for the stability of the Middle East. So we need to have this government, Trump administration, look at this in a comprehensive way, put together a comprehensive policy. Recognizing that Assad was not defeated in the Syria civil war and that Russia is re-establishing itself as a major player as is Iran both of whom are not friends of America.

Where does John Bolton fit into this? We'll see. He's a super hawk. He's ready to go out and go to war with Iran right now by ending the nuclear deal that was put together during the Obama administration.

NOBLES: All right. Congressman -- obviously we'll have to see if a clear vision of the American policy as it relates to Syria --

GARAMENDI: Absolutely.

NOBLES: -- comes out after this National Security Council meeting.

GARAMENDI: Let's be hopeful.

NOBLES: Congressman John Garamendi -- thank you very much for joining me.