Former President Bill Clinton phoned in to CNN Thursday afternoon to discuss gun control in the wake of the school shooting in a California high school.
He also said President Trump is wrong to use the ongoing impeachment inquiry as an "excuse" not to "go to work for the American people." Attorney General Bill Barr said Wednesday that the administration could not move forward on gun control legislation due to the impeachment inquiry.
"Look at how much we got done in 1998-1999," Clinton said, pointing to the time period surrounding his own impeachment.
"We had very productive actions in all three years," Clinton said. "Once the public rendered judgment on what they thought should be done I kept working with [the Republican Congress]. That's just an excuse."
"[President Trump] did indicate a couple of times he would go along with this and then obviously, the gun law got ahold of him and pulled him back, but at some point, denial is no longer an option," the former president said. "And the Congress is basically in denial of the consequences of doing nothing."
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Now, there is nobody in the world who is more of an expert on the need and ability to work with Congress at the same time that they're impeaching you. I wonder, what is your reaction to [Attorney General Bill] Barr saying, well, the House Democrats decided to impeach, therefore we can't do anything on guns?
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, my answer is, look at how much we got done in 1998-1999.
And even in '97. We had very productive actions in all three years. The only really tough year we had, after the Republicans won the Congress, was '95 to the beginning of '96 when they shut the government down twice. Once the public rendered judgment on what they thought should be done I kept working with them. That's just an excuse.
TAPPER: What would your message to President Trump be? What would your message to president trump be about when he says I can't work with these people. They're impeaching me?
BILL CLINTON: My message was, would be, look, you got hired to do a job. You don't get the days back once they're lost -- every day's an opportunity to make something good happen. And I would say I've got lawyers and staff people handling the impeachment inquiry and they should just have at it, meanwhile, I'm going to work for the American people. That's when I would do.
He did indicate a couple of times he would go along with this and then obviously, the gun law got ahold of him and pulled him back, but at some point, denial is no longer an option, and the Congress is basically in denial of the consequences of doing nothing. Whereas, at least the people who are opposed to it.
The easiest thing to do, if they don't want to pass the assault weapon ban and ammunition clip limit, which I strongly believe they should, just look at the staggering increase in mass shootings since the assault weapon ban expired. If they don't want to do this at least give us a clean background check law. One that works in the modern world. Take advantage of our information technology. And basically doesn't bend over backwards to make it easy for people who have no business getting these guns.
TAPPER: Lastly, sir, we haven't heard from the current president after this school shooting. These school shootings happened, it feels, at least, more often than they did in the '90s. I'm wondering for any American parent out there or child who is today scared what your message to them would be.
BILL CLINTON: My message is, first of all, your school should do everything they possibly can to minimize this, but they did gun safety drills in the school where the shooting occurred, and that you deserve an environment which minimizes your risks. We can minimize your risk without doing anything to the right that having arms for hunting, sport shooting or self-protection. Nothing, zero, nada. It doesn't affect that at all to have a good, comprehensive background check law.
And from my point of view, it does nothing to ban military-style assault weapons and ammunition clips over a certain size. When we did it, no one missed any time hunting or sport shooting and no one complained they couldn't really protect their homes if they didn't have, you know, an assault weapon.
But if you continue to pretend that you can deal with all this by violations of existing law without trying to prevent it, you're going to continue to have these things happen.
And we don't know what the facts are here now. I don't know what kind of weapons this young man used. I don't know what went on there. But I do know this. In most of these cases, if we had an aggressive preventive program, it doesn't interfere, with Second Amendment rights, the Supreme Court specified, we could have prevented or minimized the damage.
I remember at one point in the '90s, when I was president, a study came out saying that if you got shot with an assault weapon, you were three times likely to die from the wound than if you got one bullet in you from a revolver or from another kind of handgun.
So we just need to calm down and take this out of politics, and give more of our kids a better future. I mean, it's just -- it doesn't make any sense, and it's -- the political argument that you raised at the beginning is absolutely right. There were people who lost their careers in Congress because of that. And one reason we lost the majority in Congress in '94 was because of that. But it's not that way anymore. It's now a voting issue for the people that agree with us. So if you're just worried about the naked politics, it's at least a wash, and people should insist on doing what's right for the children.