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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bracing For Fifth Night of Protests; Gov. Nixon: Highway Patrol to Take Over Protest Response; Family Demands Answers In Brown's Death; Interview with Ryan Reilly

Aired August 14, 2014 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GOV. JAY NIXON, D-MISSOURI: That's it's our sense that a -- as we say, a softer front might yield an avenue for appropriate energy absent direct confrontation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- the incident report that will contain the name of the officer who shot Mike Brown. It seems pretty clear under state law that is an open record. Should that be released?

NIXON: First of all, I don't know the name of the officer. I'm not conducting either of the investigations. I spent the better part of my career doing that stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Missouri state law.

NIXON: I don't want to get into a debate about what the law is or is not other than to say that I would hope that the appropriate release of that name with the security around it if necessary to make sure that there's not additional acts of violence be done as expeditiously as possible.

There's certainly in my view methods and abilities to do that. I'm not sure litigation is the best of them. I'll let others choose that. I think it will be an important milestone here to get that out as expeditiously as possible. Yes, Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fair or unfair -- (inaudible) talk about what your thought processes were and what prompted you now to actually take control?

NIXON: I mean, we've been involved and Captain Johnson and the patrol has been part of this multidisciplinary team. We've been monitoring it very carefully. This is not my first time I've been on the phone with both local officials. It's not the first time I've had a chance to speak with these elected leaders.

We're monitoring this closely. You clearly want solutions if at all possible to be done as locally as possible. You really want -- you want folks to feel engaged so that you get not merely a short-term operational gain, but much more importantly than that, a long-term you know trust build.

So you want to be in a situation in which you want to at the state level support folks that are out there facing the tough calls, making the tough calls and doing this. We watched it very carefully. I just felt that at this particular point, that the attitudes weren't improving.

And that the blocks towards expression appeared to be a flash point. And that if we put you know, some folks, some people first, that we'd be in a better situation. I've been monitoring closely and you know felt that this was the appropriate time to make this had operational shift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor.

NIXON: Real quick, David. I'm here. Don't worry. You'll get me. David?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, will the Ferguson Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department still be providing the feet on the ground as far as the police officers go or will the highway patrol be stepping in with more of its officers?

NIXON: Captain Johnson will be the lead in the security portion of this. We'll have significant resources and patrol. They will continue to be part of the multidisciplinary team with shifts from the local region to assist that. We expect we'll continue to rely on a joint force in this area to make sure with the various shifts involved. But operationally, the patrol will be the lead agency when it comes to security.

I'm sorry. You know, we'll have the -- we'll have whatever is out there. I think that the challenge we face to date is not whether you have enough officers or not. The challenge we face today is not whether you had enough resources or not.

The challenge is not whether you've shown enough strength on the police side or not. I think we've shown that. That's why I think a little shift here and a little operational shift with a little more flexibility at this point could provide breathing space to for both expression.

I should warn we're certainly going to protect business owners and families and others from indiscriminate acts or illegal acts. There will be adequate force there. I just don't think the size of the force has been the key stress. Back here, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several people said that they were arrested for protesting peacefully yesterday. And that they spent the night in jail, some of them 16 hours and then just released, walked right out of jail. And so my question is, your thoughts on that. Will you look into that?

Secondly as you've talked about the presence from last night, what you hear repeatedly from the folks in Ferguson, they're dumbfounded by the overwhelming and over the top response they saw last night. What I think you've tried to touch on it. I don't think you've quite answered that question.

NIXON: There's been gunfire. Both sides. Let's not kid ourselves. This has been a difficult zone. There has been -- there have been -- there's been a great deal of activity in that region. So I think that tonight you'll see and today you'll see without going through any of the operational stuff, which was up to the team as they worked this morning and tonight to move forward.

But I think what you're going to see is an attempt and successful attempt in my view to move forward people and to move back a little bit of equipment. That doesn't mean we're giving up on keeping rule of law or keeping control of any aberrant or criminal behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, what do you say to the underlying concern in the community here that there has been a long habit of police harassment in the North St. Louis County, traffic stops, multiple housing violations, particularly the revenue for municipalities that have limited resources as the economy here in this area has gone down.

NIXON: As I said the other night at the church, this feels a little like an old wound that has been hit again and so the pain you feel is not just from the individual action. It feels like a little bit of a long time simmering. And that I think is natural for all of us to see and to watch.

I think the changes we face go much more deep. That doesn't show a lack of respect for any of the victims that have suffered so far or the deaths we've had in any way, shape, or form. The key to this is to get control, let voices be heard, make sure we protect property, dual process of opening up and being more free. Showing less force on the front side.

Ultimately getting to some of the deeper problems. I mean, this is -- these are you know, deep and existing problems not only in Missouri, but in America and this has clearly touched a nerve. That nerve is not merely from this more risk incident that happened a few short days ago or any of the interim things. It touches a deeper nerve.

That I think while we're focused today on a shorter term operational thing, I think ultimately we will be graded or gauged as to whether or not this was an opportunity used to begin to make some longer term understanding and healing.

So I do believe that this touched a an old wound, a deeper nerve and incumbent upon all of us to respect those that have been lost to make sure that justice served, but to make sure we keep order, to allow voices to be heard, but long range, when we say voices to be heard, that means people listen to also.

It doesn't just mean people talking. Voices being heard is not just letting people say they're side. It's opening their mouths and your ears. This is in that sense a clear opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, may I ask a question?

NIXON: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had rioting on Sunday night as the police stayed back. Then they moved in more aggressively and they've been criticized for that. Some people say we haven't had any looting or burning since then. Is there a Plan B if this new kinder, gentler approach yields more looting and rioting?

NIXON: We will have adequate resources to deal with public safety issues that arise in this region. Those of you that know me and know the people that are involved here as well as the fine professionals in this region.

As I said before, I don't think there's any doubt whether we've got enough resources to deal with this. We'll use those resources a little differently, calibrated in different orders, but rest assured we're going to do our best to re-establish the rule of law and then subsequently expand the trust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor --

NIXON: I think there's a lot of -- once again, I'm not involved in the investigative side. All that is going to operate on separate tracks. You'll see activities occur that have potential flash points in the community. That's why it's important now to I think make a little shift in this and operationally.

There's a lot to be done, but there are some checkpoints as we move forward that are going to be very emotional. That are going to be moments when you know, folks may disagree or agree what the outcomes are. A lot of stuff between now and the finish.

Two significant investigations going on at the same time. Our goal is to make sure operationally and systematically that we're getting peace and using this on that front to garner opportunities in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've talked about trying to heal that wound that's been here for a long time. Do you have any specs you could offer us on things you'd like to see done?

NIXON: Like I said, we're a little focused right now on operational things. We'd like to see folks feel comfortable and hearing their voices and making sure other people's lives and property are protected. We'd like to see the danger level go down.

We'd like to see the investigations out there get completed. We'd like to see those done in a fashion that's transparent and timely so that these important facts get out in the public. I think that it's real important for people to know what happened and how it happened and then we'll begin to process that.

The sooner we can get to those, that's extremely important here. And long-range, institutions like this and the schools, I do appreciate Representative Pearson and some of the others this morning had listening sessions with the students in schools here.

That's an important step to engage with those, the young folks. I think some of these other representatives are doing just the same. And you know, that's an important part of this process, too.

I hope to be involved appropriately once we get through the situation operational things we have to get accomplished in the next day or two. Yes, sir. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By holding St. Louis police back, do you have a sense you're throwing them under the bus for doing their job?

NIXON: Absolutely not. Captain Johnson has been in the operation center. What we're doing is putting a -- we're making a little organizational shift here that I think will reflect I think some other things that all those folks were doing.

I respect the folks that wear those uniforms and wear this badge. Most of you know I have a lifetime of being involved in requirement. People that choose as a contemporary to run to trouble not away from it are here rows we have. They're stressed right now.

It's been a difficult couple weeks here. Getting this operational shift is I think something that will give everybody a breath of fresh air. We're not -- this isn't about looking in the rear view mirror. We're trying to keep our eyes focused on what's in front of us. All the way back, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, there have been calls for a special prosecutor. What are your thoughts about that?

NIXON: We've got two already. We've got the Justice Department and we've got fine seasoned team at St. Louis County. I think that -- let's let them do their work is my view. You got two the parallel tracks, FBI, Justice Department, you've got the fine folks at the St. Louis here with a lot of experience.

I think we let them do their jobs. They're doing a lot of work out there. They're I know they're hustling their tails off. Nobody's enjoying the time lines we've got. They want to get it right and they will.

I don't think adding a third at this particular juncture until we get the transparency here and see the outcome of that is appropriate. There's already two folks looking over each other. That's unique anyway.

I think that's going to work because General Holder and his team from Justice as well as Prosecutor McCall and his team are seasoned professionals. I would not think that bringing a third lane in that particular thing is going to be helpful at this juncture. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, can you characterize a little bit your relationship with the black community, how it's evolved over the past week and shaped your response to all of this?

NIXON: I mean, the -- I appreciate the relationship I have with so many of my friends from so many years in this community and the stress and pressures that they've helped me with over the years. Not only these fine four leaders but many others, I tremendously appreciate that.

I don't think this is a time to -- and I'm going to continue to not use this as a time to divide or to draw differences or see how loud I can talk or see how sharp I can say. Other people have first anticipate rights. I've got executive challenges here.

So I think that the relationship is good and professional. And in many ways very personal with a number of folks and I look forward to you know, natural process of the first amendment and democracy and ask people to agree and disagree in public.

That's part of the life of living. If you're not -- if you're not up for dealing with the critiques of actions and inactions in this job, you shouldn't seek it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor over here, if you could. Speaking of first amendment rights, could you respond to criticism of your handling of the situation that came in the form of a tweet from State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal that included a four letter word?

NIXON: Good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's near the Gs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you familiar with it?

NIXON: You know, I get the access. You guys subpoenaed a lot of stuff out. I can be see some of it. I don't -- I don't it's not how I communicate. And I don't -- I -- I try to put gasoline into the engine of fire engines when I see them, not on the fires that are existing. I find doing that is more productive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, have you been able to talk to the Brown family?

NIXON: We tried to. We'll get that opportunity soon. We've certainly been in contact with them. I wanted to -- I have been impressed by their comments calling for peace and justice. And I thank them for that.

I think they have been resolute in their recommendation to the communities that violence is not the answer. And I know they're going through difficult times, very difficult times. I think that while we were we had a chance to get together that the schedules got bumped.

I'll sure we'll get a chance to sit with them. With the things in front of me right now, it was important for me to get this strategic alignment accomplished and then working tonight. I've been more focused today on some of the operational aspects. Anybody else? Yes, Dave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd still like to hear from Captain Johnson what he says he's going to do different tonight.

NIXON: I'll let Captain Johnson make a few moments. I should say, just asking members of the law enforcement before what they're doing, what they're going to do is you know, they try to -- but Captain Johnson's --

CAPTAIN JOHNSON: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So captain, I was wondering, what are you going to do differently tonight? Are you still going to roll in there with armored vehicles and police in full body gear or have a different appearance? Can you give us an overview of that?

JOHNSON: We're going to go back in a sense today and we're going to start from today. We're not going to look back in the past. When we talk about boots on the ground, my boots will be on the ground. And actually, I plan on myself walking to the quick trip that has been called ground zero and meeting with the folks there myself tonight.

And so we are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we're in this together. So that's going to be an approach we'll have tonight. And look at our resources and make sure we're not taking resources out there that we don't need.

But when we do need those resources, they still be here. We'll just reassess and we plan on trying to keep it open today and let people speak and hear what they're talking about, like the governor said, not just let him speak but listening.

So we will have a different approach today. I believe you'll see that. I believe that was in the plan before this meeting we talked last night with the police chief of St. Louis County and those were the plans we had for today.

We all went home last night and before we left, we talked about going home and thinking about what we were going to do for today. And I can tell that you when I got home last night, my wife was out of town and my son wasn't home.

Before I got into the bed like I do each and every night, I pray for a different morning today. And I believe today is going to a different day for our community. This afternoon, I had a chance to go to River Gardens High School, sit down and speak with 25 students.

One young lady sat in the back with tears in her eyes and said I hate to cry. I almost had tears in my eyes. But I told her we're going to make a change and make a difference. I told each of those students if they have issues they should call us.

But I also gave those students my address to my office. I told them to write me a letter about how they felt and how this has impacted them. When this is over, I am going to read that to the troopers who are assigned here at Troop C.

And I got an e-mail a text on my phone from the head of security at the school. I said those students went back to their class and told their friends that they believe we're going to make a change today, and we are.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We've been listening to a press conference from a number of officials from the state of Missouri, Jay Nixon, the Democratic governor, of course.

I want to bring in Anthony Gray, one of the attorneys for the family of Michael Brown who was, of course, killed an unarmed 18-year-old on Saturday. I want to get your reaction to some of this news.

The governor announcing that the Ferguson police and the St. Louis County Police are no longer going to be in charge of security for this area, instead, it's going to be the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He was very nice about it, the governor, but that is a clear vote of no confidence. Your reaction?

ANTHONY GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN'S FAMILY: I think you can interpret it that way. I think what the governor is trying to do is find solutions and think out of the box. I agree with him a shift in approach and mentality is great. I think having Captain Ron Johnson in control.

TAPPERY: From the highway patrol.

GRAY: From the highway patrol, I love what he said. I'm in total agreement with his sentiments. I do think this would allow us the space we need to perhaps make a change on the street.

TAPPER: What is the difference between the highway patrol providing security here and the local police? Obviously we all saw Captain Ron Johnson is African-American. I don't know if you feel like that would mean he would be more sensitive and attuned to the sensitivities of the community or what. What is the difference?

GRAY: I think you pretty much hit on a good point. The fact he is an African-American commander with the highway patrol does send somewhat of a signal that they are applying resources and utilizing people that may have that level of sensitivity that's needed on the ground right now. I believe that captain Ron Johnson will bring that to the forefront, which is well needed at this point.

TAPPER: Let me ask you how the family is doing, Michael Brown's family, the grieving mother, the grieving father. Have they been satisfied at all with anything they've heard from the police, any steps in the investigation?

GRAY: Not from the local authorities. I need to make that very clear. They have spoken with the highest level of authorities at the federal level.

TAPPER: The Justice Department.

GRAY: I think they have a sense of comfort that came from those discussions.

TAPPER: You just came from a meeting with those Justice Department officials. What did they tell you?

GRAY: Well, I can't get into that. It was a very private conversation. And but I can tell you I think we all left of the somewhat way more comfortable than we came into the meeting with.

TAPPER: Are we going to hear from the family? Do they plan any sort of press conference or anything along those lines? GRAY: We're discussing that right now. No definitive days and times for a press conference per se. I do know the mom desires to participate in some of the vigils and some of the peaceful demonstrations going on. She likes to be a part of that on a national level to make sure that we make a call for peace and calm.

And let me just add that this is not a black/white issue. I heard the reporter ask a question. There are lots of people that have contacted me from all races, all creeds and nationalities. I want everybody to know this is a unified effort to remain calm and find out what happened. Period.

So I don't want there to be a sense that this is divided amongst any class of people because from the parents' standpoint and from my standpoint, it is not.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, President Obama accuses cops in Missouri of bullying journalists as reporters are arrested. And one of here released from custody tells us his story. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're live here at ground zero in Ferguson, Missouri. I'm here with one of the reporters who was arrested last night for daring to practice journalism.

Ryan Reilly, reporter with the "Huffington Post" joins me with more on what happened. We only have a little time. I care what happens to journalists. Explain to viewers why they should care.

RYAN REILLY, JUSTICE REPORTER, "HUFFINGTON POST": We're sort of witnessing what's happening here. If we can't see what's happening, then the rest of the world doesn't see what's happening. The fact that you know, just the circumstances under which we were treated.

We were sitting both of us were sitting in McDonald's working on our laptops and didn't pack up quickly enough. That was the justification and for reporting the police. That was evidence, that was enough for them to sort of decide to lock us up.

TAPPER: What bothered them, that you were videotaping them?

REILLY: It was a combination of things, both that we were videotaping and weren't packing up quickly enough. Officer grabbed my things and threw it into my bag. It was an extraordinary moment I need to capture. Here's a heavily armed police officer in a McDonald's, a tranquil McDonald's before they walked in.

It was like any McDonalds. Everyone was hanging around. Because we were spread out and preparing for the night, we had a lot of stuff to pack up into our bags. So it was going to take us a little bit longer to begin with.

We weren't trying to antagonize the situation. That's not what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to be reporting. I came here to report. Hopefully today get back to that.

TAPPER: One does wonder if an officer of the law has disdain for the first amendment, if he cares much about any of the other ones as well. Are you surprised that the governor announced that highway patrol was taking over security for this area, a slap in the face to the local police?

REILLY: I mean, based on last night, I think one thing that lost a little bit was just what time this happened at. It was very early in the evening, broad daylight. Very peaceful protest. There was a boom box. They were playing songs. It wasn't anything violent at all.

They decided to shut down the entire area and push people out of their own communities. A lot of people protesting live in the community and they were pushed this way especially when have you out of town officers.

People were stuck back in communities because they wanted them to go to the other side, but there was no place for them to go. Hopefully, I'll not be stuck in a cell and be able to get a sense what's happening for myself.

TAPPER: What do you say to any of the critics saying this is just reporters trying to make themselves the story?

REILLY: I hate that. That's not what I came here for. I'd much rather be -- a got a lot of great material I'm hopefully going to still be able to use.

TAPPER: Look forward to reading it. We got to go. Thank you so much. That's for THE LEAD. We go to Wolf Blitzer who is in "THE SITUATION ROOM."