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City Council Member Larken Egleston (D), Charlotte, NC Discusses Trump Threatening To Move Republican Convention; Protesters Against Quarantine Hang Kentucky Governor In Effigy; Former DHS Chief: Some Schools Shouldn't Open Until Vaccine. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 13:30   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: And with Twitter, does not seem they want to penalize him in this case.

BRIANNE KEILAR, CNN HOST: Brian Stelter, we appreciate it. Brian Stelter, the anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

STELTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Trump is lashing out at Democratic governor of North Carolina, threatening to yank the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte where it is scheduled the take place in late August.

In a string of blistering tweets on this Memorial Day holiday, the president accused Governor Roy Cooper of being in, quote, "shutdown mood" and unable to guarantee that by August the arena can be filled to compacity.

The RNC backing the president, saying that he needs assurances from the governor that a full in-person convention can occur.

North Carolina, like many other states in the country, is dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It's had more than 23,000 cases and 784 deaths. It's now in their first full week of phase two of its reopening plan.

Joining me now is Charlotte City Council Member, Larken Egleston.

You were the deciding swing vote that brought the RNC convention to Charlotte. You got a lot of guff for that.

What do you think of the president's argument here? What are your concerns of filling that arena to capacity?

LARKEN EGLESTON, (D), CITY COUNCIL MEMBER, CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA: I don't think it is realistic. It does not mean there some sort of in- person convention here in Charlotte.

But as in the case of any event that we host in the next couple of months or even through the end of the year, you have to reevaluate and understand it is not going to be the way that you imagine it is going to be. Democrats have been forward about saying that the convention in

Milwaukee will be the week before the RNC will have to look different than the convention in Philadelphia we held four years ago.

I was just elected to be a delegate to Joe Biden. I understand that might not mean going to Milwaukie at this point.

I think it is unrealistic for the president or anybody to expect Governor Cooper or state or county health directors to be able to guarantee anything about what three months from now looks like.

KEILAR: What would it mean, Council Member, economically if the RNC decides to pull out?

EGLESTON: It will be a huge economic impact. I know a lot of our small businesses here in town are counting on this as a shot in the arm to help recover from the economy hardship felt in the last two months.

But our top priority has to continue to be the health and well-being of our citizens. And the economic impact from that is part of that equation but public health safety has to precede that. I think that's what Governor Cooper, the secretary and our county health director have put as their priority and we'll continue to.

KEILAR: Earlier this month, the president accused the governor of, quote, "playing politics," with the phased approach reopening the state.

Governor Cooper says he'll let data and science guide him and not politics.

This is what he told CNN last week about the convention.


ROY COOPER, (D), NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: I think that in order to truly boost our economy, people are going to have to feel confident in they're safe. They'll do that when the government shows them that we are relying on these figures.

This is not political. This is not emotional. This is based on health experts, data and science. And that's it for everybody to see. So, no one is being favored or disfavored over the other.


KEILAR: He said it is not political. I wonder if he thinks there's any way the reopening cannot be politicized at this point considering the environment we are in.

EGLESTON: No, this entire pandemic has become politicized. It is disappointing. I think, at first, at least in our state, we were seeing a lot of bipartisan cooperation for doing what's best for the city of North Carolina.

The only thing that would have a more direct economic impact that losing a convention of this size, along with the other events we expect to have this fall, would be if we had to go back into some sort of a modified stay-at-home order and reverse some of the reopening that we are doing.

If we are reckless about this reopening and the events we hold and what parameters are set on them, we'll have to go backward. And that would be more dire for small businesses and that shot in the arm than the loss of a single convention.

KEILAR: Vice President Mike Pence says the convention can be moved. He mentioned Texas, Florida and Georgia. And all three states with Republican governors who are moving more quickly on reopening. What do you think of Pence's comments?

EGLESTON: I think it is all a test. Years of planning go into these conventions. For a new venue, a new host city to be asked to put together in three months would be difficult.

Frankly, I think the reason they are moving because they don't want to adhere to some of the precautions that our governor and state health direct think are necessary.


I think it would be reckless of those states that thing to do so without putting precautions in place.

KEILAR: Councilman, thank you so much. We really appreciate you joining us.

EGLESTON: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Dr. Birx, if the White House Task Force on coronavirus, says an expedited vaccine is possible but what are the risks of that?

Plus, protesters who are against the quarantine measures hang the Kentucky governor effigy. Hear from someone who as there.

As the president says schools need to reopen as soon as possible, the former head of Homeland Security says some schools should not be fully reopened until there's some vaccines.



KEILAR: In Kentucky, anti-quarantine protesters hung the governor, Andy Beshear, in effigy on a tree outside the governor's mansion.

A warning, this video may be disturbing.

This was a stuffed dummy and it had a picture of the governor's face on it. The demonstration was advertised as a rally to exercise Second Amendment rights. One protester did eventually cut this down.

Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who is from Kentucky, is one of several Republicans condemning this tactic.

Gerry Seavo James is a journalist who has been covering the Second Amendment rallies in Kentucky.

You were there yesterday and you saw this and you called it chilling. Tell us what happened.

GERRY SEAVO JAMES, JOURNALIST: So, yes,, I actually run and an environmental organization and I have a journalist background so I've been covering these anti-lockdown rallies just to understand why people are doing this and why we are so partisan when governors are trying to protect the public's health. I was curious of what Second Amendment rights had to do with the lockdown.

Yesterday, standard political rally fair. A lot of rhetoric and different things of that sort. And as I was packing up to leave, I noticed there was some gentleman saying, don't leave yet, we're going to hang an effigy. Effigy? OK, this is what's going to happen.

These guys went to a truck and they got a bag out and they pulled an effigy of Governor Beshear out of the bag. Then they proceeded to string him up on this tree on the capitol lawn.

KEILAR: What was your reaction? Other folks who may have been there who were onlookers but weren't apart of the protest, what was the reaction?

JAMES: My reaction, just as an African-American, and I spoke about this, there's this inner generational trauma triggers when you think of images of ethical and stuff like that. For me that popped in my head.

And there's people that have kids that were around there pointing at it and taking pictures of it. There's a woman went behind the effigy and holding up signs.

For me I was like -- this is terrible. And other folks were jovial about it. There were a lot of mixed feelings about.

In the video, if you watched it, you can hear the organizer and I tried to speak to him. Listen, do you think this belong in 2020, this type of rhetoric? This is images during the Jim Crow area, civil rights era. What is the message you are trying to send to people? He said, we are trying to put the governor and the governor on notice.

To me, that was an implied threat.

KEILAR: Gerry Seavo James, we appreciate you coming on and telling us what happened. We appreciate you were there to cover it. We know it was a difficult thing to cover and for a lot of people to look at. It is so important for us to talk about it. We want to thank you.

JAMES: Can I say some more? I just want to say --

KEILAR: Sure. JAMES: -- this is not indicative of Kentucky. For the most part, if you look at the statistics, you know all the reports that's coming out, we had a great pro-public health and pro-citizens and worker response to the virus. For the most part, people across the commonwealth and have been

working together to contain and help uplift people.


This is a terrible thing. And I don't want people to think this is indicative of our state. These are issues that we need to talk about. This type of rhetoric that we need to root out. That's really important to me.

KEILAR: And you are here having this conversation with us. We are thankful for that.

Thank you so much for joining us.

JAMES: Thank you.

As cases explode in Brazil, its president calling the virus a little flu and shaking hands with crowds of people and no masks.

Plus, more than 250 employees at a Tyson Food plant testing positive. A lot of them are asymptomatic as outbreaks arise inside factories.

As the president says schools need to reopen as soon as possible, the former head of Homeland Security said some should not be fully opened until there's a vaccine.



KEILAR: As the official school year ends across the country, debate over how and when to safely reopen K through 12 classrooms in the fall is heating up. Many parents cannot return to work to help reopen the economy if they don't have childcare. And safety here is the driving concern.

The country's former Homeland Security chief co-chairs an advisory group that believes schools in the nation's capital should not fully reopen until there's a vaccine.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER DHS DIRECTOR: During the next period of time, we should slowly begin to bring students in. Those entering transitional grades or needing extra instruction would come in first.

We'd make sure to maintain distancing in classrooms, to keep the collection of people in a particular classroom below a certain number like 10, to make sure the same youngsters were together throughout the day so you don't have a lot of people mixing with other groups.

Eventually during the course of this time, to basically reopen, but in a very measured and deliberate way.


KEILAR: Here now are Kirsten Grove, a Pennsylvania elementary school teacher, and Sarah Bentley, an elementary school principal from Michigan.

Thank you both for coming on to really give us the inside look at this.

Kirsten, the president tweeted last night that he wants all U.S. schools opened ASAP. What's your response to that?

KIRSTEN GROVE, PENNSYLVANIA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: My response to that is that it cannot be a rushed measure. It's something that school administrators are working tirelessly to figure out how it would look best in their communities. And it's just not something to be rushed or taken lightly. And we have to keep the student's safety in the forefront.

KEILAR: And, Principal Bentley, what would it take for you to safely reopen your school?

SARAH BENTLEY, MICHIGAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: First of all, we have to look at the circumstances present. We need to look at the experts in our health and medical fields so that we can be confident that we can keep our students safe.

As a school principal, my number-one job is to ensure student's safety so that learning can happen. We need clear guidance for safety measures, funding for PPE, and a potential for increased human resource cost, as well to be able to confidently let our families know that we can keep our kids safe.

KEILAR: Kirsten, would you personally feel safe returning to the classroom right now?

GROVE: Right now, like the principal said, without a clear, defined plan in place, I would not personally feel ready to go back to the classroom. And in teaching first grade, there's a lot of collaborative play, a lot of shared materials, a lot of people in one space.

So until we know that our kids can be safe, and what that looks like across all grade levels, I don't think I would, no, I would not feel comfortable at this time.

KEILAR: And, Principal, I mean, I hear you both saying there need to be these specific guidelines, right? There's a lot of parents also right now who are worried, oh, my goodness, my children are falling behind.

Have you been thinking about long-term what may need to be in place when we're talking about remediation to get kids up to speed?


GROVE: Absolutely. As educators, that's all we do.

BENTLEY: Yes. And I can chime in on that as well. First and foremost, that is one of our concerns. And also, during this time, it's equity for all of our students. Being in Michigan, our infrastructure supports so all families cannot easily access the Internet. That's creating obstacles.

Also, student engagement is declining over time of distance learning. We really need that in-person connection. We need that in-person connection.

But what educators do best is just what we're going to do. When we get our kids back, we're going to closely watch our gaps, to be certain that we meet students where they are when we come back in person to support them moving forward.


KEILAR: Kirsten, that's all we think of.

GROVE: That's what we do.


KEILAR: Kirsten Grove, Sarah Bentley -- sorry, Kirsten, final word?

GROVE: I apologize. I just said we meet our students where we are and move them forward every year no matter the circumstance.

KEILAR: We're so proud of you and all of America's teachers and administrators as you're reinventing yourselves professionally to serve the kids of this country.

Kirsten Grove, Sarah Bentley, thank you.

BENTLEY: Thank you very much, Brianna.


KEILAR: The mayor of Houston so furious about crowded places over the weekend, he's reversing course and taking action. And he'll join us live to discuss that.

Plus, as cases rise across the south, today, in Alabama, a new warning the health care system is at risk of running out of ICU beds.

As we hear positive news about potential vaccines, a little bit of reality from one of the top groups that is working on one. Hear Oxford's new warning.



KEILAR: In his first public appearance in months, former vice president and presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden, left his home to commemorate Memorial Day.