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Protests over George Floyd Death Turn into Riots, Looting; U.S. Passes 100,000 Deaths; Dr. Crystal Watson Discusses U.S.'s 100,000 Coronavirus Deaths, CDC Releasing Return-to-Work Guidelines. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


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[11:00:20]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John King, in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The president pausing this morning to acknowledge the truly awful coronavirus reality, 100,000 Americans now dead. "God be with you," the president tells grieving families this morning. The tone of that tweet just what we expect to hear from our presidents.

The rest of the president's morning message, though, is grievance as usual, lashing out at critics, promising to punish social media companies and highlight the views of those who call mask requirements and recommendations for a governor power grab. Another example of the president taking issue with his own scientists who say masks are critical to manage the cases and the death count, especially now as state restrictions are being lifted.

More evidence today, sadly, of the coronavirus pandemic loss, 2.1 million Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits last week. The sum total of the coronavirus job destruction, 40-plus million Americans. That's nearly one in four American workers filing for unemployment.

In Minneapolis, a black family's pain today is now the source of the city's raw rage. Minneapolis burning last night. See those horrible pictures there. A reaction to a police killing caught on tape. Protests turning into riots and looting.

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KING: The Target there, you see, ransacked.

The fury spilling over after video showed a policeman pinning a man to the ground, the officer's knee on George Floyd's neck. Floyd's cries for help and air ignored. His death is now subject to a federal investigation. The Minneapolis mayor this morning calls Floyd's death a murder. Floyd's brother calls it an execution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I grew up with him. That was my brother. I love him. I'm never going to get my brother back.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry.

FLOYD: We need justice. We need justice. The officers need to be arrested. They executed my brother in broad daylight. People had to film that. People had to see that. People pleaded for his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's begin with that sadness and the raw anger in Minneapolis where this morning the mayor called George Floyd's death murder. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that was murder?

JACOB FREY, (D), MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: You do?

FREY: I'm not a prosecutor. But let me be clear. The arresting officer killed someone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us from Minneapolis.

Omar, you've been there following the devastation in the city overnight. What's the scene today?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, John, people are waking up in this part of Minnesota to a city they did not -- they won't recognize from when they went to sleep last night.

Namely you look at buildings like this behind me. This used to be an Auto Zone less than 24 hours ago standing just perfectly, and within a matter of hours, as largely peaceful protests descended into rioting and looting, buildings were set on fire and the destruction you see there's not uncommon in this part of Minneapolis.

I want to draw your attention to a situation we've seen play out over the course of today and highlights the real tension that is still in this community here. A lot of these protests have been centered -- or I should say all of them has been right outside this Minneapolis precinct here. As you look at the scene we're seeing, there's now fencing that has

newly been put in place after their windows were knocked out by protesters who ascended on this location. We now see officers on the roof of this building, monitoring as people have been congregating around.

Then as you go down to the ground level where we're standing right now, you see a line of police officers blocking, as there have been multiple protesters just standing there, many times with their arms crossed, again, in a confrontational sort of stance with police.

The two sides, again, have been in the middle of a very tense few days here in the city of Minneapolis. A lot of the pain in this community over how George Floyd's death unfolded and how it is now being handled.

And while there's pain in the community, the pain is maybe felt more significantly in the family of George Floyd himself.

This is how his family is describing what this time has been like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLOYD: I want everybody to understand that it's just like a child searching for attention. They're doing everything positive, and nobody is listening, and, all of a sudden, they just start checking out.

[11:05:03]

I want people to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt because they're tired of seeing black men die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: That's the sentiment we're hearing from protesters. We are obviously hearing it from the family there. We've heard that sentiment in some ways shared by the mayor, Jacob Frey, here who says that what the arresting officer did was murder.

We are waiting to see the results of multiple investigations playing out at the FBI level, at the state level as well, as to whether criminal charges will be recommended.

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to that major pain point here over how some of George Floyd's last words, "I can't breathe," eventually became an eternal silence -- John?

KING: Omar Jimenez, grateful to have you on the ground at this delicate, raw moment in Minneapolis. We'll come back to this story a big later. Omar, thank you very much. We'll return soon to this story and its developments.

To the coronavirus pandemic, though. Now, 100,000 Americans dead and counting. How high that count goes depends a great deal on how states and individuals manage the reopening now playing out state by state. Let's look at the numbers and the latest trends. Number one, this is

just the global death comparison. The United States now above 100,000. You see the U.K., Italy, France and Spain following the United States at the moment, dwarfing any other country around the world.

If you look at this map, it is a map of sadness. The red circles, the larger the circle, the higher the death count in that particular area. But the circles are everywhere. This virus touching, hurting everybody, every state across America as you watch it play out here.

Let's look at the map right now of where we are on this day as America reopens. Sixteen states heading in the wrong direction. That means the case count is going up. Three, the darkest here. That means 50 percent rate of growth this week compared to last week. So those are troubling numbers there. Ten states in beige are holding steady. And 24 states going down.

Interesting to note, as you look at the map of the states going up, a swath here across the northeast. Straight up through the Midwest as well but a swath here.

Again, as they're going up, not necessarily cause for alarm, there are other issues, hospital rates, rate of infection. But you do see, as the economies reopen, the cases going up across this swath here.

Area of note is D.C. It's about to reopen. D.C., the District of Columbia, will start reopening tomorrow. These are the total confirmed cases. It's Maryland on top, Virginia following, D.C. down here. That is the confirmed cases so far.

What's the trajectory as D.C. plans to reopen? There's a lot of interaction between the suburbs, Maryland and Virginia. D.C., flat down here on a seven-day average. Virginia trending up a little. That's a cause for concern. Maryland, on the other hand, trending down over the seven days.

Again, it's complicated. D.C. residents go back and forth between Virginia and Maryland. Maryland residents come into the district.

The mayor of the District of Columbia says the city is re to reopen carefully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURIEL BOWSER, (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA MAYOR: While I'm lifting the stay-at-home order, I call it stay-at-home-light. We are able to go out of our houses for non-essential work. We can go to parks. We can dine out at restaurants in outside seating and get some personal services that we've missed.

But we can't go crazy, or we know that this virus can get out of hand in our city and in our region, and we could be back to square one.

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KING: Let's continue this conversation. I want to bring in Crystal Watson. She is a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

You see some states trending up, some trending down, some trending -- and I don't want anyone to jump too much conclusions. You see the swath in the northeast, those are states heading in the wrong direction.

That is not necessarily cause for alarm, Crystal, but it is a cause for checking the data, right? If your case count starts to go up, which is inevitable as people get out of their Houses and go back to work, the question is what is the rate of growth, what is the rate of infection, can your hospitals handle it, right?

CRYSTAL WATSON, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: Yes, we need to watch this data very carefully. We need to see if cases are occurring in the community, if the hospitalization rate goes up, if the ICU capacity is getting critical.

There are a number of things that we need to watch to see if we're seeing a big epidemic starting in a number of places around the country.

KING: I just want to show our viewers the seven-day moving average in cases across the United States, because they're starting to be grudgingly come down, is the way I describe it. This has been a stubborn plateau, if you will, the seven-day. The yellow lines are the daily cases that he sees come in. The red line shows it is dropping slowly.

As businesses reopen, as governors and mayors make their plans, as individuals make their own safety plans as they go back to the workplace, what does it tell you? What do you read into the fact that, yes, the national count starting to come down, but, wow, in a stubborn way?

[11:10:09]

WATSON: I think the approach that we've taken with social distancing measures is really to flatten that curve, and we have done that. We have stopped major epidemics in many locations, I believe, and we've prevented the hospital systems from being overwhelmed.

But we're certainly not out of the woods yet. I'm glad to see that that average is trending in the right direction.

But as we reopen, if we relax too much and we don't take these physical distancing measures and take the precautions that we can, then we may see this start to go up again, not just in the fall, as there might be a fall wave, but in the next few weeks as well.

KING: And so as you do your work, what do you see is most important as every individual and every business goes through this process and every workplace is a little different? Some places you're naturally close together, other places you might have the national distancing.

The CDC putting up some guidelines for a return to work that include open windows and doors to circulate air as much as you can, including having an air filtration system. Use transparent shields and physical barriers, single-serve snakes and coffee, routine cleanings, don't shake hands or hug or fist bump. Some of this is common sense.

From what the CDC is saying and the work that you do, what do you think is most important at this moment.

WATSON: The most important thing is try to maintain physical distancing as much as possible, limit your contacts with other people as much as possible, still, even as you start to go out.

We don't know everyone who is carrying this virus. Many people are asymptomatic. So we can't take solace in the fact that someone doesn't appear sick, so we need to maintain those measures as much as we can.

We need our health departments and our government to continue to scale up testing and scale up a workforce for contact tracing because, ultimately, that is how we manage this in a much safer way, is if we're able to identify as many cases as possible and contacts of those cases and break chains of transmission by asking contacts to stay-at- home.

KING: Crystal Watson, grateful for your expertise at this delicate moment. Thank you very much.

WATSON: Thanks very much.

KING: Thank you.

President Trump today, as we noted, offering his thoughts on that grim milestone, 100,000 American deaths. This on Twitter this morning: "We've just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic, deaths reaching 100,000. All of the families and friends of those who have passed, I want to extend heartfelt sympathy and love for everything that these great people stood for and represent. God be with you."

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with live with us in Washington.

Dana, the White House is somewhat sensitive to idea to people saying, where was the president, why was he silent? His press secretary this morning saying the president had already lowered the flags at the White House to half-staff and now making this statement.

This is the tone we expect to hear from our president, whether his name is Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Democrat or Republican. Today, we're grateful for it but we don't always get it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. Part of the issue is that appropriateness of grief was sandwiched in between countless tweets with his grievances about things that are really unnecessary, and in many cases, as we've been talking about with the Twitter situation, things that are absolutely inaccurate and hurtful. And they're conspiratorial. So that is the context in which he is sending this out. But just to focus for a second on where we are. The reality is that

this is a president who has been behind the eight ball on the reaction and on the response since the beginning.

He finally did agree, begrudgingly, to shut down and encourage governors to shut down, but it took him a while, and now he is really trying to move past it.

But you can't move past it when you are the president of the United States and you have a country who is -- this is a country in mourning, grieving, coronavirus, other social disasters that are happening with black America, as you were talking about with Omar.

And this is not a president who emotes. And it's just not who he is. And the expectation is low for him, and it's too bad.

KING: Yes, and it's a horrible moment. And it's a moment for which there's no playbook, again, whether you're Democrat or Republican, whether you're a traditional politician or unorthodox politics like President Trump. There's no playbook for it.

Yet, part of the issue here is he's a few months from his own reelection. He wants to be reelected to four more years. And 100,000 is a devastating piece of the Trump legacy. That's not assigning blame. That's just history. It happened on his watch.

And one of the issues is he has been wildly inconsistent when discussing deaths. Listen.

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[11:15:00]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a very good chance you're not going to die.

The risk to the American people remains very low.

We have 32,000 at this point. It's pretty amazing when you think about it.

There are very low incidents of death.

We're looking to have far fewer deaths than originally thought.

But we'll be under the number of 100,000.

We'll be at about a 60,000 mark.

We don't want people dying in this country. And we've done a great job.

We would have had anywhere from 10 to 20 or 25 times the numbers of deaths if we didn't act the way we did.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: One interesting thing, Dana, with that history, with his likely rival, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, a candidate you interviewed just the other day, put his own statement out saying this.

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JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm so sorry for your loss. I know there's nothing I or anyone else can say or do to dull the sharpness of the pain you feel right now. But I can promise you, from experience, the day will come when the memory of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.

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KING: You mentioned the emoting, the criticism that the current president seems to lack empathy. This is, like it or not, part of the election campaign. Who do you trust? Who do you trust more to deal with coronavirus?

BASH: And it is split along partisan lines. And that is the other part of the unfortunate way that this is unfolding, because the president's impulse historically has been to see where people are enraged about policies put in place by the government and stoke it.

Even though it's his own government, it makes absolutely no sense. It's completely illogical. He's doing that with the whole question of masks and other issues.

The open question going forward is: How is he going to deal with this? This is not going to be going away. He can continue to, you know, put fire on the culture war that already exists or he can lead.

I talked to somebody, who is an ally of the president, who said, you know, what's done is done. He should go out, he should go visit people to say thank you, first responders, small business owners, do that kind of thing. We don't know if he has it in him.

He wants to go out and rally. He wants to do the kind of thing that makes Trump. And it is a whole new world.

But I think you're right. Look, this is a day, a grim day for the history books. It's one that our son is going to tell his kids and their kids about. And that is not something that the president will ever be able to get off of his legacy.

It's an unfortunate, sad, horrible thing. And he's got to embrace it and acknowledge it in a way that at least gives some people comfort beyond a tweet.

KING: Beyond a tweet. We will watch as it plays out.

Dana Bash, appreciate your insights there.

Up next, states begin to reopen. Another week of just staggering job losses. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:22:47]

KING: New jobless numbers out from the government this morning showing that another 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.

Christine Romans has more on this historic job loss amid the pandemic.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, just a devastating picture of layoffs. Another 2.1 million workers filed for unemployment for the first-time last month. More than 40 million over the past 10 weeks either laid off or furloughed. That's 25 percent of the labor force.

Think of that for a second. Of all of the people working in the American economy at the beginning of March, a quarter of them have filed for unemployment benefits.

Some states are hit harder than others. Take a look at Georgia, 42.5 percent of its labor force has filed for unemployment. Kentucky is more than 41 percent.

Now, first-time claims have been declining since the peak in the final week of March, notable. But these weekly claims are still near historic levels. Never before have so many people lost their jobs so quickly.

One very small statistic to note here. Continuing jobless claims fell to 21.1 million. That means some people did come off the jobless rolls and get work.

Now for those who have received a jobless check, there is $600 extra a week on top of the state benefits. In 38 states, actually, jobless Americans make as much as or more on jobless benefits than their prior wages.

But that extra stimulus ends at the end of July -- John?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Christine Romans, thanks so much.

Let's dig deeper now with Martha Gimbel. She's manager for economic research at Schmidt Futures.

Thank you for being with us today.

It's evidence of the upside-down world we live in right now when we say 2.1 million filed for unemployment last week and that's an improvement. We are in a deep ditch, right?

MARTHA GIMBEL, MANAGER FOR ECONOMIC RESEARCH, SCHMIDT FUTURES: I think if you had asked people when this crisis began in March if we thought we would still be seeing millions of jobless claims in May, no one would have expected this.

One caveat that I do want to add to that two million number is it doesn't include people who were filing initial claims through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. If you add those people in, it actually brings us up to three million. So the numbers are even worse than it looks at first glance.

[11:25:01]

KING: So even worse than it looks.

And, Martha, there's this issue. I think a lot of people back in March, when they were shut down and told to go home, thought pretty soon they would be going back to work. One of the things we're trying to get our arms around. I know this is part of your work.

How many of these jobs will actually come back and how many may never come back?

GIMBEL: If people are laying off people now, it seems really unlikely that the layoffs that are happening this week are going to be temporary. These are probably permanent losses.

And, you know, we are in this situation where we are likely facing an unemployment rate that's in the 20 percents. That is a number we haven't seen in a really long time.

And we have to face the fact that our economy is going to be filled with people who are really suffering for a long period of time.

KING: What's the impact of that? Christine showed the numbers, but 42 percent in the state of Georgia, 42 percent filed for unemployment. And 41 percent in Kentucky, 36 percent in Hawaii, 32 percent in Washington, 30 percent in Michigan. You can't wrap your arms around this. More than one in four of the people around you, if you average it out, have filed for unemployment.

When you talk about the long-term domino effect on the individuals and the economy, what do you see?

GIMBEL: Nationally, almost 50 percent of households have experienced some loss of employment income. That means that people are experiencing food insecurity. They're experiencing housing insecurity. And that has all of these rollover effects that we know about. It affects people's mental health. It affects children.

We are going to be seeing the impact of this pandemic and this economic crisis for a very long time.

KING: Martha Gimbel, very much appreciate your insight and expertise. Thank you.

GIMBEL: Thank you.

KING: Moving back now to the big news in Minnesota. CNN has just learned that the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis and the FBI in Minneapolis field office are conducting what they call a, quote, "robust criminal investigation" into the death of George Floyd. The statement adding the Department of Justice has made this investigation a top priority.

Floyd was unarmed when pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for several minutes. Floyd's death sparking protest across the city last night.

CNN's legal analyst, Elliot Williams, joins us now. He is a former federal prosecutor and former deputy assistant U.S. attorney.

Elliot, take us inside. You have the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI field office with a strong nudge from the Justice Department here in Washington saying get to the bottom of this. Explain to people who will be watching how and why is a federal investigation different?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. So what you're looking at is, was the Constitution violated? Was this individual's rights violated by the officers acting with excessive force? The language in the law is "under color of law." Were they using their authority as police officers to violate his rights?

Now, what this is going to come down to, and what this will come down to in front of a jury is willfulness. That's, again, another legal term. It's, did the officer know that what he was doing was wrong and yet still proceed with doing it.

And that, I will be candid, John, that's the thing that trips up juries all the time. Part of it is because of the, frankly, deference and almost lack of standards and rules with respect to how police officers behave, as we've seen countless times across the country.

So really, what the question will be is: How much of a free pass will this officer get, like so many others before him?

KING: And the officers obviously deserve to tell their side of the story. We live in the United States of America where you're innocent until proven guilty.

But if you watch that video, the knee to the neck, not for seconds but for minutes, and you can hear George Floyd crying for help, making clear he cannot breathe, forgive me, but that's a pretty powerful exhibit A.

WILLIAMS: And it's a nine-minute video, John. Look, a lot of times what you'll have in these cases is the officer pulls out his gun in the heat of the moment and shoots somebody, and the officer will say, well, that's the snap judgement I made, it was the best I could do at the time, and juries will believe that.

Here, you have nine minutes where the individual was talking about the fact he can't breathe, people were standing around crying, people were begging the officer to stop.

This wasn't just this passionate moment that could not have been controlled. And I think that's really going to trip the officers up. And I think it will be hard to overcome.

Now, again, there's a long history in the United States of, frankly, giving a free pass to police officers. And it's just a question of what jurors will be willing to prove and willing to find. These cases are incredibly difficult to prove.

KING: So help me in that context with the jurisdictional lines. You have the city's mayor saying he wants him charged with murder. He says he's not a prosecutor but he said he watched the video, like you have. He says it's pretty crystal clear to him.

So you have the police department which will have an internal affairs investigation. You'll have the county district attorney, which that it's job to investigate potential crimes in its region. Now you have the feds involved as well.

Walk me through where -- in some cases, there can be an advantage, a sharing of resources, or in other cases it could maybe cause tension.

[11:30:07]

WILLIAMS: Right, because they're entirely different things. The feds could not charge him with murder here.