Return to Transcripts main page


Protests Continue in Minneapolis Today Following the Death of George Floyd; U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Reach 100,000 as Social Distancing May Need Increase; Interview with Presidential Historian Jeffrey Engel. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 14:00   ET


DAVE MONTGOMERY, PREVENTIVE CARDIOLOGIST, PREVENT CLINIC: Yes. We're getting more and more information about this disproportionate death rate with COVID-19.

And what seems to be playing out, Brianna, is that this is not about race, this is not about the part of the gene that makes one, you know, a darker complexion or a texture of hair, but more about the underlying conditions that one might have.

Let me give you one of the ones that they point out: obesity. We know that there is a disproportionate amount of African-Americans in the country that have obesity than other populations. And what I learned when I was studying obesity as a fellow, is that obesity leads to inflammation and to clotting, all before we learned anything about COVID-19.

Now you put that in the setting of a very aggressive coronavirus, and an aggressive response that some people are having in their immune system to this response, that leads to more inflammation and more clotting. And you can see how it compounds the effect.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes, you can. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Dave Montgomery.

MONTGOMERY: It's my pleasure.

KEILAR: It is the top of the hour. I'm Brianna Keilar, and this is CNN's special live coverage of two unfolding stories. First, President Trump, breaking his silence as the coronavirus pandemic claims more than 100,000 American lives in just four months.

And these faces here, these are some of the people, just some of them, that we have lost. The president, tweeting his sympathies to families in this most devastating national tragedy in modern times, taking more American lives than any known natural or manmade disaster, including any U.S. war since World War II.

We're also watching the outrage and unrest over the death of another unarmed black man in police custody. Several demonstrations, erupting across the country. And this included in Minneapolis, the site of this killing, where looting and flames marred neighborhoods there. Protestors, taking to the streets, demanding the arrest of the four police officers who were just fired after the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

The Minneapolis police chief is apologizing to his grieving city today after the death of Floyd. Bystander video of his arrest is very graphic. And in it, you can see that a police officer is pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd's neck, even as Floyd pleads that he cannot breathe. He died shortly after this.

And we are learning new details about one of these officers and a previous excessive force claim, we're going to have more on that in a moment.

But first, the fires are still smoldering in Minneapolis, where protestors clashed with police, riots erupting overnight, at least 30 fires reported, some buildings burned to the ground. Stores, destroyed and looted. And at times, police responded by deploying tear gas and rubber bullets.

Demonstrators are demanding that the four officers involved in Floyd's death be arrested and charged with murder. In the last hour, a Minneapolis city councilwoman called for a state of emergency.


ANDREA JENKINS, VICE PRESIDENT, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL: As we stand here, grieving yet another loss of black life, a senseless, tragic loss of black life, I really don't have many words, but I know that something's got to change.

And so I am asking my colleagues, the mayor, and anyone else who is concerned about the state of affairs in our community, to declare a state of emergency, declaring racism as a public health issue. Until we name this virus, this disease that has infected America for the past 400 years, we will never, ever resolve this issue.

To those who say, bringing up racism is racist in and of itself, I say to you, If you don't call cancer what it is, you can never cure that disease.


KEILAR: CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Minneapolis. And, Miguel, you actually have some new reporting for us about one of the officers who was involved in this incident. Tell us.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of officers, actually. Look, this is the area where anger exploded into rage. This is where the precinct is, where one of those officers worked.


One of the officers was involved in a 2017 excessive use of force, but perhaps more on point that people will be paying attention to here, that officer, Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd, he had 18 different complaints lodged against him. He was reprimanded for two of them, but 18 complaints in his career. All four of those officers, now fired.

I want to give you a sense of where we are and what's happening right there. Because the rage that we saw last night, it is not clear to me it has played out. This was an AutoZone, this is kind of a shopping area down here. The area behind here, that was a six-story building that was under construction, that has all now come down. The Target and all the shops on this side of the street, these also got destroyed and looted.

This is actually the precinct, this is the epicenter of it. You can see the police officers on top of the roof, they've installed these barriers this morning. And you can see through those barriers, if you can, the windows and the spray paint here.

It's still a fairly tense situation here, and I want to show you sort of what's happening here right now. This is the backside of the 3rd Precinct, here in Minneapolis. You see officers there, in their riot gear. There's a local community group here that has come around -- I want to chat with them, if I can -- that has come around --


MARQUEZ: -- (INAUDIBLE), if I could chat with you real quick?

They have been trying to block individuals, this group here, from interacting with the police, here, who are trying to protect the precinct. And Trahern Pollard, we're on live actually, if I could -- you're with a local community group, what -- how difficult is it to bring down that level of anger here?

TRAHERN POLLARD, DE-ESCALATING PROTEST IN MINNEAPOLIS: It's been a little difficult. And it's really not a lot of anger, as you could see. Everybody is nice and calm and cool. And just -- we just want to make sure we keep it peaceful, that's all.

MARQUEZ: You have a hundred people from the community out here, trying to defuse the situation and bring things down now. What exactly -- how will you do that? You were able to back the crowd off from the police. How difficult is this?

POLLARD: We communicating with our -- we're communicating with the community, and we're letting them know that we stand with them, period, we stand with them. But it's not what you do, it's how you do it. We don't need to be standing face-to-face with law enforcement right now, so we're asking them to step back and just stay peaceful, and it's really that simple.

MARQUEZ: How concerned are you that more African-American men are going to die tonight or in the days ahead, if this sort of protest and if this sort of anger continues?

POLLARD: We're scared, it's going to be a lot, it's going to be a lot. It's going to be a lot.

MARQUEZ: And how long will you be out here tonight?

POLLARD: As long as it takes, as long as it takes, man. Like I said, man, it's a bunch of us that got together, man. This is my brother, Marlon (ph). And we want them to have a space to speak how they feel, to say how they feel, we're just trying to make sure we reiterate to them that burning buildings down is not the answer to what we're trying to get a solution to.

And one of the things I stated to all of my white brothers and sisters is, like, we appreciate you being out here and supporting this rally, but this is not your space. You're here to support us, that's what we need you to do.

MARQUEZ: You could not be out here all night, last night. Tonight, you will try to be out here all night?

POLLARD: As long as we can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was here all day yesterday, I got here -- I got here --


POLLARD: I got -- my point is, you got Caucasians that started doing that, and then it start escalating. So we -- we de-escalating moments like that.

MARQUEZ: So this is the sense of things right now. You have people trying to bring down that level of anger, and you have a lot of people showing up here, wanting to scream, yell, shout and throw things at police. And they are hoping that tonight, things will come down, calm down a little bit, and they can start to rebuild this area. And hopefully get some real answers from downtown.

What they really want are charges for those four officers, and just a wholesale change to the way the department treats the African-American community in Minneapolis -- back to you.(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: All right, Miguel, thank you for that report from Minneapolis.

And the death of George Floyd is evoking, of course, a familiar pain and exhaustion with many in the black community. Here's how CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers responded this morning.


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ella Baker said, "Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons become as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens."

She said that in 1964, and we're still echoing those same cries today. It was hard to listen to that interview.

[14:10:02] There's just so much pain. You get so tired. We have black children. I have a 15-year-old daughter. I mean, what do I tell her? I'm raising a son. I have no idea what to tell him.

It's just -- it's hard being black in this country, when your life is not valued. And people are worried about the protestors and looters, and it's just people who are frustrated, who, for far too long, have not had their voices heard. And so you put me on after his brother, and I feel like I lost my brother.

And nobody cares about the video. They had a video of Ahmaud Arbery. And two different solicitors looked at that video and declined to press charges.

And so for those of us who have a mistrust of the system, it's very hard for us to do anything else, other than just to cry this morning. And then hope and pray that we are not sitting next to Ben Crump one day. That's about all we can do.


KEILAR: Moments ago, the Minneapolis police chief issued an apology.


MEDARIA ARRADONDO, CHIEF, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: I am absolutely sorry for the pain, the devastation and the trauma that Mr. Floyd's death has left on his family, his loved ones, our community here in Minneapolis and certainly across the country and the world.


KEILAR: Much more on this as we watch what is happening on the ground in Minneapolis.

Plus, just in on the coronavirus pandemic, the governor of New York, making a move involving -- pardon me -- masks that is the complete opposite of the president's actions.

Also, a senator who attended the hearing into the U.S. response says he just tested positive for antibodies. What that signals.

And Johnny Cash's daughter slams the ignorance over not wearing masks as she says her daughter was heckled for wearing one.



KEILAR: As the president tweets condolences for the 100,000 people who have died from coronavirus, he also sent tweets in opposition to the use of masks, defying his own administration's guidance. But the governor of New York is taking a different route, allowing businesses to deny entry to anyone not wearing one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're talking about reopening stores and places of business. We're giving the store owners the right to say, if you're not wearing a mask, you can't come in. That store owner has a right to protect themselves. That store owner has a right to protect the other patrons in that store. You don't want to wear a mask? Fine, but you don't have a right to then go into that store if that store owner doesn't want you to.


KEILAR: CNN's Jason Carroll is in New York. So, Jason, tell us more about this executive order that the governor's going to sign.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, unlike the president, Brianna, as you know, New York's governor repeatedly has talked about the importance of wearing masks. He's also said that when New York City opens, it's got to be done in the smartest way possible, and that's part of the reason why he's issued this executive order.

All of this, as the city, the state and the country, still trying to come to terms with all of the people who lost their lives because of this virus.


CARROLL (voice-over): More than 100,000 lives lost, a painful milestone and reminder of the deadly impact of COVID-19 over the past few months in the United States. The front page of "The Washington Post," showing an image, each death representing a ray of light.

That number, as grim as it is, may not account for more victims who died from the virus, but were never counted because they died at home and may not have been tested.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We've taken a terrible hit. A hundred thousand people is just really historic in the public health impact it's had on us.

CARROLL (voice-over): The economic impact continues to take its toll on the country as well. Another 2.1 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week. That means one in four American workers, more than 40 million, now furloughed or laid off in the last 10 weeks.

Hard-hit New York City, still under a stay-at-home order. Last night, Times Square billboards went dark for one minute, to draw attention to businesses on the edge of closing for good. The city's mayor says the wait to reopen will be over soon.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK, NEW YORK: We're now actually in a position to start talking about opening things up, step by step, phase by phase.

CARROLL (voice-over): New York is one of nearly two dozen states seeing a decrease in cases, but the Centers for Disease Control says there could be a second peak in the country over the summer. This, as more than a dozen states are still seeing an increase in

cases. In the last week, Alabama had a higher case rate than 46 other states. One doctor there says the number of cases in Montgomery has tripled in the last month, and he worried about having enough hospital beds.

DAVID THRASHER, CRITICAL CARE, MONTGOMERY PULMONARY CONSULTANTS: We're able to help (ph) the number of patients, but it's tight. We have three ICU beds today available in the entire city, and we've got four patients that we know of in the emergency room on ventilators.

CARROLL (voice-over): Reopening, moving forward in Las Vegas, where Caesars and MGM Resorts say some of their casinos will reopen next week with restrictions. While in Orlando, Disney and some of the surrounding theme parks, set to reopen in July.


Many businesses planning to practice social distancing, as they move forward. But is the World Health Organization's recommended six feet far enough? Maybe not, says the journal "Science," which released these new findings, which say, "Increasing evidence for the coronavirus suggests the six-foot WHO recommendation is likely not enough under many indoor conditions, where aerosols can remain airborne for hours, accumulate over time, and follow air flows over distances further than six feet."

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo agrees with the findings and says when it comes to so-called safe spaces, one should consider two things: density and time.

JEANNE MARRAZZO, INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: If you are in an area where you're really close with people and that virus is not in air that's circulating well, it's going to be easier for you to breathe it. And the rule is 15 minutes, right? So closer than six feet for longer than 15 minutes, that's the threshold that we have been using.

CARROLL (voice-over): Health experts say when it comes to interacting in the age of coronavirus, a new study shows people should not only wear masks, but should socialize outdoors as much as possible.

ERIN BROMAGE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UMASS-DARTMOUTH: There was just some data that came out earlier this week that said the risk has increased eighteenfold, being indoors in exactly the same situation as you would be outdoors. So going inside is much more risky for the chances of infection.


CARROLL: And, Brianna, still a lot of questions about specifically when New York City will begin phase one of reopening. It's the last region in the state that hasn't started into phase one. And when pressed on that, New York City's mayor, Bill de Blasio, basically said, look, it's going to be soon, probably sometime in early June -- Brianna. KEILAR: Early June. OK, Jason, thank you for that report.

And, you know, in moments of crisis, Americans look to their leaders for guidance and for reassurance. Right now, President Trump's focus seems to be elsewhere. He has been egging on protests of stay-at-home orders, he's refusing to wear a mask, he's mocking those who do wear a mask and placing doubt on one of the fundamental tenets of American democracy: free and fair elections.

Last night, as we passed the milestone of 100,000 people dead, the president was again on Twitter, sharing conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation, and spreading fears about a rigged election, a day passing before President Trump finally tweeted this.

"To all of the families and friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy and love for everything that these great people stood for and represent. God be with you!"

Jeffrey Engel is the presidential history director at Southern Methodist University. Thank you so much for joining us. And just tell us what you make to, overall, the president's response to this crisis.

JEFFREY ENGEL, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: You know, it's been remarkable for its lack of empathy. And I say that because one of the key roles for a president, aside from formulating policy, is formulating and contributing to the national mood.

And typically, we've seen in crises before, a president really try to set a tone of unity. Whether it's Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War, or whether it's Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, or even something more recent, such as, you know, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during the Oklahoma City Bombing and 9/11.

The idea is, the president typically goes out and tries to say, we're all in this together, and let's come together. And that -- the way to do that is to say, I -- basically, I feel your pain. And we're not hearing President Trump say that hardly at all.

KEILAR: No. And the former vice president, Joe Biden, obviously the presumptive Democratic nominee, has weighed in. Let's listen to that.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To all of you who are grieving so badly, 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. My prayer for all of you is that they will come sooner rather than later. But I promise you it will come. And when it does, you know you can make it.


KEILAR: You know, he's obviously speaking from the heart. He's someone who, as a young senator, lost a daughter and lost his wife, and then more recently lost his grown son, Beau Biden. What do you make of his approach?

ENGEL: Well, as you said, he's a person who speaks from personal experience. And I think it's really remarkable to see Vice President Biden essentially taking up the role of empathizer in chief, of trying to explain to the nation not so much why it is that we're in pain -- we all know why we're in pain -- but we need to know that the pain has some purpose.


This is why it's really interesting that the president has, from time to time, fallen back on the analogy of war, to say we're at war with the virus. That's all well and good but traditionally, when we are at war, that requires some sort of sacrifice, some greater tax (ph), some greater burden for the American people. It really means that the American people are going to suffer together.

We're willing to suffer, as long as we're in it together and seeing progress. And frankly, the president hasn't really told us a lot of what we all need to do, especially since he seems to be undermining his entire administration's own plans for how to deal with the virus.

KEILAR: Yes. It is remarkable, how he's been doing that, and even poking fun at people for taking his own administration's advice.

Jeffrey Engel, thank you, we appreciate it.

ENGEL: Good to see you.

KEILAR: CNN will honor the victims of coronavirus this weekend in a special, hosted by Jake Tapper. Join us as families share personal stories about the loved ones they have lost, and faith leaders offer words of comfort and prayer. "WE REMEMBER: A NATIONAL MEMORIAL" will start Sunday at noon Eastern.

A stunning figure today, that one in four American workers has now lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic. So how many of those jobs will come back after this has passed? I'll be asking one of President Trump's top economic advisors.

Plus, singer Roseanne Cash shares the vile things that were said to her daughter, simply because she wore a mask.