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Trump Calls Protesters Thugs; CDC Projects More than 123,000 Deaths by June 20th; Fires and Protests in Minneapolis. Aired 9:30- 10a

Aired May 29, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the scenes in Minneapolis, they're just devastating. You might be looking for words of calm, particularly from the president, from the White House. His words overnight did not seem to meet that standard. Twitter even called out his tweet and added a warning label, again, to the president's tweets saying it glorifies violence.

So this morning, the White House tweeted out those words once again.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a defiant response.

Our Joe Johns is live at the White House with more.

What did the initial tweet say that has now been reposted from the official White House Twitter account?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a loaded phrase first heard in the 1960s and reprinted in the newspapers, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. That's what the president tweeted out, calling the protesters in Minneapolis thugs and saying he was going to send in the military if they were needed.

And Twitter looked at that and said this violates Twitter's rules for glorifying violence. They flagged the tweet. They didn't take it down, they flagged it. And then, as you said, again this morning, the official White House account retweeted the very same thing, so this is all part of the ongoing back and forth between the White House and Twitter.

As you know, Poppy and Jim, the president says Twitter and other social media essentially are stacked up against conservatives. But it's also a distraction, which we all know.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Joe Johns, thank you for that.

SCIUTTO: Let's speak now to CNN's Abby Phillip. And, Abby, you've been covering the White House for some time. This

phrase now, given the loaded history of it, as Joe noted going back to the '60s when the shooting starts -- when the looting starts, the shooting starts, is not only a presidential tweet, it's an official White House statement, repeated.


Can you explain the thinking behind this?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I mean, often the White House, you know, inevitably doubles down on what the president does. I can't explain the rationale behind this. We don't even know if the president knew the background of this tweet.

But even before people looked back at where -- where the looting starts, the shooting starts came from, it was pretty obvious what he was implying, which would -- which was that the penalty, he believed, for looting ought to be that these protesters are shot, which is completely antithetical to any sense of the rule of law or constitutionality in this country.

So it really is pushing the boundaries here of what is acceptable conduct from the president and it also seems to fit into this pattern of the president pushing the boundaries on social media in particular.

I think what Joe Johns said a minute ago is really important, he's in the middle of this war with Twitter over what he can say without the social media company doing something about it. And this is a tweet that seemed -- that was so -- that was vague in a certain sense, that anybody could interpret it as meaning anything, but was specific in a certain sense that it was clear what he was implying. And I think that he was doing it to push those boundaries and to show that he can say whatever he wants on this platform.

HARLOW: Abby, help us look at this big picture, right, because we cannot look at this -- this death in Minneapolis, and what has -- what has happened subsequently in a vacuum because this is a president whose choosing to use the word thug over and over again, just as he did in that 2016 rally toward a black person and he has used -- he has urged police, as you've noted, to not be too nice when arresting people and putting them in squad cars. There is so much surrounding this.

PHILLIP: Yes. Yes, there is so much history of this. I mean, like you just said, you know, years ago the president said, in a public setting, that he thought police were being too nice when they covered the heads of a suspect before putting them in the back of a patrol car and they ought not to be so nice. Those kinds of things are clear messages that he thinks the police ought to be more tough on people, even in ways that might violate their rights. It's part of that pattern.

But it's also a part of a pattern of the president giving the benefit of the doubt to certain kinds of protesters, whether it's people protesting stay-at-home orders in state capitals, or the Charlottesville protesters in Virginia, benefit of the doubt given to those people. The benefit of the doubt not given to the people in Minneapolis, you know, even though what they are protesting is a man being killed in police custody with a police officer's knee on their neck for nine minutes.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. And, by the way, some of the protesters, the president has praised, for instance in the Wisconsin state house, et cetera, were armed. They were armed to the teeth (ph). Protesters we're seeing there are not armed.

Abby Philip, thank you so much.

HARLOW: In the middle of this devastating news out of Minneapolis, the CDC is forecasting another 20,000 coronavirus deaths in this country over just the next three weeks.



HARLOW: The CDC is now out with a projection that the U.S. will surpass 123,000 coronavirus deaths in just over three weeks.

SCIUTTO: This is, in effect, an averaging. It combines 15 models from different experts, including a potential range between 115,000 and as high as 134,000 by June 20th.

Let's speak now to infectious diseases specialist Dr. Celine Gounder. She's a CNN medical analyst, host as well of "The Epidemic" podcast.

Dr. Gounder, always good to have you on.

I wonder, a lot of these indicators are lagging indicators when you look at the numbers. We often mention that on the air.

Do these projections yet incorporate reopening, right, and the risk for reopening, or have we not seen data that reflects the effects of reopening that's happening now in 50 states to differing degrees?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASES SPECIALIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well, some of these models, Jim, do incorporate the increasing mobility based on cell phone tracking data. You know, but that's only partial data in terms of how these models have been adapted to accounts for reopening.

And part of it is that people didn't necessarily reopen, stop wearing masks right away. I think we're starting to see increasing cavalier behavior, frankly, in terms of preventing transmission of the virus. And that's getting worse and worse over time.

HARLOW: Listen to this, when you talk about other and newer hot spots, if you will. We had the mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, on yesterday, because they've seen triple the number of cases there in the last 30 days. And here is the situation he told us about how prepared or ill prepared they are to handle this.


MAYOR STEVEN REED (D), MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: Actually we're down to two this morning as of the last update I have. So we're not doing better, we're actually doing worse, unfortunately.

It's not just a matter of moving an ICU bed, it's not just a matter of creating that, it's a matter of what the domino effect is.


HARLOW: Only two ICU beds left there to handle this. And they -- they get a lot of the rural cases from the state. So, I mean, as we see the CDC projection, I wonder how concerned you are about places not -- not New York City, right, outside?

GOUNDER: Well, the rural parts of the country are the least prepared to deal with this kind of surge, have the least capacity really to do this.


And this is what we've been warning about for months now, that while we had social distancing measures in place, we needed to be preparing. And that preparation and whether you were prepared was really the marker for whether you were ready to reopen.

And so that meant building up capacity in terms of hospital beds, that meant building up capacity in terms of test and contact tracing. And most of the states, in part because there was no assistance from the federal government and no leadership, didn't do that preparation. And so there're lifting measures without preparations for what's to come now.

HARLOW: Exactly.

Dr. Gounder, thank you very much. Sorry to cut it a bit short. We, obviously, have a lot of news today.

The outrage in Minneapolis is palpable. If you didn't see what happened last night on day four, night four of these protests, here you go. This all surrounding the killing of George Floyd. We're going to talk much more about this ahead.



HARLOW: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Laquon McDonald, and here we are today, Minneapolis, with the death of George Floyd.

SCIUTTO: Listen, now is a time for listening, right? Listening for people who have experiences that are educational about this. And I just want to quote from something powerful that our next guest has written. Sometimes you just want to drive down the street and not tense up when you see a police car. Sometimes you wonder what it's like to fail up as opposed to work

twice as hard to be considered half as good. Sometimes you don't want to have to choose between being numb and feeling. He says, on most days I choose to be numb. Tuesday, I decided to feel.

LZ Granderson, he's a host for ESPN, sports and culture columnist as well for "The L.A. Times," and he joins us now this morning.

LZ, it's always good to have you on. And your experience here so powerful. And now, when you look at Minneapolis, you have two powerful images, do you not? I mean, one that is just unforgettable and sad, the death of a black man in police hands and now the arrest of a reporter covering the follow-up, the aftermath of that.

Tell us what that means to you.

LZ GRANDERSON, HOST, ESPN: Well, first of all, thank you, guys, for having me on.

You know, I've known Omar for a long time. I actually remember being in the CNN studios with Don Lemon years ago when he was an intern and speaking with him. And the last I spoke with Omar was at Kobe's memorial. He was covering for you guys. And, obviously, I was there for "The Times" and ESPN.

And he's always been so respectful. And he has always been passionate about journalism. And to see what happened to him on live television was absolutely heartbreaking. I woke up at 4:00 this morning Pacific Time and I teared up because I know how traumatic it is to be surrounded by police officers and not quite sure what's going to unfold next.

And I know people think, oh, well, it was on camera, it was on television, nothing bad was going to happen. Well, say that to Mr. Floyd. Say it to Eric Garner. Just being in front of a camera, just being on television isn't enough. Being a professional isn't enough.

Being educated isn't enough. Being rich isn't enough. When you have darker skin, there is no insulation for this type of behavior. And so my heart was just broken watching this young man have to deal with that. And it reminded me of my own experiences.

HARLOW: And you lay them out so powerfully in this -- in this column in "The L.A. Times." This is the line that struck me the most. I was 12 when an officer placed his gun on the back of my head while his knee rested in the center of my back.

I had been sent to the store to buy a gallon of milk. I came home with trauma. And it didn't end. You were arrested, handcuffed in your 20s, and then in your 30s. And I keep thinking about, LZ, what Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in 1963 from Birmingham jail about the white moderate and this moment. And I wonder what you think.

GRANDERSON: You know, I try not to write too personal from that space because, one, I don't want to make the story about me. Two, I recognize that many others have experienced some of the same things that I have. And, three, I have a son. And he's a young man now. He recently just graduated from college. And I can't tell you the fear that -- the fear that crawls across my body when he leaves the house, still.

He's been with the family since the quarantine has happened, and he's an avid runner. He actually was captain of his track team in high school. And I can remember after Trayvon Martin, my husband saying that we needed to make sure that he had a sweatshirt that said the high school's name on it in big, bright letters because he loved to jog in a hoodie, and my husband was afraid, because of the neighborhood that we were in, that, you know, something bad may happen.

And so, you know, I didn't write the piece to have sympathy for me and my family. I wrote the piece because I wanted people to understand what it was like, and it's not just about your educational level, it's not just about where you live, it's not just about, you know, whether or not you're respectable.


It's about humanity. I'm hoping that, you know, particularly some of the white individuals who are still confused about what is going on will read the piece and recognize that it is so stressful at times just to be black in America. And I'm not overstating that. I still tense up. I'm 40-some years old. I've been to grad school. I've won awards. And, you know, I still tense up because I don't know if this is the day. And it's real. It's not made up. This is real.

SCIUTTO: LZ, thank you for sharing that. It's important for people to hear it.


SCIUTTO: We're feeling it as we hear it from you. And I just hope we find a way forward. I really do.

HARLOW: Thank you, LZ, for being here.

GRANDERSON: You're welcome.

HARLOW: I hope every single person reads every single one of your words in this.

We'll be right back.