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Protests Erupt Across U.S. After Death Of George Floyd; Dual Crises Present Test Of Leadership For Trump And Biden; U.S. COVID-19 Death Toll Crosses 103,000; A First For Space: Private Company Launches Astronauts From U.S. Soil. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 31, 2020 - 08:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): One officer is charged with murder. Protesters in Minnesota and across America want more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's my oldest brother. I love him. I'm never going to get my brother back.

KING: Plus, the leadership campaign.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm so sorry for your loss.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We call it the transition to greatness and it really is.

KING: First, 100,000 coronavirus deaths. Now race.

BIDEN: The original sin in this country still stains our nation today.

KING: It should never happen. It should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that.


KING: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your Sunday.

America on edge this Sunday. Anger at the needless death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis exploding into destructive rage and violence in city after city. This weekend, some images from a few demonstrations and confrontations last night.

This is New York City. A police van in flames there. That is Union Square looting and mayhem. Also in the East Village.

Similar scenes playing out in Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Washington, D.C., and more. At least 25 cities imposing curfews, 13 states and the District of Columbia activating the National Guard to help keep order.

In Des Moines, Iowa, chants that remind us how it began. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe!


KING: Those were George Floyd's words in Minneapolis as a white police officer pinned Floyd's neck to the grounds to his knees. Floyd's desperate gasps for a chance to breathe ignored until he could breathe no more. These were scenes from Minneapolis last night.

Here, listen, please, an important voice from a peaceful protester there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be able to feel safe. I want to feel able when a cop is driving behind me to not clench. I want to be free and not worry about every step I take, because at the end of the day, being black is a crime, at the end of the day, being born black is a crime to them and I don't understand why. We're all humans.


KING: The challenge now? To somehow, somehow find a circuit breaker.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We live in a world, in a city, where we neither accept the death of unarmed African-American men the wrongful killing of unarmed African-American men. Nor do we accept the willful destruction of our neighborhoods.


KING: With us this Sunday to share the reporting and their insights, CNN political commentator and veteran social activist, Van Jones, from Minneapolis, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, and 'The New York Times" correspondent John Eligon.

Omar, I want to start with you because you're outside on the street this morning as you have been so many days in the past week. Minneapolis has become a fuse, if you will, for the nation.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really has, John. And the pain that we have seen in this community has resonated not just around the country but across the world, frankly, stemming from the horror we saw unfold on that cell phone video of George Floyd with an officer kneeling on his neck. It sparked protests that have been largely peaceful during the day and what we've seen in the evening hours is that it tends to dissolve sometimes into rioting and burning and some of the destructive images we've seen.

Last night was maybe the first significant night where we did not see that happen here in Minneapolis, in part, because the leadership here had beefed up their law enforcement presence. We were just around the corner in the evening hours yesterday outside the fifth police precinct here, and we had not seen a law enforcement presence like we saw last night.

They methodically moved up the street with a huge force clearing protesters out of the street, not hesitating, shooting crowd dispersant into the crowd as protesters were literally retreating. And we did not see the burning buildings that we saw here in Minneapolis, though -- I should say like we saw across the country last night as many places are feeling the pain that we're feeling here in Minneapolis.

KING: And so, John Eligon, this is your beat. So, I ask you the question in this context and show some of the headlines from the around the country as I do.


"Minneapolis Star Tribune", state of agony, "Arizona Republic", rocked by race, "Atlanta Journal Constitution", peaceful, then violent, "Houston Chronicle", black community's pain spilling out onto streets.

The violence, the destruction is reprehensible, but the anger at the root of it, while shocking, should not be a surprise to us because of the sad painful history here, right?

JOHN ELIGON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, it is in a way it feels like things happening all over again. I remember back in 2014, Ferguson, Michael brown was killed, we're hearing the same anger, the same, you know, frustrations that we heard back then, we're hearing issues of people talking not just about, you know, how the police treat them, but they're also talking about the root causes, the things that lead them to live in a society in which, you know, there is the haves and the have-nots.

You're seeing for a lot of black Americans, it's just playing over like a record, like a broken record playing over and over again. I think that -- that anger welling up. You know, you see this spreading across the country.

So, when you see black people rising up in Minneapolis, then people in Atlanta are going to see that, people in Denver are going to see that and that will spread across the country, you know? I think, you know, we have to be careful, when we look at the anger and -- there is that rage, there is that outpouring on the street, but then when you get some of the violence, that also evokes a different kind of emotion. You see people like Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, and Killer Mike, you know, the people speaking out against the violence.

So, there is this really careful balancing act, right, between having that rage and putting it out there, but also not losing control of the message. I think that's what we see people struggling with right now.

KING: And, Van, help me with that very struggle. Because John mentioned Ferguson, I remember being in Los Angeles in the days after the riots, after the Rodney King verdicts, the police beat and the verdicts in that case there. We can talk about the '60s, we can talk about the '90s, we can talk about in Georgia just a couple of months ago, what you're seeing is -- my question on this Sunday is where is the circuit breaker, how do you convince people with justifiable historic anger you need to step back, you're doing more harm than good?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let me point out, there are 40 million African-Americans in this country, 40 million. Every one of us, heart broken, every one of us just destroyed because we don't know what to tell our children now. The reason this is different, the reason this has broken -- this is not the same as the others. There is some things similar.

What is different is there is nothing you can tell your child, that would protect them from this outcome. Don't run, don't talk back, don't have drugs on you, don't have a weapon on you, none of that would have saved this man. None of this would have saved our child.

That's why you see the heartbreak, with 40 million African-Americans, 99.999999 percent of us heartbroken that we are, are still peaceful. And we're still expecting the government to do something and are on the Internet and are calling friends and family, trying to push our government.

So let's not forget, we're talking about a tiny percentage of people, number one. Number two, we don't know who is setting the fires, reports that some of the stuff seems to be coordinate, not by African- Americans, not by people from even the communities that you're talking about. So, something is going on here.

That said, we are -- there are two pathways now for America. We could be headed toward not the -- civil unrest. We're about one video away from possible civil unrest and, you know, 10, 15, American cities. So that's one pathway.

The other pathway is simply this, you could have bipartisan police reform in the United States within weeks, if the -- if people would act aggressively. You could have major economic investment if the corporations that are concerned would step up, write checks, convene people, figure out how to get more help and more hope to these communities.

And you could also have these four officers charged and facing real time. If you move in the direction of justice, economic opportunity, and bipartisan police reform, you could have a breakthrough and be better off by the end of the summer. If you don't, we're going to have a breakdown, and I have no idea where you end up with civil unrest across the United States. That's what we're in.

KING: And that last part is the hard part. We have no idea, and because of this.

To the point, John, to the point Van was making, a lot of people pointing fingers now, which is a difficulty -- in an already difficult moment. This is the attorney general of the United States, saying that there are left wing activists in his view causing the problems.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchist and left extremist groups, far left extremist groups, using Antifa-like tactics. We must have law and order on our streets and in our communities.



KING: I think it's important for all of us and I know the reporters on the ground are doing this, pursue the actual facts of what is happening. A message like that from the justice department of Washington in the middle of this I assume will not be interpreted on the black street, whether it is Minneapolis or any other American city, as terribly helpful.

ELIGON: Yes, I think certainly the first point is that what Van made, we don't exactly know who is -- I kind of chuckle when, you know, people in Washington or political folks talk about it is a left wing person doing this, it is a right wing person doing this. I think -- I think at this point it is hard to tell that.

And I think for the cause at hand, for black people who are being killed on the streets, it is not about a left or right issue. People often talk about it in those terms. I'll speak to this level of anger, I remember the first night I got here, I went to the third precinct and this was after it was burned down and I was talking to some young individuals out there leading and I said what do you think about this destruction and what not?

They're, like, you know what, it is not something that we want to see our community burned down, but we tried kneeling, we tried being quiet, we tried doing this in some very peaceful way, but like, where have gotten? Where has it gotten us, you know?

This is maybe what it takes in order for people to pay attention and maybe this is what has to be done. That makes me think back to Ferguson, if that QuikTrip hadn't burned, there say chance that a lot of media and a lot of attention would not have gone there, there was that gas station that burned very early in the cycle in Ferguson, and after that, you saw a flood of media and a flood of attention, you know?

And in some ways, you know, for better or worse, that is -- has been the attention of the nation focused on these things when there is a lot of unrest. Now, the question, again, is, how do you then channel that unrest, that rage, into, you know, being into about the message and don't let that unrest overtake the message.

KING: And, Omar, jump in on that point. In the week you had there, including your own, you've been taken into custody for a while, you cannot ignore the pictures of the unrest. You cannot ignore things burning. You cannot ignore violence.

But we also must not ignore the protester we played at the top of the show that Miguel Marquez spoke to last night, saying I want to be able to drive in a car, and if a cop pulls up behind me, pulls into the lane behind me, I don't want to have to cringe. I don't want to be afraid. It's what Van just talked about.

What do you tell your children?

JIMENEZ: Well, that's something the governor has spoken on. When he comes up in press conferences, I think back -- excuse me -- to a few days ago during his press conference when he tried to lay out what a pathway forward would look like. He said it started with restoring order, which I think we saw glimpses of that last night.

But then he said it's going to move to trying to get swift justice, which we have not seen either a decision for or against charges for all four of these officers. Last one to rebuilding trust. He said trust, that was not just frayed over the course of this week, but trust has been frayed over the course of generations between law enforcement and some of these communities here.

And when you look at how this particular case unfolded, this played out on camera, this played out in front of witnesses, who are pleading with officers to stop what they're doing because they could visibly see this person was losing consciousness or at least becoming less responsive.

And so to have an example like that, this goes back to what Van was talking about, a lot of people here don't know what to tell their kids or their family or their friends to do to interact with police officers, because while that interaction may not represent every single police officer in the Minneapolis police department, it does represent the department by being one of them.

And so, that I think sticks with a lot of people and it will extend way beyond this week and it will be an uphill battle for people here.

KING: If you look at the history of the department, the particular department has a long history of trouble that many in the community as you so well reported do not believe has been dealt with appropriately.

Omar Jimenez, thank you.

John and Van are going to stay with us for future conversations.

Up next, President Trump weighs in on unrest, urging Minnesota leaders to get tougher and to restore law and order.



KING: The president's reflex is conflict, even at moments that scream for calm or compassion. After midnight, as Thursday turned to Friday, the chaos in Minnesota caught the president's attention. Quote, when the looting starts, the shooting starts, he tweeted.

On Saturday, the president criticized Minnesota leaders as too soft, and said he would restore order.


TRUMP: They got to be tough. They got to be strong. They got to be respected, because these people, this Antifa, it is a lot of radical left bad people, and they got to be taught that you can't do that this.

We cannot and must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waist to our communities. My administration will stop mob violence and will stop it cold.

KING: This unrest is playing out not only in the middle of a pandemic, but now five months from a presidential election. In a statement Saturday night, as many protests turned violent, the Democratic candidate Joe Biden issued a statement saying, we are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.

On Friday, the former vice president said he had spoken with George Floyd's family.


BIDEN: We're a country with an open wound.


It's time for us to take a hard look at the uncomfortable truth. It is time for us to face that deep open wound we have in this nation. We need justice for George Floyd.


KING: Toluse Olorunnipa with "The Washington Post" joins us. Still with us, John Eligon, national correspondent for "The New York Times".

Toluse, to the point I was making about the president, his reflex is combat and conflict. It seems at times in the middle of this out of touch.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The nation is crying out for comfort, consolation, for direction and guidance and the president seems to be very much focused on being the law and order president, being tough, even glorifying in the fact that the Secret Service was getting into fights and scuffles with protesters outside the White House, saying he felt very safe and he was watching the entire night a couple of nights ago when things got pretty violent outside the White House.

We are seeing a president who has glorified that he believes he is a tough law and order president, he is not speaking to some of these broader systemic issues, just a couple of months ago we thought this election would be all about the economy, then it changed and it seemed like it was all going to be about the coronavirus and the pandemic.

Now, it seems like racial violence, racial tension, police brutality is going to be a key part of the election and it seems like these two candidates, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are taking completely different approaches with President Trump really wanting to crack down on protesters, sort of saying this is all about Antifa and anti-government, anti-American protests, instead of the broader systemic issues that a lot of protesters are talking about.

While Joe Biden does appear to be speaking to some of those broader issues, trying to start a national conversation over the issues that many protesters are taking to the street over, it just really remains to be seen how the country is going to respond to that and whether or not President Trump's law and order approach is going to have the same impact that it did have four years ago when he was able to take this approach and convince a lot a lot of voters to give him a shot at being the president.

KING: And, John Eligon, we know from the polling, President Trump doesn't have much political standing in the African-American community. But my question is a little bit more broad in the sense of, is there any trust, especially among the younger African-American community as they see the former vice president trying to strike an empathy note at a time the president sounds more, if you look -- he said he didn't know when the looting starts the shooting starts came from a racist Miami police chief back in the '60s. Law and order has echoes of Richard Nixon or George Wallace.

But I think the broader question is, as you travel the country and cover this issue, is there trust for any politicians?

ELIGON: This is -- things are already so tense now, especially among African-Americans, you know, when you talk about the coronavirus and the disproportionate impact on the African-American community. You talk about this and the open wounds this has revealed, and people are still on edge that however and whoever addresses this needs to come at it in a way that shows an understanding. Not just a depth of understanding but a depth of problem solving.

I think there is a frustration, a level that we don't want -- this is what I hear from a lot of black people I talk to, that we don't just want someone who is going to tell us what we want to hear and not follow it up with action. You know, in some ways, you see that in Minneapolis. I mean, it's a mostly white city but it's also very politically progressive. People talk about racial justice a lot and racial injustices, and yet they have the largest inequalities when it comes to black and white people here, larger than any other big cities, you know?

This plays in some ways a microcosm of that issue of, we don't just want people to tell us what we want to hear and we want something done. And I think, you know, for Joe Biden, it's going to be very key that he comes in and doesn't just say vote for me because I served under the first black president or because I'm a Democrat. It's going to be very key that he comes in and says what he wants to do and he wants to the community.

And I think Trump, his pitch to black Americans has been look at the strong economy. You know, and now, we see that that's in trouble. We see that --


KING: I think John's shot froze there.

Toluse, back to you. I'm sorry -- did we get it back? All right. We'll try to work on that.

Toluse, one of the issues here is the president sometime goes back and forth. He'll issue the combative, thugs, law and order and then ten minutes later or the next event he'll talk about how terrible it was to watch the video. How horrible to watch the video. The lack of consistency is the only consistency, if you will.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, we've seen that from this president for quite awhile, and then part is he and his campaign have been trying to reach out to black voters, at least make some efforts to show that they aren't taking the black vote for granted and the president tried to talk about his record and speak about African-American issues and issues relating to criminal justice in a way that shows more empathy than he did four years ago.


In part, because I think his campaign officials realize he can't continue to be in the single digits with such a large chunk of voters and expect to win re-election. I think that's part of the reason he has been somewhat empathetic to the plight of George Floyd's family, the idea that this was an instance of egregious police misbehavior and he is trying to separate that from the broader issues of racial inequality, systemic racism, things the president and his supporters don't necessarily want to talk about. They want to talk about this san isolated incident. And that's part of the reason you're seeing this inconsistency.

The president can say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy but he doesn't want to talk about the broader issues that happen in the African-American community and with police brutality more widely. He has often voiced his support for police. He said this idea of Black Lives Matter movement is against what he believes in, and against the foundations of this country. He attacked Colin Kaepernick for years for kneeling to protest against police brutality.

And I think that's part of the reason you see the inconsistency because the president's heart is not in it when it comes to addressing the broader issue of racism. It's not something he believes in.

KING: That's an excellent point.

Toluse Olorunnipa and John Eligon, thank you both for your help and your context and reporting today.

Up next for us, a reminder of how this all began and the painful history, this is George Floyd's brother.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: To kill a man who you was trying to say was forgery and you killed him for that? You couldn't restrain him in any way to put him inside of the car and take him to jail for anything and find out? You killed him. That was hatred. That was just hatred. Nobody -- nobody deserve that. I'm tired of seeing it.




KING: More images here of the unrest across America this weekend. There were arrests in more than a dozen American cities. Among them Atlanta where the mayor tried to make the case that by turning violent the demonstrators choosing that path were undermining the more important cause.


MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GEORGIA: I am a mother to four black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old. And when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt. This is not a protest, this is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos.


KING: Van Jones is back with us, as well as Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and a former head of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP.

Nekima -- let me start with you. this is a version of a question I find myself asking the doctors almost every day during this coronavirus pandemic. How do we make today better than yesterday?

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, one way to do that is to charge all four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd. I mean it's really that simple in terms of letting people know that our government is serious about holding police officers accountable as opposed to making excuses. If civilians had done what those officers did, they would have been in jail by now.

KING: There's no doubt about that at all.

And Van -- I just want to show, number one, there were third degree murder charges and second degree manslaughter charges against the one officer Derek Chauvin, who the world has now seen for more than nine minutes with his knee to the neck of George Floyd ignoring his calls for breaths until he could breathe no more.

But it's not just what we're seeing across the country. It's not just this. I just want to put up on the screen there's nobody here, you know, condoning burning or looting or violence. But to look at the history here, this is just since 2014. This is just in the last six years.

We could go back 60 years, we could go back, you know, a couple of hundred years if we wanted to. And I guess that's the point -- Van I was trying to talk to you about earlier is how -- how do you find a circuit breaker when you know former President Obama issued a very poignant statement about this. Former President Clinton last night issued a very powerful statement about this. Joe Biden has been speaking. The mayors have been speaking.

The question is on the street, is there trust for any of these voices they're hearing or almost everybody, regardless of party, viewed this as part of the problem?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you're going to have to do exactly what was said before. You are going to have to have the officers charged. And again, the reason that, you know, the one officer getting third degree or fifth degree -- I've never heard of a third degree murder charge. And I'm an attorney and I'm 51 years old.

You've got have serious charges. Normal people, you get 57 charges and then you plead down to four. If you get only one cop out of three on minor charges then plead down to a traffic ticket, it's not going to work. You've got to have serious charges.

glad that the FBI and the Department of Justice is engaged. Keith Ellison, the state attorney general also needs to be engaged by the governor. You have multiple levels of engagement. That's number one.

Never two, you have to have a federal bill now. Folks -- you've got to have a federal bill. On Monday morning, the first order of business, get a bipartisan group together at the White House or someplace else.

A lot of this stuff is very well known. You know, some of the qualified immunity stuff that you can't sue the police officers individually. There's a lot of stuffs you can begin to fix and suddenly you begin to restore the checks and balances.


JONES: The last thing is simply this, especially for my conservative friends. If you're concerned about lawlessness, so are we. There is common ground on lawlessness, but lawlessness in the police department is what opens the door to lawlessness in the streets.

And so if you want to be a part of this, send the message from the right that you do not want more lawlessness from police departments. We're going to denounce these riots and, by the way, hats off to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. She put it down. Killer Mike put it down.

There are a number of us denouncing this at the top of our lungs about the property destruction. We're dealing with that. You step up and deal with the lawlessness and the police department. Nobody wants peaceful streets more than African-Americans. Join us to have law and order in the police precincts as well as on the streets and we'll get through this.

KING: And Nekima -- where is that in your city where this began? In the sense that if you look at the history of this particular officer, the one who has been charged, Mr. Chauvin, a number of complaints and again, in the community saying that these review boards just sort of brush it aside. You have a relatively new police chief there who has promised to work on this.

What is the level of trust at this moment that those in charge at this moment are committed to doing what you believe needs to be done?

ARMSTRONG: I think, at this point, the level of trust is pretty much zero for the overwhelming majority of our elected officials who should have been working on this issue a long time -- a long time ago. We've been protesting here since 2014 in solidarity with folks in Ferguson, Missouri and folks in New York after Eric Garner was killed, Tamir Rice.

So we've been pounding the pavement literally, since 2014 trying to ring the alarm and saying that by refusing to hold police officers accountable that our government is opening the door to the types of uprisings that we see right now. But our warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

And with regard to the cop in question who was actually charged with charges as you all were just discussing, this is not his first murder. He also had 12 excessive force violations. So why was he even still on the force in the first place?

There are a number of killer cops, cops who have been abusive, cops who over criminalize our community, still collecting a paycheck, setting themselves up to collect a pension, and still patrolling our streets which makes us feel as if we're under siege and many people are afraid.

And it's unacceptable. So those same mayors here and across the country who are now on television crying and asking people to stop the violence should have been proactive when they started to see the reports about excessive force in their own cities.

It rings disingenuous at a time of crisis for them to now try to dial things back when they had every opportunity to be proactive about addressing these issues.

KING: Nekima Levy Armstrong, Van Jones -- appreciate your insights this Sunday.

We will continue the conversation in the days ahead. I promise you that.

Appreciate both of you coming and to speak with us this morning.

Up next, this is a grim week in many other ways too -- 100,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths here in the United States.



KING: The scenes on streets across America this weekend just one of the very moments the country's facing right now -- 100,000 U.S. deaths because of coronavirus, a milestone we passed in this past week.

Just a quick look at some of the numbers here. Here is the 100,000. It goes up like that.

We're now at 100,000 and counting. February 1, 5,500. March and April the big months now. The question is does May -- it's about equal -- what will the final number be in May as we move on into June?

One of the compounding, frustrating factors here -- we're watching African-American pain right now. Well, the coronavirus also hitting African-Americans, about 12 percent of the national population; 25 percent of the COVID-19 deaths hitting African-Americans if you look at the map.

And you look at how we talked a little bit about this before in different places. In D.C. blacks are 44 percent of the population; 76 percent of the COVID deaths. In Michigan 14 percent of the population; 41 percent of the deaths. You see it playing out -- South Carolina, Louisiana, Illinois. The deaths among African-Americans in disproportionate numbers to their populations.

A lot of new cases, too, also coming out of minority communities. This is the governor of New York saying everyone needs to get on top of this.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: Those are not disconnected situations. One looks like a public health system issue, COVID; but it's getting at the inequality in health care also on a deeper level. And then the George Floyd situation which gets at the inequality and discrimination in the criminal justice system. They are connected.


KING: With us this Sunday to share their insights. Dr. Ashish Jha, he is the director of Harvard's Global Health Institute. Dr. Megan Ranney in Rhode Island, she is an emergency room physician and a researcher at Brown University.

Dr. Jha -- I want to start with you on just the sadness on top of the sadness in the sense that we have talked for weeks now about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the African-American community. If you're looking at new cases right now, whether it's L.A. or New York, it continues in terms of the new cases coming forward even as we try to fight this. I don't know the right words for it.


I think there are no right words for this. The disproportionate impact on the minority communities of the U.S. has been really overwhelming.

We were caught flat footed on this part of the response, too. We didn't see it coming. And now, I think, as we peak through the summer and fall we really have to redouble our efforts so that people of color do not continue to suffer disproportionately from this disease.

KING: And Dr. Ranney -- this is a question I've asked the two of you have been gracious with your time for the last couple of months coming on Sunday morning. I always ask are we better today than we were yesterday? Was last week better than the week before.

Where are we? It's a grim question to ask when we know we're at 100,000 and counting.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Yes. So across the country, deaths have been by and large plateauing but there are certainly some new hot spots.

And I think this week, more than any week, it is so important to call attention to those racial disparities that many of us in the public health community, John -- have been talking about for months. We know that blacks are two to four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to whites. And of course, other communities like Native Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately affected as well.

And it is so tied up with our country's history of structural racism, historical unjustices as well as ongoing problems. Things like the fact that many testing facilities are drive through rather than walk through. So not accessible to folks living in neighborhoods where they don't have a car.

It's related to the fact that so many blacks are essential workers. Our CMAs, our nursing home workers who are unable to take time off or to protect their families. Lack of sick leave. So many other issues that have been tied up with COVID-19 that are also tied up with what is going on today. And so as you've said already, these two epidemics or pandemics are just so tightly woven together.

KING: And, Dr. Jha -- some of the governors and mayors involved in this having protests in their cities have voiced concerns. If we can show you some pictures of some of the protesters out there. Many of them out there and most of them peaceful, it's important to note.

But people out there without masks, right. And there's been a debate -- there's a political debate in this country. Are masks good for public health? Or are masks somehow a form of government overreach if your mayor or governor tells you, you must or you should wear one.

Now you see these scenes and you have governors and mayors saying three weeks from now we may pay a price for this. Is that a fair point to make?

DR. JHA: Yes. So, you know, John -- when we've seen the pictures of the party goers in the past, it was much easier to just say that is wrong. It's going to do much more harm than good.


DR. JHA: As you see people protesting the injustices that are across our land, I obviously feel much more sympathetic to the protesters. And the question is how do we do protesting safely? And I think masks are a critical part of it. I don't think of masks as an abridgement of our freedom. I actually think of them as a way to allow us to be more free, to get out, to do more things.

And so I've been encouraging people who are in the protests to wear the masks, to try as much as possible to maintain social distance. It's obviously a very tough balancing act and political leaders have to strike the right tone on this. But masks are important.

KING: Dr. Jha, Dr. Ranney -- our time is short this Sunday because of the other events in the country. But I'm grateful for your time this morning. And we will talk again.

Up next for us, amid all the chaos, the anger, and the heartbreak, something I hope makes everyone proud. The United States is back in the business of launching astronauts from our own soil. Former NASA administrator, an astronaut, Charles Bolden joins us next.


KING: We wanted to close today in the stars, a brief break from these trying times.

Two NASA astronauts are due at the International Space Station in 90 minutes or so. Their trip is historic -- the first NASA mission on a commercial carrier and the first manned mission to space from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a great view right in front of you of Dragon separating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Separation confirmed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there is that callout, Dragon is now officially making its way to the International Space Station.


KING: President Trump among those on hand at Cape Canaveral.


Donald Trump: Those of us who saw the spectacular and unforgettable liftoff this afternoon watched more than an act of history. We watched an act of heroism.


KING: Our next guest flew four shuttle missions and was the NASA administrator back when the Obama administration decided to invite private companies to support the space program.


CHARLES BOLDEN, FORMER NASA ADMINISTRATOR AND ASTRONAUT: By combining private sector ingenuity with bipartisan national commitment and the unmatched expertise of NASA, we're not only better able to stretch the boundaries of the possible. We're strengthening our economy and creating good jobs for our people.


KING: Charles Bolden joins us this morning this Sunday from Charleston, South Carolina. Sir -- thanks so much for being with us on this day.

Put this into context for us. These two astronauts on a private rocket are going to get to the space station in about 90 minutes or so. Why is this important for the American space program?

BOLDEN: John -- first of all, thanks for allowing me to be on with you this morning. I'm a big fan.

KING: It's great to see you.

BOLDEN: It is critically important for this mission at this time for a number of reasons.

One is it shores up America's leadership in space exploration. While we've never lost that lead, if people look at whether or not you have the ability to get your only astronauts to space on your own vehicles. And for the last nine years or so we didn't have that capability after retiring the shuttle and running into hurdles in developing a commercial capability to do that. So that's reason number one.

Reason number two is because if we did not have an American capability to do this, we would have to continue to be depending on the Russians and pay increasingly exorbitant prices for seats with them. And we have to keep the International Space Station occupied with human beings who are doing very valuable research.

As a matter of fact today there is research going on, on things like Duchesne's muscular dystrophy. We actually played a part in finding a salmonella vaccine. So there is constantly very valuable research going on that makes life better for people back here on earth.

And if we didn't have a capability to get our astronauts there, there is a threat that we would have to take people off the International Space Station and leave it unattended.

KING: You have lived the peaks and valley of the space program. You came back from your first mission, I believe, it was on the Columbia just ten days before the Challenger took off. And that was a disaster, obviously.

As you see the rebound in the American space program now, we're showing some pictures of you back in the day there -- the President yesterday was saying the United States will get back to the moon and land the first woman on the moon. He says, the President, we will get to Mars. Does this launch guarantee that, step in the right direction? Help me with the context?

BOLDEN: Nothing ever guarantees anything, I think you know that. But this puts us a long way down the road to attaining those goals. And these are not -- these are not new goals -- John. I think, you know, anyone who has studied the space program knows that human beings have been talking about the moon and Mars as long as I think we've been recording history.

Werner von Braun had a plan to get us to Mars prior to our landing on the moon. So this has always been something for which we were searching. The Bush administration -- both Bush administrations, as a matter of fact -- the Clinton administration all had plans in development for getting humans back to the moon, you know, after we went back in the 60s and 70s, but nobody put the money in it to actually accomplish that.

And President Obama came in, he literally followed up on what had been recommended following the loss of Columbia in February of 2003 that NASA began to rely on American industry to provide the transportation to and from space while NASA focused on what NASA is supposed to be and that is research and development, exploration of deep space. And that's exactly what they're able to do today because of this launch yesterday.

KING: Mr. Bolden, I wanted you here to take a break from our trying times. I think Americans can use a look at the gee whiz of space and the wonder of space and take a little break.

But I also want to connect you to the trying times. Back in the 1960s, you wanted to go to the academy and Strom Thurmond would not sponsor you. Segregationist senator from your home state, South Carolina. You had to write a letter to LBJ.

When you see, as a pioneer yourself, as someone who has blazed trails yourself, when you see what's happening across America today, what are your thoughts -- sir?

BOLDEN: John, in all honesty, one cannot -- as an African-American, particularly an African-American male -- one cannot help and to feel somewhat depressed. You know, I had dreamed that we would be far beyond this by now.


BOLDEN: It is -- I was writing a message to one of my former colleagues from NASA last night, Dr. Dava Newman, who was my deputy for the last two years at NASA, telling her that as the eternal optimist, I cannot help believe that we'll overcome this, you know. When you look at what's going on right now, it's really hard to be positive. But we have to do that. And one of the things that I'm hoping this mission would do, although some of its luster was lost in the violence and everything that's going on across the country today. But I hope that this mission, the way that space has managed to pull nations together will in some way manage to pull our own people together here in the U.S. because that is most important for us.

You know, when I was growing up and we were in the streets, just like now, fighting about Vietnam, fighting about civil rights. That's when we put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

So a nation that can do that, can do anything. And we're not in unsimilar times today. I think we can pull through this but it's really going to take all of us as citizens of this great nation to do that.

KING: I hope you're right, sir. And I'm grateful for your time this Sunday.

BOLDEN: Thank you very much.

KING: And that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. We hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at 11:00 a.m. and noon, Eastern.

Up next, a very busy "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. His guests include the national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Senator Cory Booker, Governor Larry Hogan, and Mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday. Stay safe.