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Trump On Call With Governors: Most Of You Are Weak; Nearly 500 Arrested During Minneapolis Protests This Weekend. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 1, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar. And we begin with breaking developments, as many of the nation's governors facing a double crisis, civil uprisings in the midst of a pandemic.
And then this just in, the president telling most of the governors on a phone call they are quote, weak, in the way they handled the protests, which are, of course, protests that erupted from what happened one week ago today when George Floyd gasped for air fighting for his life, repeatedly telling four Minneapolis officers, I can't breathe.
Since then, looting, vandalism and arson and some of the demonstrations have threatened to distract from the protesters' message to end the killings of unarmed black men and deal with the systemic injustice against black American. States having made it this point more than 4,000 arrests, 40 of them have had to enact curfews.
And now, governors are also facing pressure from the president who is urging the use of more force.
Kaitlan Collins, you are live for us at the White House. Tell us about this call that the president had with governors and it sounds like he's actually talking about something that would exacerbate what we're seeing.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a stunning call, Brianna. This is a call we should note happened behind closed doors. But CNN obtained the audio of the president's call that he had with governors today and law enforcement officials, as well as the attorney general, Bill Barr, was on the call.
And during it, the president opened it, Brianna, berating these governors, saying that most of them have been weak and that they need to crack down on the protests that are happening in their city. And they need to start using the military, he implored them to do and said that a lot of these protesters, he believes, need to be arrested and sent to jail. And that will help stop some of these protests that we've seen breaking out in the days since George Floyd died.
Listen to exactly what it was the president said to these governors on this call just a short while ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What happened in the State of Minnesota -- they were a laughing stock all over the world. They took over the police department, the police were running down the streets, silence (INAUDIBLE), the rest of them running, it was no camera. And then wiped out -- they'll probably have to build a new one. But I have never seen anything like it, and the whole world was laughing.
Two days later -- I spoke to the governor, the governor asked, I think, on the call that (INAUDIBLE) and all of a sudden, and I said, you've got to use the National Guard in big numbers. They didn't at first and then they did. And I'll say -- I don't know what it was. It was the third night, fourth night. Those guys flew through that stuff like it was butter. They walked right through, and you haven't had any problems. I mean, they know. They're not going to go there. They'll go to some other place.
Once you called out and you dominated, you took the worst place and you made it -- they didn't even cover it last night because there was so little action, because you dominated. You dominated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, Brianna, he said there that he does not believe enough governors are using the National Guard. He pushed forward them to do so. And we should note, some of the governors pushed back in real-time on the president, including Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who told the president he did not like the rhetoric that he was using.
The president shout back and said he didn't like Pritzker's rhetoric either, and you're seeing just how contentious this call, got a really remarkable call just to hear the president's message for governors there.
KEILAR: Yes. He doesn't seem, Kaitlan, to understand that the military is not a political tool. I mean, this is one of the reasons that the president has faced so much criticisms for politicizing the military, sending them to the border with Mexico, where they can't really do anything because it's not really within the purview of what they're supposed to be doing, right?
They are not supposed to be law enforcement and yet this is what you're seeing. He's politicizing. He seems to think that the military is his but, really, the military is America's. I feel like this is a pattern that we have seen from him, Kaitlan, when it comes to the military.
COLLINS: Yes. And one other comment he made on there was he said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is going to be put in charge of this. It's not exactly clear what that means or what General Milley's role is going to look like. But the president was saying that he doesn't believe enough force is being used, basically, to crack down on these protesters. And thinks the National Guard is the ones to do that. And we know he pushed some states and he was confused by some of these governors weren't using them. Some of those governors said they believe it would further escalate the situation by having tanks and whatnot come through their city.
So it's unclear. But the president had a pretty clear message, saying he wasn't happy.
We should also note that he also told the governor of Maine expressed concern about the president coming to that state on Friday, as he's currently scheduled to do. He said, because the governor was trying to talk him out of coming, he was now definitely going to the State of Maine on Friday.
KEILAR: And tell us then, what did he say about the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his involvement in what we're seeing?
COLLINS: He said he was putting the chairman, that's General Milley, in charge. He didn't say exactly in charge of what, but it came as he was pushing more of these governors to use the National Guard. So we're still trying to figure out exactly the clarity of what he was saying about that.
We've got this entire audio. It's about an hour long of the president saying this. And so we're still trying to figure out more. But he did say he's putting the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff in charge. And, of course, we're going to have to what that looks like and whether it materializes.
KEILAR: All right. We will keep an ear on that. That could be a gross misuse if it were instated of the military. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Abby Phillips, she's our CNN Political Correspondent, and Dana Bash, CNN's Chief Political Correspondent.
Dana, I think I'm stunned by what we are hearing coming off of this call. I know a lot of people say, oh, you can't be stunned anymore, right? But this is actually -- I see this as sort of a new mission creek for the president when it comes to the military and talking about how they should be used in this situation. This is not the role, right? This, to me, smacks what you would hear a dictator looking at the military as his military to use.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And, luckily, this is a democracy that has laws to protect that democracy from statements like that. Posse Comitatus is a law that we all have to see how and what the president is actually talking about, frankly, whether he was going off or whether he actually means that he is going to try to find a way for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and United States military to do something on domestic oil.
Again, I'm not a lawyer. But I know from covering these kinds of things and first from understanding basic laws, that I don't know that there is actually anything that allows the president to do that. So that's one thing that would be a gross misuse of the military.
But most importantly, the question is about leadership. I mean, we have this call, which I talked to sources who were on it. We now have the tape and Kaitlan was saying, we're going to go through the whole thing. But it was an hour long of agitation and. Frankly, you know, like my third grader, I know you are but what am I, what are you doing? You've got to get out there and you've got to get your law enforcement on the street.
And he's trying to be Mr. Law Enforcement Richard Nixon from the '60s, but this is such a different time. I mean, that was then, this is now. Yes, he's trying to appeal to The people who were not just in his base but perhaps some swing voters who don't like what's going on and want the government to have some control over this.
But saying that in private to the governors, which I assume at some point we're going to hear from him to do it public but without giving a public address, whether it's Oval Office. I know that we had reporting, including myself, that he had mixed advice on that. And he, at least until now, has decided that that's not the way to go. We'll see if that changes, but some form of leadership to fill the national void. And he's just not doing it. Some people who are close to him are saying he shouldn't do it because he's not equipped for it, which is kind of mind-blowing.
KEILAR: Yes. And I know your third grader and I would give him even more credit, Dana. I would just want to say that.
So, Abby, the president lamented here the fact that governors are not using the National Guard in a way that he would have liked. Let's listen to more of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It got so bad a few nights ago that the people wouldn't have minded an occupying force. I wish we had an occupying force in there. But for some reason, I don't know what it is. Governors don't like calling the Guard when we have 350,000 plus in the National Guard and nobody wants to use them and their cities are ransacked and they're disgraced all over the world. All over the world, they're showing it.
What happened in Los Angeles with the (INAUDIBLE), Philadelphia, and New York was a disaster. I don't understand what happened to New York's finest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I mean, Abby, this whole discussion about the National Guard, first of, it's being used by this administration as a deployable force, not an emergency force all the time. It's not just a tool to be used as a political weapon by the president. But I think one of the things that is so concerning is that he does seem to be so agitated here.
[13:10:05] And even when the president has talked about using the military in certain situations, even when it's not clear they're not supposed to, he still kind of finds a way to do it, like sending the National Guard to the border even when their roles is pretty minimal. He still sticks a bunch of guardsmen and women there on the border.
And so the question here is going to be, what is he going to do to at least try to seem like he is doing what he is saying?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think you are right that the president often says these things without really thinking about how legal it is and what the reality of the situation is and then the rest of the government follows behind him trying to make his words a reality even if it is just, you know, kind of a minimal role like you saw at the border.
But, I mean, when I listened to this call and I listen to what the president was saying, you see just two completely different Americas that are playing out here. The president is thinking that a more militarized police, a more militarized presence on the street is what is needed in response to these protests.
And then you have protesters themselves and you have a lot of people in this country basically saying that is the opposite of what we want, that the problem is actually how overly militarized and how the use of force is being disproportionately used against African-Americans in this country.
The president does not seem to understand how his rhetoric is diverging from what is unfolding in this country. And that's why the backdrop of all of this, Brianna, is that there is discussion inside the White House about what should the president do, who should he demonstrate leadership.
And some people, a few people are saying he should address the racial aspect of this, the fundamental question about whether people are being treated fairly or unfairly based on their race. But when the president is left to his own devices, he wants to go back to law and order. He wants to bring the military onto the streets of United States of America to put down what he called a movement.
So what we are seeing here is a president really showing what he would prefer to do. Now, if the White House tries to give him a speech that he can read from a teleprompter, as they did in the middle of the Charlottesville episode, I think you will see what we saw in Charlottesville, which is the president reading a speech and then a couple of days later walking that whole thing back, and that could be disastrous for an already volatile situation that's playing out across the country.
BASH: And, Brianna, can I just --
BASH: Sorry. Can I just point out one other important thing which might be obvious when you think about it, but it's important to say out loud, which is, what you are seeing is a strategy that I am sure we're going to hear very much a lot more in public. We saw a little bit over the weekend the president tweeting.
You heard in that call the people he is trying to call weak, he is calling weak, are blue state governors and blue city mayors. That is not an accident. This is a red/blue thing from his perspective and he is trying to stick a wedge even further in that divide with his rhetoric and his response.
KEILAR: And I just want to add those mayors -- those governors, I should say, they're not afraid to call on the Guards. You have over 40,000 Guards members who have been fanning out across the country on the frontlines of coronavirus, some of them serving as doctors. They are administering COVID tests, they are doing more chore (ph) services, they're handing out food. There are guardsmen all over the country serving this nation, trying to keep people healthy.
And the president, yes, the commander in chief, but he does not own this military, it's not his, it's America's military, and he's doing them a disservice.
That's my opinion. I will not associate it with you, Dana, or you, Abby. Thank you very much to both of you and to Kaitlan as well.
America is in crisis. Protesters are out on the streets. They have been in recent nights. Arrests have been escalating across the country over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. So what happens now that Minnesota's attorney general is taking over the case?
Plus, the emotional response when the family of George Floyd made the first direct contact with the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department live on air.
And concerns that protest from the weekend could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus.
KEILAR: Back now to the protests that have escalated across the country. Now, for a seventh day, states are on guard for more potential unrest. Tens of thousands of people across America have been demanding an end to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police and for the arrests of the other three officers who were at the scene of George Floyd's death.
But as they are seeking justice, looters, arsonists have been attempting to mar the message with violence and vandalism. At least 26 states have activated the National Guard. We have correspondents from the west to the east and between covering this national moment. We start in Minneapolis with CNN's Omar Jimenez.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the protests we have seen today and even over the course of yesterday have largely looked a lot like this, where even at times there were music playing, it's very peaceful during the daytime hours and even yesterday and the nighttime hours was the first time we had really seen more of a peaceful vibe, especially as compared to what we have seen in the later week of last week.
Now, in this particular circle where you're looking, it was in the overnight hours that they actually were protesting specifically the curfew that went into place and posed by the governor starting at 6:00 A.M. Central -- excuse me, 8:00 P.M. Central, and they stayed the entire night until 6:00 A.M. Central in this exact same spot here.
And this is the type of protest again officials have wanted to see. It is why they have beefed up the amount of law enforcement we have seen over the weekend. Saturday was maybe a transitional day where there were heavy clashes, even violent at times, between police and protesters.
On Sunday, while there were some clashes, things seem to be transitioning to peaceful. And all in all, over the course of the weekend, there were close to 500 people arrested. But the vast majority of those, over a hundred of them, seemed to be in peaceful manners.
Now, as for what we are expecting ahead, we do expect more protests today. But on the investigative side, former Officer Derek Chauvin seen with his knee on George Floyd's neck in that cell phone video, he was set to have his initial court hearing today, that has been moved back a week.
We are expecting to hear actually at this site in a few moments some family, as we understand, of George Floyd's is expected to be here. And then also this afternoon, we'll be hearing from the family attorney, Benjamin Crump, over the findings of an independent autopsy report done that, of course, the family wanted in this because they said they would trust that one more over the city's. Brianna?
KEILAR: Omar, thank you for that report from Minneapolis.
In New York, the National Guard and state police are on standby. But so far, there is no curfew. CNN's Brynn Gingras is there. Tell us what today looks like so far, Brynn?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. Well, there's going to be a conversation between the governor and the mayor of New York City to determine if a curfew is going to happen, but as you said, no curfew as of yet.
I want to show you here. We are in SoHo still this morning. And I want to give you an idea of what we're continuing to see throughout the morning. Look at this big chunk of concrete from this sidewalk. Well, guess what, Brianna.
As I walk over here, you can see where that landed last night when it turned to chaos overnight. You could see it in the middle of this store, Jimmy Choo store, broken glass. And, luckily, for this store, there is a protective screen that looters were not able to actually get in the store and steal merchandise.
However, that was not the case for a majority of the stores in this high-end section of New York City, where there is retail shopping. You can see this store down here, they're putting up boards. This is what we are seeing throughout the morning now, everyone boarding up. And even last night, there were stores that boards up. It didn't matter. Looters actually tore them down and still were able to steal things.
Brianna, up until about 8:00 this morning, we were still seeing people going into stores and just taking things. About 400 arrests, the commissioner believes, happened just from overnight and they are expecting protests to continue today. Again, it's important to note, there were still protests. But as the commissioner said, it got ugly overnight and it got ugly quick. Brianna?
KEILAR: It sure did. All right, Brynn, thank you for that. Omar, thank for your report.
Still ahead, it took six days for the family of George Floyd to make direct contact with the Minneapolis Police Department. Our cameras were rolling. And our very own Sara Sidner was there. We're going to talk to her, next.
KEILAR: The Minneapolis Department of Public Safety says there were nearly 500 arrests during this weekend's protests as more and more cities are preparing for continued demonstrations today, many of them are implementing curfews.
Joining me now to discuss Steven Belton, he's the President and CEO of the Urban League Twin Cities, and Yodit Tewolde, she is a criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor.
And, Steven, to you first, we last spoke on Thursday. How do you feel about the way that these protests have progressed across the country?
STEVEN BELTON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, URBAN LEAGUE TWIN CITIES: Well, of course I'm concerned about the episodes of violence, but I would encourage people not to conflate what our and lawful and rational responses to the horrific incident of violence that occurred with George Floyd with those people who are co-opting this platform for their own selfish ambitions. The vast majority of people are protesting peacefully, and they have a right to do that. They should do that.
I'm encouraged by the fact that people are doing. At least keep in mind, this was in response to horrific act, the violence of a Minneapolis Police Department and specifically Derek Chauvin is what brought about these horrendous acts that have -- that that horrendous act has what brought about the violence and the protests that have occurred. So people have a right to protest and they're doing that.
KEILAR: And, Yodit, the officer who has been charged in Floyd's death, Derek Chauvin, who, of course, was the one who had his knee in George Floyd's neck, which killed him. His first court appearance was supposed to be today. This was postponed this morning for June. Tell us why you think this is happening and what the expectation is about how this moves forward.
BELTON: Well, I don't know why --
YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there was no reason that was --
KEILAR: I'm so sorry. Yodit, can you let me know?
TEWOLDE: Yes. So there was no reason that was given for why his court date was postponed.