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Mayhem Overshadows Peaceful Protests Across U.S.; Trump Wants To Declare Antifa A Terror Group, Lacks Legal Authority. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Leader who calls for unity and an end to the violence, you'll have to look somewhere other than the White House.

[07:00:5]

President Trump tweeting threats to crack down on protesters with vicious dogs and ominous weapons. He himself retreated into a bunker for a time this weekend. This morning, there is debate inside the White House about whether the president should speak out.

And the police officer who pinned George Floyd to the pavement with his knee for more than eight minutes has been criminally charged. But protesters are demanding the arrest of the other three officers who did nothing to stop it. The Minneapolis Police chief tells CNN that, in his view, those officers are complicit.

We have reporters covering all of this for you this morning. So let's begin coverage with CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is live in Minneapolis. What's the situation there and overnight, Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we are just coming out of curfew here in Minneapolis, curfew that was put in place to try and keep some of these the protests peaceful. And, largely over the course of the week since George Floyd's death, the cycle has essentially been peaceful protests during the day, potential violence and even rioting and some looting at night and then cleanup the next morning.

That turning point seemed to come over the weekend, where Saturday, we saw maybe the largest law enforcement response we had seen yet. And now, something officials said was going to happen because they did not want to continue seeing the literal anarchy as was described by the government here.

So then we got to Sunday where largely all the peaceful protests we saw were peaceful. Some were took place on the interstate here. Others took place at the site where George Floyd was seen pinned to the ground and that now infamous cell phone video.

And people from all walks of life, including the police chief himself, Chief Medaria Arradondo, here from the Minneapolis Police Department, showed up to speak to the people there but also to pay respects himself. He kneeled in front of that makeshift memorial, saying as you mentioned earlier that the other officers that were involved in this were complicit, not just the officer, former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen with his knee on Floyd's neck, he very much takes the blames of the department and says that this is something they own and now, it is something they are going to have to move forward with.

And that is part of what protesters are asking for here. It's not just about the death of George Floyd that happened, again, a week ago today. It's about trying to push for a better future and a better relationship with the police department.

Now, I mentioned that former officer, Derek Chauvin. He's the only one of the four officers involved here that is actually formally been charged. He was set to have an initial court appearance today. That court appearance has been moved to a week from today. But, again, what the protesters want and what the family wants, as we have heard, is they want all four of these officers to be charged. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Omar Jimenez, thank you very much.

Joining us now is the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR MELVIN CARTER (D-ST. PAUL, MN): Good morning, thanks for having me on.

CAMEROTA: was the situation in St. Paul more peaceful, a more peaceful night than you've seen in past few days?

CARTER: You know, we had a group of thousands of people protesting peacefully who demonstrated at the capital, who did a march, they marched down on the freeway and through our neighborhoods. They were able to work effectively with our police department and protest peacefully. And that's the important thing to know is, that our focus right now must be on the fact that George Floyd should still be alive. He never should have been killed in the first place, that not one, but all four of those officers who are responsible for his killing, as the Minneapolis chief has now said, are complicit and should be held accountable and that we have deep work to do.

I love this conversation about not just who killed him but what killed him. We have deep work to address the systemic racism that exists in our community and all of these factors that leave us kind of continually watching video after video after video. And I'll tell you, as you watch those videos, as we see the gruesome videos of George Floyd's killing, and as we know that it's not a standalone video, that this is something that in particular black and brown communities have been traumatized by, not just over the last ten years of camera phone videos but over generations and in a way, anger, this deep anger that we're seeing is really the only human response.

But that anger has to be channeled into productive, constructive ways. When it's channeled in ways that are destructive that destroy the places that our senior citizens need to go to get their medicine field, or the places that our families need to go to get groceries for their children, it's consuming our community and we can't have that.

CAMEROTA: Do you understand why those other three officers haven't been charged with a crime?

CARTER: I'm not an attorney. But I'll tell you, from a perspective of watching that video, the answer is no. My father is a retired St. Paul police officer.

[07:05:00]

He served this city for nearly 30 years. We were at a store once and someone got caught for shoplifting and he went to help. And I looked at him and said, hey, Dad, why don't you tell them you're off today? He looked at me and he said, no, no. I'm never off. I always have a duty to help.

And so when all of humanity, when, literally, the entirety of humanity can look at that video and say, this is a tragedy, this is an injustice, this never should have happened and somebody should have stopped it, and yet, we have four officers in that video participating in Mr. Floyd's killing, that says that something is deeply wrong. It says that it cannot be dismissed as a lone apple or a bad apple or a rogue officer.

There's a culture of policing that we all know is a too ugly part of our history. There's a culture of abuse. There's a culture of violence. There's a culture of escalation in policing that cannot continue to be a part of our future. Holding these officers accountable is absolutely critical for turning the page on that culture.

CAMEROTA: You think there is systemic racism in the St. Paul, Minneapolis Police Department?

CARTER: I think to narrow this conversation down to the St. Paul and Minneapolis Police Department is to completely miss what's going on in our country. I'll tell you, here in St. Paul, we have a fantastic department, we have a fantastic chief who I always hear ask our officers three questions. Were your actions reasonable, were they necessary, were they done with respect?

He always talks about our bank of trust and the fact that when it comes time to withdraw from at that that bank, we better hope that we've made years worth of deposits to help us build up that trust and community. We're doing the work -- departments around the country are doing the work to build that trust. But we also have to know that there is a historic trauma that has happened, in particular, again, to black and brown communities. And every time we see this video, these types of videos come from anywhere in the country, that it triggers that trauma and it sets us all back.

CAMEROTA: I wanted to ask you about something that President Trump tweeted, because it involves mayors. And what he says he'll do if you don't take the reins. So this was this weekend. He said, crossing state lines to incite violence is a federal crime. Liberal governors and mayors must get much tougher or the federal government will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our military and many arrests.

So he's talking about the agitators. Do you think that President Trump is going to send in the military?

CARTER: It's easy to talk tough from Washington, D.C. We're facing just these incredible situations on the local level. And I'll tell you, one thing that history has shown over and over and over again is that people protest. Martin Luther King said it. It's been often repeated. Protest is the language of the unheard. People protest because they're unheard. If the goal is to just address how people are protesting and never address why they're protesting, then we'll only see this anger and we'll only see this resentment start to grow.

That's why our call here at the local level, our call around the country is for peace. We're asking people to demonstrate peacefully. We're asking people to scream from the top of their lungs that George Floyd should still be alive, that these officers should be convicted, that we've got to change the course of our country.

But I want to be clear, that peace that we're calling for should not be mistaken for patience, it should not be mistaken for or asking people to sit on the sidelines and wait while we slowly and incrementally slow the tide of, in particular, black men who are killed at the hands of law enforcement.

We are asking the people who are enraged by this to stay impatient, to stay active, to stay energized and channel those -- that energy into things that don't destroy our community infrastructure, that don't destroy our community institutions, but help us build them up.

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, look, the vast majority of protesters are peaceful. But, of course, we have seen all of the video over the weekend of the looters, of the people who are destroying things. From the arrest records in your city, have you been able to figure out if the looters are an organized group or are from outside or who they are?

CARTER: You know, that's an important question. And I know our law enforcement officials are really digging into that. What you said, I think that's so critical to understand is we really do have two separate groups, we have two separate things going on in our country and certainly in our community here locally right now. We have those who are just distraught, heartbroken and traumatized and by that video. And, of course, that video does not stand alone. It stands in a long history of, in particular, again, African-American men who have lost their lives at the hands of the police.

The fact that I would have to clarify for you which African-American man I'm talking about who was choked to death by a police officer while pleading that, I can't breathe, the fact that I have to tell you whether I'm talking about George Floyd or Eric Garner speaks volumes about the state of our country right now.

[07:10:17]

And so we have people who are in the streets who just have to scream from the top of their lungs, who need people to know that, who cannot rest while these types of injustices are being committed. And we are working with them. Our police are working carefully with them to make sure we are protecting their First Amendment right to say those things.

At the same time, we have people in our community whose goal is to break a window, to start a fire, to destroy our local businesses, to destroy our immigrant-owned restaurants, to destroy those local businesses that have been employed our neighbors for generations and we cannot accept that. Our argument is that we can be a community at the same time that rejects the wrongful killing of black men and the community that rejects the willful destruction of our neighborhoods. Those two are not opposing goals. They're one in the same.

CAMEROTA: Mayor Melvin Carter, we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us. Thank you.

CARTER: Thank you very much. Peace, not patience.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Breaking overnight, we have just learned that more than 250 people were arrested here in New York City for violent acts like the ones you're seeing now. CNN's Brynn Gingras live with the details. Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning. Yes, listen, the arrests are happening. Above us, we see an NYPD chopper. They are still looking for people. You know why? Because they haven't stopped.

We have actually seen people still going into stores, taking things out, even when it's day out. Because, remember, we're in a pandemic. None of these stores are open. People aren't coming to the stores. Everything is shut down, including all the streets. So it's opportunistic at this point for the looters, which is still continuing.

I want to show you the damage that has been caused in this high-end section of SoHo. Look, this is the Chanel store. There was wood in front of the store. They were prepared for the chaos that could possibly ensue, but it didn't matter. The looters tore down the wood and got into the store.

If you look inside, it's completely ransacked, shelves are broken. Displays are knocked to the ground. There's merchandise still even on the ground. Just a block from where I am, I can tell you, there are tons of bags emptied that used to have fine jewelry in them.

As we're continuing to walk just down this one street in SoHo, you can see, this is Balmain store. They boarded it up as well, but they broke through the wood and got in to the store. Everything inside is gone. And now, there are contractors here this morning that are now trying to re-board this wood possibly for another night of this.

But, again, police here, they're on the scene. They weren't here last night, clearly, because people have this much time. But even still if they were here, they are here now and they're playing this cat and mouse game trying to chase people as they continue to steal things. That's what's happening here in New York City even at this hour. As you said, more than 250 people were arrested.

There were a number of police vehicles that were damaged, officers that were injured. We should say there were peaceful protests in New York City, but even now, there's criminal activity going on. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Brynn, thank you for giving us the look from the ground there.

Breaking news right now in Philadelphia, chaos is continuing. A pickup truck has just crashed into a bank. CNN's Brian Todd is there. What do we know about this, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we were here when this happened just a few moments ago. We'll take you in. There's the truck. We were covering the looting that's still going on in this shopping center over here just a few moments ago when we heard this pickup truck speed into the lot. We heard a loud crash behind us, we turn around and this is what we see.

Shortly after that, officers got here. One of them climbed into the bed of the truck to try to get to the person inside. Then the officer had to draw his gun. I asked that officer right after that, what had happened. He said there was some kind of a bulge in the pocket area of the man's trousers that the man was reaching for. He didn't know what it was. It turned out to be okay. It was a very tense few moments there. But they then pulled a man out of that truck and took him into custody.

I asked another officer on the scene here. Clearly, it looks like an attempted robbery. What do you know? And he said it was definitely an attempted robbery because they're looking for a second person. There was one person in the truck who crashed in there. They're now looking for a second person. This officer told me that people went into the bank and came out with money. So this was clearly a robbery or robbery attempt.

Again, we came here to cover the looting going on in that shopping center. There's still a lot of this going on in pockets of the city. The police and state police and National Guardsmen are trying to get a handle on this, trying to get their arms around it. It's a little bit like whack-a-mole. Something happens in one section, they address it, they move away and then something happens again in another section.

This shopping center over here, as a matter of fact, we came here late last night. When we got there, there must have been more than 40 police officers, a lot of vehicles, after this place has been looted.

[07:15:04]

We saw them pull out, within about ten minutes, the looters were right back. And they were there this morning as well.

So, still a lot of chaos here in Philadelphia. We know that there have been more than 200 arrests. There have been more than three dozen arrests just for looting. That number, I'm sure, will go up in the next several hours. John? BERMAN: All right. Brian Todd, good to have you on the ground there. Please keep us posted throughout the morning.

We're just learning the entire Washington, D.C. National Guard has been activated to help police with the protests that we saw overnight in the nation's capital, some very close to the White House again. CNN's Jeremy Diamond live in Washington with the very latest. Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. We are just two blocks from the White House right now at the scene of the AFL-CIO. This is their headquarters, the largest federation of unions in the country. As you can see, this building has been not only vandalized but damaged by looters and vandals last night after the protests, which happened here right outside of the White House, John.

You can see the windows have been entirely broken into at the lobby of this headquarters. And there was a fire that was actually set in the lobby of this building. You can see still some of the smoldering wreckage here.

John, we should note, of course, that this happened after there were hundreds and hundreds of people who flocked just outside of the White House to protest the death of George Floyd. And for the third night in a row, John, unfortunately, we have seen those protests turned violent as the night went on. Things started to change around 10:00 P.M. last night. Several fires were set in this neighborhood. Several cars were set on fire.

And also, just up the block behind me here, there is St. John's Episcopal Church, a historic church that has been around for more than 200 years, the basement of that church also was ablaze last night. Luckily, that fire was put out and there was not significant damage, we're told, to the church itself. That is a church though, John, that every president since James Madison has attended at least one church service there.

We should note that last night though, John, protesters were kept further away from the White House. That avoided the situation that we learned of that happened on Friday night when we were told, John, that the president was taken to an underground bunker after protesters came quite close to the fence on the north lawn of the White House, a pretty extraordinary situation.

Last night though, John, Secret Service officers kept protesters much further away beyond Lafayette Park just in front of the White House. John?

BERMAN: All right. Jeremy Diamond for us in Washington, D.C., Jeremy, thank you very much.

So, President Trump says that Antifa, that this group is behind the protests around the country. He wants to label them as terrorists. Is that even possible, legal? What's he doing here and why? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:20:00]

CAMEROTA: This morning, President Trump will meet Attorney General Bill Barr. The president wants to label the group, Antifa, as a domestic terror organization. But there are problems with that plan. And CNN's Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us live with more.

So what do we know about this, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, the biggest problem is the Constitution. There is no legal mechanism in the United States to designate a wholly domestic group as a terrorist organization. That is something that is reserved only for foreign terrorist organizations.

We heard yesterday from the attorney general, Bill Barr, who said that what the Justice Department is going to do is going to investigate some of these violence to see whether or not any of these groups, including Antifa, is involved in it and they're going to investigate it as a domestic terrorism issue.

But there is no such thing as what the president is describing in his tweet yesterday. The Minnesota public safety official yesterday addressed some of the questions of whether there were outsiders who were involved in some of this. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARRINGTON, COMMISSIONER, MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: What I know is there's a lot of rumors and there's a lot of stuff up on social media, and that we are feeding that to our intelligence units to try and see if we can validate or vet any of those things. And at this point, I don't have any credible evidence of any specific group.

But I haven't had anybody that can actually bring me any evidence, either through social media or through information that actually validates that or makes that a credible piece of information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And it's important to note that federal officials tell us that they've seen involvement and certainly encouragement by groups on both the left, the extreme left and the extreme right as the official there just noted that they haven't really connected all the dots on all. This is something that we expect we'll see, John, going on for a few more days as they do these investigations.

BERMAN: All right. Evan Perez, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Jeh Johnson. He's the former secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama. Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us.

Evan was just reporting on the president's claim that he's going to label Antifa as a terrorist organization. Evan said the biggest problem with that is the Constitution. That turns out to be a pretty big problem. Why do you think the president is trying to pin these demonstrations on Antifa?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Because to some, in his political base, it sounds good. Thanks for having me on. We have fact check. Sometimes you need law check also. Evan is correct.

First of all, Antifa is a movement. It is not a discernable group of people. Second, the State Department has the authority to designate a foreign terrorist organization as such, like Al Qaida or the Islamic State, which brings about all sorts of sanctions and other things.

[07:25:02]

But there is no legal authority in the United States code or the Constitution to designate a domestic movement as a terrorist organization.

Likewise, the president does not have unlimited powers to unleash the military here in the United States to make arrests. There is a law enacted by our Congress in 1878 called the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the U.S. military, the active duty U.S. military from engaging in domestic law enforcement.

So it's important that we law check a lot of what the president says.

BERMAN: The president -- there's reporting from Phil Rucker over The Washington Post, and CNN has this reporting also. Phil wrote overnight in a way that's pretty stark. He said, Trump and his advisers calculated that he shouldn't speak to the nation because he had nothing to say, no tangible policy or action to announce, nor did he feel an urgent motivation to try to bring people together.

Your reaction to that and what you think -- go ahead.

JOHNSON: I disagree with that. In this situation, a president, our national leader, has a lot to say. In 1965, for example, after the brutal beating on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by -- of those who were protesting and trying to obtain voting rights, President Johnson went to a joint session of Congress and literally embraced the words of the movement. We shall overcome.

A president in this circumstance can and should acknowledge the legitimacy of the grievance that many in America are bringing to our attention right now about excessive force by our nation's police, by embracing the words, black lives matter, and acknowledging the grievance.

Simply acknowledging the grievance and hearing people who are crying out for justice in this circumstance can go a very, very long way and the grievance is real. We have yet again another example of it in Minneapolis.

BERMAN: It is interesting though. The one voice we did hear from the administration this weekend was the national security adviser who said outright that he did not believe there was systemic racism in national policing.

JOHNSON: I would put it this way. What I see is certainly, at a minimum, a systemic problem with the culture in many police departments across the country, where too often members of our police force are people who simply want to be the neighborhood bully rather than people who join the police to protect and to serve. And there are many, many fine examples of police officers who put upon a badge to do just that.

But when I look at that image in Minneapolis of a police officer, a representative of our nation's police, with his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck, as if the police officer were the hunter and Mr. Floyd were an animal and he was snuffing out his life, what cries out at you is that black lives do matter, and that there is a culture in our police department, in many police departments of those who are not there to protect and serve but who were there simply to be the neighborhood bully.

You had on CNN a few minutes ago someone who was a victim of that excessive force who happened to be white. And so I see a culture problem. And there are certainly racist elements across our country and our police forces. The larger problem is a culture problem. I think we need to think about who we are recruiting to join our nation's police forces and the character of those who are there now.

BERMAN: And this is a lot of what people are demonstrating against on the streets right now. And many of the protests have been largely peaceful. You have said that you do have concerns that demonstrators are seeding the moral high ground when things end up getting burned, when stores end up getting looted. Why?

JOHNSON: Because, look, as Martin Luther King said, protest is the language of those who feel that their voices are not heard. In this country, protest, peaceful protest is a recognized form of language of speech. It is part of our American values. When protest turns to violence, however, you give strength and comfort to those on the other side of the debate, the more extremist elements of those on the other side of the debate and innocent people get hurt.

A clothing store on the lower east side in SoHo in Manhattan has absolutely nothing to do with this.

[07:30:01]

And those who were the property owners were innocent victims of this.

END