Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Protests Erupt For Seventh Day After Trump Threatens Military Action; Video Shows Car Striking NYPD Officer Amid Unrest; Joe Biden Speaks On Civil Unrest, Nationwide Protests. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 2, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A good morning to you. It is quite a time in our country. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: It certainly is. We're glad you're here. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Just moments ago, the president took to Twitter and he declared, quote, domination in Washington, D.C. despite scenes like this. This is what played out yesterday, federal law enforcement pushing back peaceful protestors, deploying tear gas and rubber bullets on them, again, on peaceful protestors. He also, the president, declared himself a law and order president and threatens military action if the violence does not stop.

We are just learning over 20,000 National Guard troops have been activated as tension builds across the country.

SCIUTTO: We have now seen in this country seven straight nights of outrage and protests since the death of George Floyd, playing out in cities big and small. Two autopsies have now ruled Floyd's death a homicide. You'll remember after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Moments from now, we will hear from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, the former vice president, Joe Biden, on the crisis, one day after the president addressed the nation, required really a violent response from police in riot gear to push back protesters for this a stunning photo op outside a D.C. church. The leaders of the church saying his message directly contradicts their own of peace.

We're covering this from all the angles. First, let's start with Boris Sanchez in our nation's capitol very close to the White House there. What is the situation now there now, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Jim. Yes, there is a bit of cleanup underway this morning. There is also a law enforcement presence still here. I'll get to that in just a sec. But I want to point out that within the next hour, President Trump is set to visit the St. John Paul II National Shrine. That's at about 11:00. This will be about the second religious landmark that the president visits in just 24 hours.

Sources close to the president tell us that he's worried about his support in the evangelical community. He believes it may be slipping as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And right now outside St. John's Episcopal Church, this group of black man of ministers is making a statement about the situation in the country. We'll likely hear them say something about the president and his visit here yesterday.

You can imagine his visit, this photo opportunity he had outside of this historic church didn't sit well with a lot of folks, including the bishop who leads the diocese that this church is a part of. Listen to what she told CNN earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BISHOP MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: This is was a charade that, in some ways, was meant to bolster a message that does nothing to calm, to calm the soul and to reassure the nation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is the president a frequent visitor to St. John's?

BUDDE: No. No. No, he's not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And getting back to what we were seeing just outside the White House, I want to point out this about eight-foot fence that was put up overnight. It blocks all access to Lafayette Park. You see there are FBI agents out here, Secret Service agents, we've seen local police. They have blocked off traffic for around three blocks around the White House only to official use.

They're also handling protestors differently. You see many of them are not actually on the street. They've been having them stay on the sidewalk. Things a little bit quieter here today. We'll see how things unravel as the day goes on. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Boris, thank you. Powerful to see that image of all of those black faith leaders gathered in front of St. John's this morning.

Let's go to New York now where an officer is recovering this morning but still in serious condition after a video captured a shocking hit and run last night in the middle of the chaos. Our National Correspondent, Brynn Gingras, joins us this morning.

So still in serious condition, is that right?

BRYNN GINGRAS: Yes, Poppy. I want to show you that video. It is disturbing so I want to warn our viewers. But this is something that happened at 12:45 in the Bronx, according to the NYPD. Essentially, police were responding to a burglary in progress at a pawn shop, and we're told that was connected to looting that was happening all over the city, but also in that area of the Bronx.

And when police responded, including that sergeant, you can see from the video that a car mowed that sergeant over. He was left in the street. A suspect is still on the loose and that police sergeant, he is in serious condition with a head and leg injury.

But, listen, that was the tip of the iceberg. I mean, there were incidents that happened the night before. We know an officer was struck with a police vehicle.

[10:05:01]

The night before that, we were hearing about Molotov cocktails being thrown at police. That is the violence that is erupting here in New York City. And that's only really part of it, because here is the other side of it, guys. The looting that still continues.

We are in Herald Square. You can see this sunglass store. There were some things thrown into this store, likely things taken out, just like we saw in SoHo yesterday. And then, of course, here is Macy's, and this is a flagship store boarded up, and yet, even still, we're told by the NYPD that five people were arrested inside.

And the question really is, is what's going to change? There was a curfew last night at 11:00, tonight it's going to be 8:00. But what I'm hearing from officers is that that's not going to make a difference. So we'll have to hear from the mayor who is about to speak about all of this violence that's going on in New York City.

HARLOW: Okay. Brynn, a stunning image to see that boarded up like that. We hope that officer is okay. That was so hard to watch. Thank you very much.

Let's talk about the investigation of George Floyd. Our Omar Jimenez joins us again in Minneapolis. Two autopsies, Omar. Now both say homicide.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy and Jim. Two separate autopsies but they both point to the fact that what happened to George Floyd in this intersection behind me eight days ago now was a homicide.

Now, where these two reports differ, one comes from an independent autopsy commissioned by the family saying and pointing to asphyxia being the main reason there, while a report commission by the Hennepin County medical examiner points to a cardiopulmonary arrest, essentially heart failure there.

And as you look at some of the details that they put in with this, other significant conditions, including fentanyl intoxication and recent meth use, but on those, they didn't say how much actually was in Floyd's system and whether that contributed to the homicide, as they say, in any factor.

But when you look at what they are going to be examining moving forward, this no doubt will play into how the either criminality or not is viewed by the officer that is already charged, Officer Derek Chauvin and the others who have yet to face charges just yet, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, the former vice president, is going to be speaking in a number of minutes, and when his comments begin, we'll bring those to you live.

Let's discuss now with Steve Vladeck, Professor of Law at the University of Texas Law School, and Retired Army General Spider Marks, CNN Military Analyst here.

Steve, good to have you on. Good to have you both. let me begin with you. The Insurrection Act goes back a couple of hundred years in this country, been used very sparingly in the country's history, but it has been used in 1968 during riots, 1992, during the riots following the acquittal of attackers there. Is it legal for the -- okay. Stand by. Here is the former vice president speaking. Let's have a listen.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And to all the elected officials that here, I bring you greetings.

I can't breathe. I can't breathe. George Floyd's last words, but they didn't die with him. They're still being heard echoing all across this nation. They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to the virus and 40 million have filed for unemployment with a disproportionate number of those deaths and job losses concentrated in black and brown communities.

And they speak to a nation where every day, millions of people, millions, not at the moment of losing their life, but in the course of living their life are saying to themselves, I can't breathe. It's a wake-up call to our nation, in my view. It's for all of us, and I mean all of us. It's not the first time we've heard those words. They're the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken away six years ago.

But it's time to listen to those words, to try to understand them, to respond to them, respond with action. A country is crying out for leadership, leadership that can unite us, leadership that brings us together, leadership that can recognize pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time.

There's no place for violence, no place for looting or destroying property or burning churches or destroying businesses. Many of them built by the very people of color who for the first time in their lives are beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families. Nor is it acceptable for our police sworn to protect and serve all people to escalate tension resort to violence.

[10:10:02]

We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protests and opportunistic violence and destruction. We have to be vigilant about the violence that's being done by this incumbent president to our economy and to the pursuit of justice.

When peaceful protestors disbursed in order for a president, a president, from the doorstep of the people's house, the White House, using tear gas and flash grenades in order to stage a photo op, a photo op, on one of the most historic churches in the country, or at least in Washington, D.C. We can be forgiven for believing the president is more interested in power than in principle, more interested in serving the passions power of his base than the needs of the people in his care for that's what the presidency is, the duty to care. To care for all of us, not just those who vote for us but all of us, not just to us our donors but all of us.

The president held up the bible at St. John's Church yesterday. I just wish he opened it once in a while instead of brandishing it. If he opened it, he could have learned something. They're all called to love one another as we love ourselves. It's really hard work, but it's the work of America. Donald Trump isn't interested in doing that work. Instead he's preening and sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy, guardrails that have helped make possible this nation's path to a more perfect union, a union that constantly requires reform and rededication. And, yes, the protest from voices that are mistreated, ignored, left out or left behind. But it is a union, a union worth fighting for, and that's why I'm running for president.

In addition to the bible, the president might also want to open the U.S. Constitution once in a while. If he did, he'd find a thing called the First Amendment. And what it says in the beginning, it says, the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to position their government for redress of grievances. That's kind of an essential notion built into this country.

Mr. President, that's America. That's America. No horses rising up on their hind legs to push back peaceful protests, not using the American military to move against the American people. This is a nation of values. Our freedom to speak is a cherished knowledge that lives inside every American almost from the time you're a kid. We're not to allow any president to quiet our voice. We won't let those who see this as an opportunity to sow chaos, throw up a smokescreen to distract us from the real legitimate grievances at the heart of these protests.

We can't. We can't leave this moment. We can't leave this moment thinking that we can once again turn away and do nothing. We can't do that this time. We just can't. The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism, to deal with the growing economic inequity that exists in our nation, to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation made to so many.

You know, I've said from the outset of this election that we're in the battle for the soul of this nation, and we are in the battle for the soul of this nation. What we believe, and maybe most importantly, who we want to be is all at stake. That's truer today than it's ever been, at least in my lifetime. And it's this urgency, it's in this urgency we can find a path forward. Now, the history of this nation teaches us that in some of our darkest moments of despair, we've made some of our greatest progress, some of our darkest moments. The 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments follow the civil war. The greatest economic growth in world history grew out of the great depression. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of '65 came on the tracks of Bolt Connor's vicious dogs.

[10:15:06]

To paraphrase Reverend Barber, it's the mourning we find hope. It's in the mourning that we find hope, hen we mourn.

But it's going to take more than talk. We've had talk before. We've had protests before. We've got to now vow to make this at least an area of action and reverse the systemic racism with a long overdue concrete changes.

The action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my presidency if I'm fortunate enough to be elected or even in my entire term. It's going to take the work of a generation. But if this agenda will take time to complete, it should not wait for the first 100 days of my presidency to get started. A down payment on what is long overdue should come now, should come immediately.

I call on the Congress to act this month on measures that will be the first step in this direction, starting with real police reform. Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw chokeholds. Congress should put it on the president's desk in the next few days. There are other measures. Stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, improve oversight and accountability to create a model use of force standard. That also should be made law this month. No more excuses, no more delays.

If Mitch McConnell can bring in the United States Senate to confront Trump's unqualified judicial nominees who will run roughshod over our Constitution, now it's time to pass legislation that will give true meaning of our constitutional promise of equal protection under the law.

Looking ahead in the first 100 days of my presidency, I've committed to creating a national police oversight commission. I've long believed we need real community policing. We need each and every police department in the country to understand a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training, their de-escalation. Some have already done it, some are in the process of doing it. The federal government should give the cities and states the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.

More police officers meet the higher standards of their procession. Most of them do it. All the more reason why bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly. We all need to take a hard look at the culture that allows for the senseless tragedies that keep happening.

And we need to learn from the cities and the precincts that are getting it right. We know though we have -- in order to have true American justice, we need economic justice as well. Here too is there's much to be done. As immediate step, Congress should act now to rectify inequities that allow COVID-19 recovery funds to be diverted from where they live.

I'll be setting forth my agenda in economic justice and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead, but it begins with healthcare. Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. And the quickest route to universal coverage in this country is to expand on Obamacare. We can do it, we should do it.

But this president, even now, in the midst of a public health crisis with massive unemployment as well wants to destroy it. He doesn't care how many millions of Americans will be hurt, because he's consumed with his blind ego when it comes to Barack Obama, President Obama. The president should withdraw his lawsuit to strike down Obamacare, and the Congress should prepare to pass the act I proposed to expand Obamacare to millions more so everyone is covered.

These last few months, we've seen America's true heroes, healthcare workers, docs, nurses, delivery truck drivers, grocery store workers. We've come up with a new phrase for them: essential workers, essential workers. But we need to do more than praise them, we need to pay them. We need to pay them. Because if it weren't clear before, it's clear now. This country wasn't built by Wall Street bankers and CEOs. It was built by the great American middle class, which was built by unions and our essential workers.

You know, I know there is enormous fear and uncertainty and anger in the country. I understand. I know so many Americans are suffering, suffering the loss of a loved one, suffering economic hardship, wondering, can I feed my family tomorrow?

[10:20:00]

What's going to happen suffering under the weight of a generation after generation after generation of hurt inflicted on people of color, in black, brown and native communities in particular?

Like many of you, I know what it means to grieve. My losses are not the same as losses felt by so many, but I know what it feels like when you think you can't go on. I know what it means to have that black hole in your chest where your grief is being sucked into it.

Just a few days ago marked the fifth anniversary of my son, Beau's passing from cancer. And there are still moments when the pain is so great, it feels no different than the day I sat that bed as he passed away. But I also know that the best way to bear loss and pain is to turn it into that anger and anguish into purpose. And Americans know what our purpose is as a nation. It has to be guided. It has to be guided. It's guided us from the very beginning.

You know, it's reported the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Little Yolanda King came home from school in Atlanta and jumped in her daddy's arms and said, oh, daddy, she said, now we're never going to get our freedom. Her daddy was reassuring, strong and brave. He said, no, don't worry, baby. It's going to be okay. It's going to be all right.

Amid the violence and fear, Dr. King, he persevered. He was driven by his dream of a nation where justice runs down like water and rushes like a mighty stream.

Then in 1968, hate cut him down in Memphis. Two days before Dr. King was murdered, he gave a final Sunday sermon in Washington, where he told us that though the arc of the moral universe is long, he said it bends towards justice. And we know we can bend it because we have. We have to believe that still. That's our purpose. It's been our purpose from the very beginning, to become a nation where all men and women are not only created equal but they are treated equally, not just created equal but treated equally.

To become a nation defined in Dr. King's words not only by the absence of tension but by the presence of justice. It's not enough just to deny the tension but justice.

Today, in American, it's hard to keep faith that justice is at hand. I know that. You know that. The pain is raw. The pain is real. The president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem. But this president today is part of the problem and accelerates it. When you tweeted the words, when the looting starts, the shooting starts, they weren't the words of a president. They were the words of a racist Miami police chief in the '60s.

When he tweeted the protestors, quote, would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs when people would have been really hurt, end of quote, they weren't the words of a president. They were the kind of words Bull Connor would have used unleashing his dogs on innocent women and children.

You know, the American story is a story about action and reaction. That's how history works. We can't be naive about it. I wish I could say that hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn't and it won't. American history isn't a fairy tale with a guaranteed happy ending.

The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years. A tug-of-war between the American ideal that we're all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.

[10:25:00]

The honest truth is that both elements are part of the American character, both elements. At our best, the American ideal wins out, but it's never a route, it's always a fight and the battle is never fully won. But we can't ignore the truth that we're at our best when we open our hearts rather than clench our fists. Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield driven by old resentments and fresh fears. He thinks division helps him. His narcissism has become more important than the nation's well-being that he leads.

I ask every American -- I mean this from the bottom of my heart. I ask every American, look where we are now and think anew. Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this who we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren? Fear, anger, finger pointing, rather the pursuit of happiness, incompetence and anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness, or do we want to be the America we know we can be, the America we know in our hearts we could be and should be?

Look, I look at the presidency as a very big job, and nobody will get it right every time. And I won't, either. But I promise you this. I won't traffic in fear and division, I won't fan the flames of hate. I will seek heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain. I'll do my job and I will take responsibility. I won't blame others.

I'll never forget, I promise you, this job is not about me, it's about you. It's about us. I'm going to work to not only rebuild the nation but to build it better than it was. We're the only nation in the world that goes through crises and comes out better, to build a better future. That's what America does, to build a better future. We build a future. It may, in fact, be the most American thing to do, build a future.

We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas did. We thirst for the vote, like Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strived to explore the stars, cure a disease, make an imperfect union more perfect than it's been. We come up short, but at our best, we try.

Our fellow Americans, we're facing formidable enemies. They include not only the coronavirus and the table impact on the lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years. And I choose words advisedly, selfishness and fear.

Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty, and that duty includes remembering who we should be, who we should be. We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong. We should be an America that cherishes life, liberty and courage. And above all, we should be an America that cherishes one another, each and every one of us.

We know we're a nation in pain. We must not let our pain destroy us. We're a nation enraged, but we can't let our rage consume us. We're a nation that's exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to feed us. As president, it's my commitment to all of you is to lead on these issues and to listen, because I truly believe in my heart of hearts we can overcome.

When we stand together, finally as one America, we'll rise stronger than we were before. We'll move that arc closer to justice. We'll reach out to one another, so speak out for one another. And please, please do what's recently been happening, take care of one another.

[10:30:00]

This is the United States of America. There's never been anything we've been unable to do when we set our minds to do it and we've done it. END