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Live Coverage of Joe Biden Speech; Protest Movement is Unifying Diverse Voices; Interview with Detroit Police Chief James Craig. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired June 2, 2020 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the United States of America. There has never been anything we've been unable to do when we've set our mind to do it, and we've done it together. Together, united. That's who we are at our best.
May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Poppy, the former vice president there, the presumptive Democratic nominee, with what I think you could describe -- only describe -- as a message deeply, deeply contradictory to the one we're hearing from the president.
Biden, deliberately drawing distinctions between his approach, his hopes for the country and the president's. He says, "I won't traffic in fear and division. I'll do my job, and I'll take responsibility. This is not about me, it's about you, it's about us." He says that the country is calling out for leadership that can unite.
And, Poppy, I thought it was notable that he connects the loss of the nation now to those mourning the death of George Floyd, to his own personal loss.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
SCIUTTO: And he made the point that it is in the mourning -- m-o-u-r- n-i-n-g, the mourning -- where we find hope, a message of hope for a better way forward.
HARLOW: I was so struck by that too, Jim, because he does know what it's like to grieve -- of course for his son Beau, for his wife, for his child that he lost so many years ago. And I think you could feel that, through the television screen, watching him.
HARLOW: And if you just compare, Jim, to your excellent point, what the president chose to say yesterday in the Rose Garden --
SCIUTTO: Yes. HARLOW: -- with what the message that -- not the president, the
presumptive Democratic nominee just chose to deliver, one of unity rather than just a passing mention of George Floyd, as we heard from the president yesterday.
Let's bring in our team: Arlette Saenz, Dana Bash, Jeff Zeleny.
Arlette, to you first. Your thoughts on what we just heard and saw from Joe Biden?
I don't know, Arlette can't hear us. Dana, let's go to you. Your thoughts?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a candidate who has found his voice in a moment. It is very clear, as you both said, he was striving to make contrasts with the president, to provide a very, very clear and different choice from the president for voters in November.
But he didn't have to work that hard at it. I mean, this is who Joe Biden is. He is Mr. Empathy, for better or worse, as he would say.
And you know, the fact that he started out by reaching out. He saved his very, very harsh language for the president, mostly until the end. But the beginning was all about -- to borrow a phrase from another Democrat, former candidate and president, Bill Clinton -- that he feels their pain.
And you know, it's -- it struck me as I was watching and listening to him, that it was one week ago, I was sitting with him outside his home in Wilmington, Delaware, talking to him about how he is going to make clear to African-Americans he needs so desperately, to be enthusiastic, to get out and vote for him. How he's going to make clear that he is not going to take his vote for granted.
And he said basically, Watch me. Watch what I say, listen to what I say and watch what I do. And unfortunately, the tragedy of George Floyd and everything that has happened since then, gave him the opportunity. And he took it, with this speech.
SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny with us as well. Jeff, you've been covering Biden for some time here. I mean, to Dana's point, there were some quite strong words for the president. He said -- Biden -- his narcissism, describing the president, has become more important than the country -- the nation, rather -- he leads. Is this the beginning of a more public appearance campaign for Joe Biden in the days and weeks to come because --
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
SCIUTTO: -- through the coronavirus, of course, he's been largely out of the public eye.
ZELENY: Jim, there's no question the answer is yes. And here's why. Just yesterday, Delaware lifted its stay-at-home order, which he had been following and abiding by. As Dana knows, she went there to interview him, he was still under that order.
So, yes. This, today, underscores the relaunch of his presidential campaign. The events of the last 24 hours stake the claims and how stark the differences are between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, more than anything, I think, we could have possibly imagined.
On the calendar, in five months and one day, is Election Day. We do not know what will transpire between now and November 3rd, we do not know that. But we do know the events of the last 24 hours have indeed set this choice for this country. It's a major inflection point.
The former vice president was planning on coming out of the gate, if you will, with an economic speech. Well, events changed that. So he came out of the box with this speech about racial justice and the economy, and framing the choice. Now, what is happening here -- and he also -- he speaks with a moral authority that many wish President Trump would have used yesterday, in terms of unifying things.
We should point out that unification and racial justice, this is not a partisan matter. There are many Republicans across this town, I was speaking to some veterans of the Bush administration who are pained by what they see President Trump doing, people who have worshiped in St. John's Church during both Bush administrations, they were pained by what they saw yesterday. So we are seeing, you know, the stark choice here, facing Americans.
But Joe Biden -- talking about the Bible as well, he said, why not -- you know, he held it up, but he did not open it up and read it. So this is someone who's very fluent in his faith. And as we see President Trump, in the next hour, travel across Washington to the -- Saint Pope John Paul II's National Shrine, this is something else we should keep in mind.
The voters of faith are so important here, but Joe Biden speaks to those much more fluently --
ZELENY: -- than most Democrats do.
HARLOW: The president chose to hold up a bible for a photo op in front of --
HARLOW: -- St. John's yesterday, Jeff. Joe Biden, yesterday, went to a church and met and --
HARLOW: -- spoke with black faith leaders in Delaware.
OK, stay there, both of you. Let's bring in LZ Granderson, ESPN host, "L.A. Times" sports and culture columnist; Roxane Gay, author and "New York Times" opinions contributor. Thank you both for being here.
Roxane, for anyone who may have missed what you wrote in the past few days, I'd like to read the closing paragraph for them because I think it perfectly follows on what we just heard from Joe Biden.
Quote, "Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism. We live with the knowledge that a hashtag is not a vaccine for white supremacy. We live with the knowledge that, still, no one is coming to save us. The rest of the world yearns to get back to normal. For black people, normal is the very thing from which we yearn to be free."
You thoughts, following what we just heard from Joe Biden?
ROXANE GAY, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, Joe Biden's comments are certainly better than the president's comments. And so it's encouraging that he at least understands that this moment demands a real leader who will acknowledge the suffering of the black community and the frustration that many people have with ongoing police violence.
So I hope that Joe Biden will also develop policies that directly address this problem, and does something about police brutality. Right now, we're seeing police departments across the country acting with impunity, and it's a real problem. Because the solution to ending police violence is not more police violence. And yet that's exactly what we're seeing.
SCIUTTO: LZ, you did hear the former vice president discuss possible congressional action immediately, to address police violence here. And you heard him as well, go in loftier terms. Quote Martin Luther King for instance, "The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice."
I wonder, LZ, as you were listening to the former vice president's words there -- listen, you've heard politicians of both parties make promises before and not deliver. Did you hear hope that you believed in, from the vice president? Beyond the clear contradiction to the president's deliberately divisive words.
LZ GRANDERSON, SPORTS AND CULTURE COLUMNIST, L.A. TIMES: I have hope because I believe in the people. You know, politicians are pushed and moved, at the end of the day, by resources and votes (ph). So my hope has never lied in the (INAUDIBLE) of a politician. My hope has always been in the laps of the people, of the Americans, of the citizenry.
The idea that we can expect someone to swoop in, as Roxane illustrated in her lovely piece, that we're going to be saved? You know, we need to let that go. Vice President Joe Biden, any other politician who speaks on these issues -- I know that Senator Cory Booker has been very vocal about criminal justice reform for some time. He and Rand Paul at one point were working together in partnership to address this issue. That's all fine, that's all fantastic, to be part of the movement.
But I don't expect them to be the movement. I don't expect Congress to be the movement. The movement is with the people.
HARLOW: Yes. And I -- you know, LZ, was struck with what you wrote in terms of, you know, essentially when the headlines are gone and the spotlight is gone, what are we left with, LZ? And you know, I hope and I think so many of us hope and feel like this is a different moment. Do you think it is a different moment than so many of these that we have seen just pass by after such tragedy?
GRANDERSON: Well, you know, I've spent the last couple of days among protestors, I've done some pieces for the "L.A. Times," talking to the protestors. And it's important to delineate the difference between protestors and those who do not support what the protestors' message is, but try and take advantage of a movement.
I spoke to protestors. And having been someone who participated in rallies, Rodney King, and after doing this, covered many of these -- to your point, Poppy -- one thing that does give me some encouragement is seeing such a wide variety of people running (ph) together in this coalition.
I was in a protest and I witnessed different ages, races, cis- and trans individuals, gay and straight, just a whole coalition: basically, America. And over the years, starting with Trayvon Martin, I'm seeing more and more of this groundswell. So I do have hope that things will be different this time than in the past.
But it's important that once we get done with the visual of the movement, that it's time that we take the visual and we begin to be (ph) power with the movement. There are some very specific things that we can do to begin to change this dynamic. Things like looking at who our attorney generals are, who the district attorney is, who's on the city council, what are their policies and what have they done for us.
I've said it before, I'm going to say it again. Yes, the president and vice president, Joe Biden -- yes, they have a lot of power. But the people that impact your everyday life, that's local. So start local. You want to know what to do after this? Look at what's happening local, in your county. If you have sheriffs that are running unopposed in elections, take a look at their record on this issue. Are you satisfied with that?
There are things you can do right at home, because that's truly how a movement moves beyond just the visual, and you begin having change.
SCIUTTO: It's a point that Barack Obama made in his post --
SCIUTTO: -- just a couple days ago, right? It was focus on those local elections, the police chiefs. They're the ones making a lot of these decisions on the ground.
Roxane -- and again, folks just google Roxane, read this piece --
SCIUTTO: -- it's powerful, it's going to move you. What's the way forward? Where do you see hope? What steps need to be made to make the change more lasting? The positive change.
GAY: Yes. I don't see a lot of hope, but I haven't given up entirely on it because otherwise, what are we going to be fighting for? But I do think that the way forward is continued protests. Because you can see that it's starting to rattle authorities, and that's why we're seeing such restrictive curfews all around the country, they're paying attention.
But we also do need to focus on local elections, and we do need to vote, actively, in every single election. Because so much policy is indeed shaped at the local level, it trickles upward. And I don't know any other way to do that.
I think we need to be supporting bail funds because there are protestors who are putting themselves on the line, and they need that kind of financial support. So if you don't have the ability to go and protest on the streets, support the protestors materially, with actual money.
And we have to start creating accountability. And I think that community oversight and having community oversight boards of police departments would go a really long way in addressing some of this police violence. There have to be consequences, and we have to start to see prosecutions that end with convictions for police officers who murder black people.
And until we see that, I don't know how we can find a way forward. Because we need the police violence to end. And for it to end, we need a deterrent. And right now, there is no such deterrent.
SCIUTTO: Well, listen, Roxane, LZ, and folks at home, take the time to read their pieces. You've both been such powerful illuminating voices in this, and I appreciate that and I think folks watching would as well. Let's keep up the conversation. Thanks to all of you.
And we'll be right back.
SCIUTTO: Don't imagine for a moment that everything is happening in the same place in every city, town, community in the same way. This is a very varied picture. And as more American cities suffer more violence -- fires, looting last night -- the city of Detroit exemplified hope.
HARLOW: Protests were held and a curfew set in local -- local reports say, though, the crowd dispersed here overnight, last night, peaceful. This was a stunning shift from the city's violent weekend. The police chief of Detroit, James Craig, is with us.
I'm so glad you're here, and I'm so glad we saw that last night --
JAMES CRAIG, CHIEF, DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you.
HARLOW: -- because it is so markedly different from 100 arrests over the weekend, and violence --
HARLOW: -- and some very questionable actions, also toward police and from some police towards protestors. What changed last night?
CRAIG: Well, we -- you know, this has been a work in progress. It didn't just start, you know, yesterday. We put tremendous value in relationships with community leaders, our local activists. We don't always agree, but what we do do is we have conversations, we talk, we meet halfway.
And I've got to tell you, I mean, last night was a great example. You've seen the images of a 16-year-old boy who (ph) talked to our mayor and the leadership role this young man took? Phenomenal.
And -- but more important and as important is just our community, our activists who are on the ground, with the protest. And there was some agitation by some, but they were able to keep it calm. And the reason why they're so involved here, because they believe in this city, they believe in the police department and the leadership. And so they want to be part of a change, they want to be part of making a difference.
I did want to comment on something one of your last guests talked about. She said, I don't see hope. And that's unfortunate, that she doesn't see hope. Because hope is there. And you know, when you talk about addressing local leadership -- because I know that was part of the conversation -- you know, I look at Detroit with our mayor, Mike Duggan, who's deeply engaged in the community, the leadership on my part.
I've oftentimes said, if you want to change culture in a department, that there is a pattern and practice of illegal behavior, you have to have the right chief first, and you have to set the appropriate tone. And when things go bad -- and they will always go bad -- the key is transparency, the relationship and taking action swiftly to reassure the public that you take this business serious about the relationship, and nurturing trust. It's really that simple.
SCIUTTO: Chief Craig, Jim Sciutto here. The president has been encouraging repeatedly, cities, police, even soldiers to dominate the protestors. As the chief of police in Detroit, is that something you want to do? Is that helpful guidance from the president?
CRAIG: I will tell you, I can't speak for the other cities, where we've seen tremendous violence and attacks on police officers and, yes, we've had days of -- where officers were attacked. We had -- on several occasions, we had to deploy gas to restore peace. However, we're not asking for the military, we're not asking for the National Guard. It is the Detroit Police Department and our community partners that's getting it done.
I'm not going to sit back and take a victory lap, you know. We're excited about the transition from what we saw, day one on Friday, and yesterday was certainly extremely hopeful. And we know it doesn't represent the vast majority of those who want to protest against something that we as police officers here in Detroit, I can say for many across the nation, we feel the pain.
This officer transitioned from a peace officer to a criminal. That's the bottom line. And so we feel that pain, and we support the voices against the death of Mr. Floyd. But that said, we cannot and should not tolerate the very few, the minority, who embed themselves in these peaceful protests to want to incite violence and damage to property. We can't support that.
HARLOW: Chief Craig, you have said, look, there was probable cause to -- of course to arrest right away, you think, Officer Chauvin in Minneapolis, on murder. I wonder if you believe that murder charges are warranted against all four officers, meaning the three others that stood there. You know, at one point, that bystander taking the video was told to relax.
CRAIG: Let me just say this. I'm not a prosecutor, we're not -- certainly we don't charge. But as a police department, we have the ability to make arrests based on probable cause.
And as you're conducting your criminal investigation, and you determine -- and that was my whole point, in looking at the officer that was applying this neck restraint, someone offering no resistance. And so bad -- and I've said this publicly too, and I think this point should be reinforced -- the heroes in this are the onlookers, community members who wanted to approach that officer and disengage him from Mr. Floyd.
Unfortunately -- and certainly fearful for their own safety by the reaction to the partner who was complicit, as far as I'm concerned, those officers who stood by while this officer murdered Mr. Floyd, should be charged and they're cowardly. And they also --
HARLW: Should be --
CRAIG: -- oh, they should be charged. Now, whatever the charge in the state of Minnesota that's appropriate, whether it's murder. But clearly, complicit.
I mean, anyone watching the video could see -- and I think what touched me as I began to look -- and normally, I don't make comments unless an investigation is thorough, but we know as police officers, when we go into a situation, we can determine if there's probable cause that a crime was committed. One, a crime was committed, that officer should have been arrested immediately.
I'm not being critical of Minneapolis. Because what they did do right, I think, early on, within 24 hours of the incident, the officers -- all four -- were fired. But let's not forget, if you want to send a signal to the community that says, look, we're not going to treat criminal police officers any different than we're going to treat someone in the community --
CRAIG: -- the response should have been handcuffed and booked into custody and present it, what you had, to a prosecutor.
HARLOW: Chief Craig, thank you for being with us today.
CRAIG: Thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: And thanks to you so much for joining us today. CNN's special live coverage continues, next.