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Protests and Riots Continue in Wake of Death of George Floyd at Hands of Police; President Trump Calls on Governors and Mayors to Dominate City Streets to End Violence; President Trump Poses for Photo In Front of St. John's Church; Interview with Former AG Loretta Lynch on Trump Threatening Military Action If Unrest Continues. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired June 2, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hit by a car. He is in critical condition we're told. We're also told that a police officer in Las Vegas is in critical condition after being hit by fire there.

Obviously, we are following all of that breaking information. We'll bring you the latest as it comes in. The violent night follows a day of mostly peaceful demonstrations. In Minneapolis, George Floyd's brother begged for peace at the intersection where his brother was killed.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, there was also an extraordinary scene that unfolded outside of the White House. First, in a Rose Garden address, President Trump claimed to be an ally of peaceful protesters. Then minutes later he had police use tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets against those peaceful protesters, clearing a space so he could pose for a photo-op in front of a church.

That drew the outrage of the bishop of the diocese. She called the president's message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. That bishop and the mayor of Washington, D.C., will join us in just minutes.

But let's begin our coverage with CNN's Brynn Gingras. She is live in New York with the breaking news of what has happened in the past hours. Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, even into this hour we're learning from the NYPD that unrest continued to happen. So far about 200 arrests overnight, and we're hearing that number is likely going to go up as people are being processed. But there was a lot of violence.

I want to play that video again, and, again, it is disturbing. This is an incident that we learned from the NYPD happened about 12:45 in the Bronx in the progress of a burglary, which they believe was part of the looting, which they saw across this city last night. Police responding to that looting, was hit by a car, as you can see, and is in the hospital right now in serious condition with a head and leg injury, but in stable condition.

We know that that is not the first incident against police that we have seen in New York City throughout the course of these protests. We know one happened just the night before in the west village where an officer was struck as well. And that's some of the violence that we have been seeing all across the city, in really pockets.

You can see here, another incident of looting. We were in Soho last night. This is in midtown, Manhattan. We are by the flagship Macy's at Herald Square. You can see the Macy's is all boarded up, and even still there were protesters -- or rather looters who were able to break down that wood, get inside. We know police arrested about five people inside. Again, more than 200 arrests so far overnight.

And one of the things I've been asked is how, with more cops, there were 8,000 cops on the street, how were they able to get away with this? We're learning there is a lot going on here with looters basically breaking off from protesters and causing this violence in small pockets all across the city, basically playing cat and mouse with police. We're expecting possibly that happening again, John. But the curfew tonight is at 8:00 instead of 11:00. We'll see if that makes any difference at all. John?

BERMAN: All right, Brynn, keep us posted throughout the morning, thank you very much.

Military helicopters patrolling the skies of Washington, D.C. overnight after the violent crackdown that we all saw on peaceful protesters outside the White House, all so the president could take a picture. CNN's Boris Sanchez live in Washington with the very latest. Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, we're seeing a very different scene at the White House this morning. First, I want to show you the fence that was installed overnight, at least an eight-foot fence blocking access to Lafayette Park right outside of the White House. We're also seeing law enforcement earlier in the day than usual. There are at least two FBI agents, Secret Service in this area, we see local police as well. They're blocking traffic to this area and directing foot traffic away from here. They're clearly trying to mitigate what we have seen over the last few days, also having protesters stay off the street and on the sidewalk.

Last night about half hour before the curfew in D.C. was set to begin, law enforcement pushed back on protesters, violently forcing them out of the way. The president then walking out here to St. John's Church, standing outside, holding a Bible, posing for a photo opportunity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror.

SANCHEZ: Right before President Trump addressed the nation from the Rose Garden, police dispersed peaceful protesters with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets just outside the White House gates. President Trump threatening military force in any city or state that he feels isn't under control.

TRUMP: If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.

[08:05:00]

SANCHEZ: By most accounts, the protests were peaceful. But moments before Trump's speech, military vehicles were seen near the White House, and as the president spoke, bangs and helicopters could be heard in the distance, as police officers in riot gear broke up the demonstrations before the D.C. curfew was to take effect. The reason -- a photo opportunity, so the president could walk across the street to St. John's Episcopal Church, which had been damaged by a basement fire the night before. He stood outside the church and held up a Bible before posing with administration officials. The bishop who oversees the diocese outraged by the president's actions.

BISHOP MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo- Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for. I just can't believe what my eyes have seen tonight.

SANCHEZ: Trump threatening to deploy military troops, using the Insurrection Act of 1807. But some governors feel that law does not apply.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER, (D-MI): My understanding is that they can't do it without the approval of the governors. And I can also tell you that it is probably not going to happen in a lot of our states.

SANCHEZ: Many governors upset by the president's calls to send military to states and feel his language is just further stoking fears and tensions among Americans. In a heated teleconference Monday, Trump blasting governors, calling them weak.

TRUMP: You got to arrest all those people. You got to try them. And the word is "dominate." If you don't dominate your city and your state, they're going to walk away with you.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER, (D) ILLINOIS: He's been a miserable failure. What I talked about on the call today was the fact that his rhetoric is enflaming passions around the nation. He should be calling for calm. He should be calling for bringing the temperature down. He's doing the exact opposite.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: So, Alisyn, of course the question is why the president wanted this image. Sources inside the White House tell us that the president was upset over reports that he spent part of the weekend in a bunker underground at the White House as police were clashing with protesters just outside. A senior administration official denies to CNN that what we saw yesterday was an orchestrated photo opportunity. Nevertheless, the Deputy Chief of Communications for the White House, Dan Scavino, just a short time ago, tweeted out a video set to Rage Against the Machine of the president walking out of the White House in slow motion, standing in front of this church and walking back. So they may not call it a photo opportunity, but they're certainly treating it like one. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: That is really important context, Boris, thank you very much.

There was relative calm in Minneapolis last night after an appeal from George Floyd's brother at a makeshift memorial. He told any violent protesters to stop. An independent autopsy and a county medical examiner both say that Floyd's death was a homicide, but they differ on what caused it. CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Minneapolis with the latest. So, explain that, Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so Alisyn, two different autopsy reports, both of them say what happened to George Floyd was a homicide. But where they differ is the independent autopsy commissioned by the family saying this was due to asphyxiation, while the medical examiner for Hennepin County, their report saying this was due to heart failure.

Now, those dual reports, the summaries at least, came out as we continued to see protests here in Minneapolis for a seventh day in a row since George Floyd's final moments played out in an intersection behind me on camera. Protests were largely peaceful, even at this location. We had a curfew going to effect at 10:00 p.m. through 4:00 a.m. People sat here throughout the night in peaceful protest of that curfew, and then, of course, what happened to Floyd.

And it's those type of protests that the family has said they wanted to see, and specifically Terrence Floyd, George Floyd's brother, stopped by this very site over the course of yesterday, met with supporters offering strength in this time, and here is a little of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRANCE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: My family is a peaceful family. My family is God fearing. Do this peacefully, please. My brother moved here from Houston, and I used to talk to him on the phone. He loved it here. I know he would not want you all to be doing this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: And moving forward we do expect to see a memorial for George Floyd on Thursday here in Minneapolis before a funeral for Floyd set in his hometown of Houston, and all of this as we continue to wait and see whether the other officers will face charges in this case, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, Omar.

[08:10:01] President Trump is threatening to use the U.S. military to clamp down on protesters. Can he do that? We will ask a former attorney general next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That was President Trump threatening to invoke the insurrection act of 1807, an extraordinary use of military force to combat violent protests.

Joining us now is former U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch under President Obama's administration. Madam Attorney General, thank you very much for being here. Let's just start there. What happens if President Trump sends in active U.S. military troops into cities where governors and mayors don't want them?

LORETTA LYNCH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Alisyn, first of all, thank you for having me, and thank you for having this important discussion. I think it's important to put this in context here. We are in a situation where we are talking about how to help police officers deescalate tensions in their cities, and police them safely and constitutionally.

And so we really need to have the rhetoric all the way at the top of the administration focusing on how do we manage these issues and situations without increasing the violence.

[08:15:06]

Look, there's been a lot of legal analysis about the Insurrection Act of 1807, you know, you don't have any governors calling for it now, you do have the National Guard there. The exceptions to when it can be used are fairly rare.

But I hope that this does not take away from what the focus should be, which is the tragedy of pain in this country that have led to the peaceful protests. Yes, we have seen violence break out, unfortunately and sadly and frankly, tragically, we see it happen over and over again when we have protests of this nature.

We don't condone the loss of life for anyone, protesters and certainly not the police. But the issue here should be de-escalation. It should be how do we listen to people, how do we hear their concerns? And then, how do we focus the appropriate law enforcement response on those who are trying to hijack these peaceful protests and engage in looting and violence for the sake of violence. We have governors actively engaged with the National Guard. We have

police actively engaged in that. And, again, we have seen some tragic results, but we're not at the point of having the Army train his guns on civilians.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What did you think of President Trump and his advisers and some of his family members last evening having the peaceful protests cleared, clear a path, using flash bangs, and tear gas and even batons so that they could walk across the street to pose in front of a boarded up church with his attorney general, Bill Barr, at his side.

What did you make of that moment?

LYNCH: Well, you know, I'm not sure what went into the decisions there.

But I think if the president is going to leave the White House, and walk into the area where people are trying to express themselves, it is a missed opportunity not to listen to them. You don't have to agree, you don't have to accept what they're saying. People are saying loud and clear we want to be heard, we want our governors to bond to us, not walk past us, and take a picture.

So I think it was a tremendous missed opportunity. Again, I don't know that went into that decision. I don't -- I don't think it was helpful at all.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: I mean, do you -- I understand, and we don't know exactly what went into it, but do you think that if the White House sent a message that the peaceful protests needed to be cleared from that area, so the president could walk across, should the attorney general have done something different than stand next to him?

LYNCH: You know, again, I don't -- I don't know what went into it, I don't know what message got sent out to the protesters. I do think that the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the country, and again, it is always best when the chief law officer of the country indicates that they're willing to listen to people who have concerns about law enforcement.

So, that's the posture that I think would have been helpful and would be helpful in these difficult times. Not just (AUDIO GAP) not just this one photo-op. This is a situation where people feel that valid concerns are not being heard.

You go back to the original incidents about the death of Mr. Floyd. You have police officers acting with impunity, with arrogance and with no fear of retribution. And I think the world has now seen that this is how most minorities, particularly African-Americans, perceive their relationship with the police.

And so, the issue is, what are we doing about that perception? What are we doing about those very, very real issues? Now, we see police officers with a variety of responses, depending upon the issue. We've seen some police officers put down their batons and march with protesters.

And the thing is, Alisyn, you can't walk with protesters if you have not first been talking with protesters, if you have not first built that relationship with the community. And you cannot also have a situation where officers feel safe to kneel with protesters if they have not reached out to the community and tried those connections as well.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LYNCH: Those actions, we hear you. We may have different ways on how to get to the end, but we at least know your concerns and we're willing to work with you.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LYNCH: That's what's to be advanced (ph).

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you, because you were President Obama's attorney general about the statement he put out on "Medium" yesterday. Let me read a portion.

He said: Yes, we should be fighting to make sure we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

And I'm just wondering, because you worked with President Obama, would you like to hear him more public during this time of crisis, during this time of tension?

[08:20:02]

Do you think he and possibly even former First Lady Michelle Obama have some role to play in speaking out at this time?

LYNCH: Well, I think they're playing it. I think both President Obama and Mrs. Obama have put out statements, first, about the death of Mr. Floyd, I think President Obama's statement that you just quoted from recently was frankly spot on. And I think it's exactly what the country needs to hear.

And that's what we tried to work on during the administration. I spent months traveling the country on policing issues. You have got to get out of Washington and talk to people on the ground who are living these issues every day -- community members and police officers who want to make things better, who want to have a safer community, so that protesters are safe and police officers are safe.

And President Obama is absolutely right. When you think about how law enforcement (AUDIO GAP) handled, it is primarily at the local level. Law enforcement is more than who the attorney general is. It's who your mayor is, it's who your police chief is, it's who your police leadership is. It's their relationship to the community.

Do you know who your police chief is? Do you have access to the police academy? Can you go in and get a tour? Can you do a ride along?

And you see how they're trained. And when you have concerns, is there someone there that will listen to you? All that happens at the local level, and the goal that we (AUDIO GAP) to empower police and communities to come together and face these issues, difficult conversations, hard conversations.

You got to hear some things that are painful if you're in the law enforcement community. And, you know, I talk about things that are painful --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LYNCH: -- if you're in the community (AUDIO GAP) well.

But he's absolutely right about the importance of supporting both law enforcement and community members to work on this issue.

CAMEROTA: Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, thank you very much for your time.

LYNCH: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Police used tear gas on peaceful protesters outside of the White House to clear that path for President Trump's photo-op. So we'll get reaction from the Episcopal bishop, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:04]

BERMAN: What was a peaceful protest in front of the White House broken up with tear gas, flash bang grenades, rubber bullets, you can see it happening right there. That is how those peaceful protesters were treated. Why? It seems so that the president could walk across the street and take a picture in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, holding a bible.

Joining us now is the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington, D.C., Mariann Edgar Budde.

Bishop, thank you very much for being with us.

You were not there at St. John's yesterday during this, but you watched along with the rest of us and your reaction was, I can't believe what my eyes have seen. Why?

BISHOP MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: Well, you set the -- you set the context to illustrate the misuse of the symbolic power of our sacred texts and a church that is dedicated to the nonviolent teachings of Jesus. The president, after insisting that he would use severe military force to quiet the agony of our nation cleared a nonviolent protesters with tear gas and riot police so that he could co-opt the symbols of our faith to undergird his message.

And I felt that I needed to disassociate us from that gesture in no uncertain terms and refocus our sights on the true issues that we are grappling with as a nation right now.

BERMAN: What did it feel like at that moment when he was standing before that church with the bible held high?

BUDDE: Well, it's a combination of feelings. I mean, my -- let's not forget the real pain that's -- that's spread before us every second of every day in these last weeks. And so, that's the real pain.

This 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 that we can recover from this moment, which is what we need from a president, and that's what the faith communities stand for. And so, it wasn't one emotion, it was a series of emotions.

And, again, I don't want us to lose sight of the real agony here, which is the -- the injustices and the heartache of our people.

BERMAN: Is the president a frequent visitor to St. John's?

BUDDE: No. No. No, he's not. He's not a man of prayer on Sunday morning. We know that. And he has not one to worship at St. John's regularly or any of the churches of our diocese.

BERMAN: My friend Terry Moran of ABC News posted a bible verse, posted from Matthew. And I want to read this for you.

It says: And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and street corners that they may seen by others. But when you pray, go into your room, close your door and pray to your Father who is unseen.

Now, admittedly, I'm more of an Old Testament guy than a New Testament guy, so can you, Bishop, tell me the meaning of that verse and how it pertains to what we saw yesterday?

BUDDE: Well, Jesus was very clear that God is far less interested in the -- in the show of our prayers than God is in the ethical way that we live our lives and how we treat our fellow human beings created in God's image. And so, that was a sharp rebuke to all of us, people like me in leadership, who lead prayers, to anyone with privilege and authority, anyone who would dare to substitute.

END