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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Violence At Some Protests; President Trump Defends Church Photo Op, Bunker Trip; Three Other Officers Involved In George Floyd's Death Charged. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 3, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And, as far as the idea of what this speaks to, and Joey absolutely right, you charge the highest charge you can likely prove.

And it's very difficult oftentimes to get into the mind of a particular person, if you don't have evidence to support it. But second-degree murder in Minnesota, with those two categories, even if you don't -- if you don't have to prove intent, or you can't prove intent, you can still be facing 40 years in prison for your activity.

And these other officers, they have accomplice liability for those things as well. So it's a nuance in Minnesota. It was not available under the third-degree murder charge. It is now no obligation to prove intent under a felony offense doctrine.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Interesting.

Let's go to CNN's Sara Sidner right now. She is in Minneapolis.

And, Sara, you're getting new reaction from the Floyd family attorney to these new charges, Mr. Benjamin Crump, I believe. What are you hearing from him?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, he says that the family is relieved that there has been an upgrade, if you will, a stronger charge against officer -- former Officer Chauvin, also that they are happy to see that charges have been meted out against the other three officers.

They had learned about these charges that they had put -- already put into the court documents, learned about it a little bit earlier than the announcement.

But they also said something very interesting here, Jake, and that should be relayed to the public. And that is that they have been having conversations with the attorney general's office, and they have told them that, if they see more evidence to point to a stronger crime, i.e. first-degree murder, that they will charge that, and that the family has been assured that, if they are able, if prosecutors are able to get and see enough evidence, that they will lift back that charge again against Officer Chauvin, and potentially against the other officers. They were pleased to hear that there were charges against those other three officers. A lot of people here in Minneapolis who have been out every day protesting what they saw on that videotape that just shocked the world and disturbed every human being, when you look at what happened to George Floyd, the folks here have been waiting many days for these charges of those other officers, wondering if those charges are coming.

And there is a sense, both from the family, their attorney, Benjamin Crump, and from the public that had this been reversed, had this been a citizen caught on camera doing this to another citizen, that everyone involved would have been at least arrested and charged right away, and they would have dealt with the investigation later, as they often do.

And that it always seems that police officers get treated very differently than the public, even though they have an obligation to protect and serve and they have quite a bit of power in society, because they are allowed to carry weapons and use them against people if they feel that that is the right thing to do at the time.

So, Jake, what we're hearing again is that they are relieved to hear that there are stronger charges against former officer Derek Chauvin, and that there are now new charges against the three officers who were with him that day.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

I want to turn back to our legal analysts Joey Jackson and Laura Coates. I also want to bring in Cedric Alexander, the past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Cedric, let me start with you.

Attorney General Ellison -- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison said police in the past have not been held accountable for their actions as much as they should have been, and that has created a level of mistrust.

Do you agree?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, certainly.

And I think that any of us out here that are chiefs and sheriffs across the country, have been in that role, I think that certainly -- and I think the statistics will even point that out. So, we're at a new crossroad here today, in -- partially because of what we saw that occurred on the 25th.

So, for the law enforcement community itself, you're talking about the community being relieved. And I hope that they are. I believe that the law enforcement community is going to have a sigh of relief as well, too, because many of us that are professionals and those that are still in their profession, we were all horrified by what we saw. But, yes, there needs to be some police reform. But we can't forget

the good officers out there who are still out there right now and trying -- they themselves are trying to work through this emotionally as well.

TAPPER: What do you think police departments and police officers across the country are taking from today's updated charges?

ALEXANDER: Well, I think here is something that we all need to take. I think all of those that are out there are executives in the organizations, we need to take a deep-dive look inside.

[16:35:05]

We need to make sure all of us, as leaders, that, from the top, we're signaling the right messages. And it also is important for the men and women who serve that they know that humanity, having a moral compass, being compassionate toward the people that we serve out there is so important, because, at the end of the day, this is about trust.

The community wants to trust us, and we have to have a level of legitimacy in which that they feel that they can. So, we can turn -- begin to turn the page, even though this will probably be a long trial and a process.

But, hopefully, we all, community and public safety, can begin to turn a page and look at some things that we can do different together, so that we don't have these type of ongoing horrific events, and certainly the shooting of men of color that is so frequent in this country.

TAPPER: Joey, let me ask you hypothetical, an uncomfortable hypothetical.

Do you think these charges would have been brought today if that brave 17-year-old girl with her smartphone had not filmed the killing of Mr. Floyd? Would these charges have happened without that video evidence of it?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jake, I'm glad to answer the hypothetical. And I'm glad to give you an honest answer.

And I believe no. I mean, let's just look and take a step back. You look at Ahmaud Arbery, and you saw what happened in that instance, where nothing occurred, right? Nothing to see here a day after, of course, the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. And the day after, prosecutor says, nothing to see.

A videotape surfaces demonstrating what occurred, it leads to outrage, it leads to people saying, I'm mad as heck, I'm not going to take it anymore, what is going on? And then we have an arrest and a prosecution.

Forwarding to this case, fast-forwarding, you have a tape where people saw the lack of humanity. They saw before their own eyes an officer coming a prime, after they pleaded, that is, the crowd, stop, you're hurting him, after he was himself, George Floyd, pleading, stop.

And then it takes that long, Jake, to effect an arrest of him. And then, today, nine days later, there's justice at least now for the rest of them.

Last point. And that is our colleague Omar Jimenez is out there in broad daylight doing his job so well, keeping the public informed as to what's happening, giving commentary as to what's occurring around him. And he in broad daylight is arrested for doing nothing.

And so you look at the dichotomy, you look at the disproportionate treatment that's being offered here, and you get the outrage. And so something has to change. People, of course, need to be calm, and they -- rioting, looting, it's not the answer. Violence is not the answer, but we have to be vigilant and hold (AUDIO GAP) accountable. Something has to change.

TAPPER: And, Laura, Minnesota Attorney General Ellison said he expects these cases, these prosecutions to be challenge. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Because trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard.

But history does show that there are clear challenges here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Laura, what are those challenges? What are the biggest challenges in prosecuting police officers for -- former police officers for crimes like these, second-degree murder?

COATES: Well, the concept of benefit of the doubt.

It works well when you're talking about presumption of innocence. It's heightened exponentially when you're talking about police officers, because, overwhelmingly, you have a jury pool who believes wholeheartedly in the bad apples theory not being true for this particular set of officers or anyone.

They don't believe that any officer gets up in the morning with the intention to kill anyone or harm and only to do good. And you have to battle, frankly, as a prosecutor against that presumption and that benefit of the doubt that is given almost exclusively to police officers.

In fact, when I prosecuted cases, one of the first things we have to ask members of the jury, even for cases not involving an officer as the defendant or an ex-officer as the defendant, is to ask the question, would you give more weight to the testimony of a police officer than you would to anyone else?

And almost overwhelming, people will say, well, yes, actually, I will, because of the manner of the uniform and their public service. That's the first part. The second part, in terms of the proving of the case, is you got to

have a jury pool that is going to be objective. Remember, in the Rodney King case, it was very difficult to be able to find a jury who could honestly say, no, I have never heard of this case whatsoever, I have no preconceived notions going in, and I will be able to follow the instructions as given to me.

That's difficult to grapple with. And, finally, because you're talking about a group of human beings with divergent and often differing opinions, you have to have unanimity. You have to have everyone in agreement. And oftentimes, as you know, with that benefit of the doubt out, with people's preconceived notions with people's just conflation of the rightful protesters seeking justice for George Floyd and those who have hijacked in the interest of looting, it only takes one person to undermine this case.

[16:40:16]

TAPPER: All right, thanks, one and all, for your insights and your expertise. Appreciate it.

Coming up: "I can't breathe," the words both George Floyd and Eric Garner said as they were killed in police custody.

Garner's daughter will join us next, her reaction to the new charges and her message to those out in the streets -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: And we're back with the breaking news.

All four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd have been charged. The officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd's neck has been charged with second-degree murder. The other three have been charged with aiding and abetting that murder.

[16:45:00]

George Floyd's cries of "I can't breathe" echoed another tragic incident where an unarmed black man accused of a petty crime was killed while in police custody.

I'm referring, of course, to Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 after New York police put him in a choke hold.

Joining me now, Eric Garner's daughter, Emerald Snipes-Garner, and Etan Thomas, former NBA star and author of "We Matter: Athletes and Activism."

Emerald, let me start with today's breaking news.

The officers involved in your father's death were never charged, and it took five years for one of the officers to just be fired. What's your reaction to what happened today?

EMERALD SNIPES-GARNER, DAUGHTER OF ERIC GARNER: I think that, first, I want to give my condolences to the family. I know exactly how it feels to continuously watch your loved one on TV.

And, yes, right, in my father's case, no one was charged. No one was held accountable. Nobody ultimately -- nobody paid the price. And with Daniel Pantaleo being fired five years later, it really didn't take any effect.

And I see now that the officer is being charged and all officers involved. I see that as a step in the right direction, but we have way more work to do.

TAPPER: And just quickly, what was your reaction when you heard that Mr. Floyd had said, "I can't breathe"? That must have been haunting for you and those in your family.

SNIPES-GARNER: My first reaction, I automatically thought about the children. They will never see their father again. They will never see -- they will never hear from him again. They will never get to share memories and they will never get to experience (AUDIO GAP) their father.

I had 22 years with my father. And what I'm understanding is that his family, that they're really young. And they may not understand what's going on right now, but I just want them to hold close to their heart that I understand them and I feel for them wholeheartedly.

TAPPER: Etan, what was your reaction when you heard about the charges today, all four officers charged, and the charges against the main officer upgraded from third-degree murder to second-degree?

ETAN THOMAS, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: Well, I think that is great. But what we need to be focused on is the overall police accountability.

That's what we need to be focused on. I mean, right now, we're at a situation where you have companies all over the country making statements. Statements are nice, but now we need to see actually laws being changed.

And one of the things that Emerald is pushing for is this Eric Garner law that outlaws the choke hold ever being used by the New York Police Department completely.

Now, this is a baby step, but this should have been -- this should have been instituted a long time ago. But this is a time for laws to be changed.

Tiffany Crutcher, whose brother Terence Crutcher was killed as well, always says that we can't legislate people's hearts, but we can change the laws to make it illegal for them to act on their racism and their biases. And that's what we have to do.

TAPPER: Emerald, let's talk about that. You have teamed up with members of Congress, including Senator Gillibrand, to introduce the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act, which, as Mr. Thomas notes, it would ban law enforcement from using choke holds.

Do you hope -- do you have hope that this will actually become law?

SNIPES-GARNER: At this point, it's not about hope.

For me, it's about demanding action. I do think everybody who's already signed up (AUDIO GAP) support the Eric Garner law, and I don't doubt that, if this law was passed the (AUDIO GAP) George Floyd would be here today. I don't doubt that at all.

This is something that needs to happen. It has to happen. And federal -- and the Eric Garner bill would definitely prosecute officers on the federal level. And that's the type of action and that's the type of change that we need.

The people are out here unguided, and they need guidance. They need leaders to step up to the plate. So, I appreciate everybody that is signing on. I'm looking for everybody's support for this Eric Garner law.

And we need it now, because change needs to happen. We don't want -- like I said six years ago, I don't want another Eric Garner. And here we are, almost six years to the day. My father died six years ago next month, and we have another Eric Garner.

So, I'm not accepting no. I'm not accepting no. Like, there's -- there's no exception. There's no excuse as to why this law is not -- should not be passed.

TAPPER: And, Erica (sic), six years after your father's death, what message do you have for protesters who are still having to protest about this...

(CROSSTALK)

SNIPES-GARNER: Emerald. Emerald. Emerald. Emerald.

(CROSSTALK)

[16:50:01]

TAPPER: Emerald.

SNIPES-GARNER: I am Emerald, yes.

TAPPER: What is your message for protesters who are -- what -- yes.

What is your message for -- I'm sorry if you're not hearing me. The connection is shaky, I guess.

But what is your message for protesters who are still out there chanting the same things, "I can't breathe," protesting the same issues, demanding the same kind of justice that they demanded back in 2014?

SNIPES-GARNER: I think that we shouldn't focus on the protesters, because the protesters are an exact reaction to the killing of unarmed black people. So, I think that we should focus on the legislation. I think that we

should work on police reform. I think that we should work on changing the view of African-American young people, and not making it so easy for police officers to get off. That's where I think that we should direct that.

TAPPER: And, Etan, your activism allows you to work closely with family members of victims of police brutality, including Emerald.

Right now, protesters are demanding accountability, especially in the Floyd case. But once the protests are over, and the streets are back to normal, tell us what else, besides the Eric Garner law, you think lawmakers need to move on?

THOMAS: Oh, my gosh, it's such a long list.

The way that we police in this country is absurd, I mean, the fact that so many police departments they have internal investigations whenever a police officer kills someone. So I'm -- basically, I'm going to put it in your hands to investigate yourself and tell me what you what you did wrong.

I think that's absurd. I mean, anybody that has children, if you told your children that you can do whatever you want to, and you can just tell me what your punishment should be, that's an absurd type of situation.

So what they should have, an outside entity to investigate every police department as soon as there is a police killing. And then also what needs to happen is that police have to show a reason, they have to show cause.

They can't just do what Betty Shelby did in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after she murdered Terence Crutcher and just say, I was in fear for my life. And that's it. They have to be able to actually show that there was a direct reason for them to brandish their weapon, for them to use lethal force.

Right now, they just have a license to kill, and nobody can be above the law. Right now, Trump is worried about squashing the protesters. And he said he wants to bring force against the protesters.

But he didn't say anything about overhauling the police department, so they don't have a reason to protest. And that's where the focus needs to be, is changing the laws, changing the rules, so we have police accountability to where we -- if they do choose to kill another unarmed black man, black woman, the way they have been doing, that they are being put to jail, put in prison for it, and that will serve as a deterrent for the rest of them.

But, right now, they just have a license to kill. And it's not all police officers. I'm not saying that all police officers are bad, but there are too many police officers that have no accountability, and they just have a license to kill. And that's not the way that we can run a system.

TAPPER: OK.

Etan Thomas, Emerald Snipes-Garner, thank you both for your time. I appreciate it.

SNIPES-GARNER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Protests are still under way in Washington, D.C.

Military convoys are just arriving in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, after it was announced that all four officers will be charged in the murder of George Floyd.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me now.

Alex, how are protesters in Washington reacting to the news of these new charges?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I think is still setting in.

Every day, federal officials here have been trying to push protesters farther and farther away from the White House. First, they were in the park. Then they got pushed out. Then they put up that fence around the park. And now the protesters have been pushed about half-a-block away from the park.

As you can see, that has not stopped them from coming out. Moments ago, there was a vigil held out here. I spoke with the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, which, of course, is where the president held that photo opportunity a couple days ago, and he was saying that his parishioners can't even go to the church.

So, for yet another day, this is the sixth day of protests here in D.C., Jake. These protesters have turned out in large numbers. As you can see, they're taking a knee. And that does speak to the tone of these protests for the last few days, which have been almost entirely peaceful -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt across the street from the White House.

This afternoon, the White House publicly defended the president's controversial photo-op at St. John's Church, pinning the decision to clear Lafayette Park on Attorney General Bill Barr, as CNN Kaitlan Collins reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defense Secretary Mark Esper was already on thin ice with the White House when he broke with President Trump today on whether active-duty military should be deployed to American cities to curb protests.

MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act. COLLINS: In a remarkable press conference, the Pentagon chief

contradicted Trump, who threatened days earlier to invoke a 200-year- old law and put troops on U.S. streets.

ESPER: The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.

[16:55:08]

We are not in one of those situations now.

COLLINS: As the military takes a larger role in confronting protesters in the nation's capital, around 1,600 active-duty troops have been placed on standby in the Washington area.

After telling NBC News, "I didn't know where I was going," Esper conceded today he knew Trump was headed to St. John's Church when he left the White House on Monday.

ESPER: I did know that we were going to the church. I was not aware of a photo-op was happening.

COLLINS: Protesters were forced out of Lafayette Park using smoke canisters and pepper balls for that photo-op. The administration has disputed that tear gas was used, though the CDC considers pepper spray to be in that category.

The White House believes that moment mirrored Winston Churchill inspecting bombing damage during World War II.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bomb damage. It sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people.

COLLINS: Esper was already on shaky ground with the president, sources say, and, today, the press secretary refused to say if Trump had confidence in him.

MCENANY: As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper, and should the president lose faith, we will all learn about that some in the future.

COLLINS: While Esper is distancing himself from that photo-op, the president is defending it and dismissed the religious leaders who condemned it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did hold up a Bible. I think that's a good thing, not a bad thing, and many religious leaders loved it.

COLLINS: In that interview with FOX News, Trump denied sheltering in an underground bunker as protests raged outside the White House. He says he did go to the bunker, but it was more for an inspection.

TRUMP: I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny little, short period of time. And it was much more for an inspection. There was no problem during the day. I have gone down two or three times, all for inspection.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, today, the defense secretary also said he should have used different language when on that call with governors the other day. Talking about how to control protests and riots, he said that they needed to dominate the -- quote -- "battle space."

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thanks so much.

A retired Saint Louis police captain who was a father of five and a grandfather of 10 was murdered. An unknown gunman shot and killed 77- year-old David Dorn early Tuesday while he worked security at a pawn shop.

As CNN Ryan Young reports, Dorn is far from the only American to become a target of violence in the last week.

A warning: Some of the images here are graphic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. I (INAUDIBLE) with some TVs.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police say 77- year-old retired police Captain David Dorn was shot by looters while trying to protect a Missouri pawn shop Monday night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May his soul rest in peace, bro.

BRIAN POWELL, SON OF KILLED RETIRED POLICE CAPTAIN: He called me just crying and bawling, like, they shot and killed dad. They shot he killed dad.

YOUNG: His son now pleading for peace.

POWELL: Just step back from what you're doing. Know the real reason that you're protesting. Let's do it in a positive manner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a peaceful march and a peaceful rally.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

YOUNG: While the majority of protests have been nonviolent, Dorn's killing is one of many vicious attacks on law enforcement and security since the death of George Floyd last week.

TERENCE MONAHAN, NYPD CHIEF OF PATROL: There are actually 800,000 law enforcement officers in this country paying the price for what happened to George Floyd, which that is wrong.

YOUNG: And the price in some cases has been hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A shot rang out, and our officer went down.

YOUNG: Twenty-nine-year-old Officer Shay Mikalonis is fighting for his life after being shot Monday night in Las Vegas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good-intended and law-abiding people leave, and those that seek to break the law stay behind.

YOUNG: In Buffalo, New York, officials say video shows an SUV driving directly into police, leaving one with a shattered pelvis and broken leg and two others with minor injuries.

And it's not just police. Protesters are also being injured, some hit by an LAPD vehicle Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm getting shot!

YOUNG: And journalists have been hurt as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. It's those pepper bullets.

YOUNG: The onslaught of physical attacks taking its toll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My prayer for the family and friends.

YOUNG: Including at David Dorn's former police department.

POWELL: He would try to get them on the straight and narrow.

YOUNG: Dorn's son says his dad would have stepped up to help his killer.

POWELL: My dad, he is a forgiving soul, so he would have forgiven that person.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: None of that is what George Floyd would have wanted.

Our thanks to Ryan Young for that reporting.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for joining us.

We're following breaking news.

And we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

Joining us now, the Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison.

Attorney General, thanks so much for joining us.