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Decision Made On Other Officers Involved In Floyd's Death; Derek Chauvin Charged With Third-Degree Murder; Sources Say, Defense Chief Esper On Shaky Ground As Attempts To Distance Himself Received Poorly By White House. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 3, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:02]

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I do think it can be different now because he was not running, he was not armed, there was no excuse. He couldn't say, well, at least it was a split second decision. What can a cop do? A cop has to defend himself, in that moment, if he hadn't talked back, if he hadn't fought back.

There is nothing we can tell our children that would have saved that man's life. We have to believe as black people that we can sprinkle a little bit of dust on our children called the talk. That's a little fairy dust we put on top of our children. Don't talk back. Say, yes, sir, say, no, ma'am, keep your hands in sight, you know, don't have any drugs on you, you know.

And we believe by putting this fairy dust on our children, called the talk, they can then go out there and be protected. There is not one thing that we can tell our children that would stop a police officer from doing that. One minute, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes.

And so, we are broken as a community. Everybody I know who's African- American is so fragile right now. But there are 20, 30, 40, 50 million white Americans that are also flattened by this, because they can't explain it. And they can't excuse it. And they know, you don't get to this kind of outcome with the other cops standing around, unless it's much, much worse than they thought.

So, I do think that change is possible. I do think we can get together this time on a bipartisan basis and fix some of these laws. But, you know, this is -- I apologize, but this is an incredibly emotional moment. Because if this is okay, if they come back and say this is okay, that we can be killed in this way -- this is a lynching in broad daylight with the cell phones out and the body cameras there and the whole world looking at it. If this is okay, then what are we supposed to do?

What are we supposed to do? And that's what's at stake today. That's what's at stake today.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: No apology necessary, my friend. Very poignant, very important at this moment that what could be a crossroads day. We just heard from the family there. We will hear from the Minnesota attorney general later today on potential charges. Van Jones, appreciate your help and insights.

Our coverage continues with Brianna Keilar right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: John, thank you. I am Brianna Keilar and I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world. We are picking up with the breaking news in the investigation into the death of George Floyd.

The Minnesota attorney general's office has made a decision about the other officers involved in his death. He will be making that announcement soon, and we are going to bring that to you.

The officers can be seen on that crucial piece of video of Floyd's arrest. I must warn you, it is very graphic. It's also important to see what their involvement was here. Three officers who have since been fired, they are seen standing near Derek Chauvin, the former officer who has already been charged with third-degree murder. They do not intervene as Floyd pleads for his life, for minutes.

In Minneapolis moments ago, the family of George Floyd and Attorney Ben Crump visited the site where Floyd was killed. This is a site that has become the epicenter for these nine days of nationwide demonstrations.

We're beginning to see protesters again taking to the streets. Officials are hoping the demonstrations will continue to trend toward what happened last night, although unprecedented curfews were defied in many cities. They were done so peacefully.

The family's attorney, Ben Crump, said he expected the three other officers to be charged before George Floyd's first public memorial, which is tomorrow in Minneapolis.

Let's go to Josh Campbell, our CNN Security Correspondent, who has much more on this expected announcement, and also CNN's Omar Jimenez, who is on site in Minneapolis where members of the Floyd family just wrapped up speaking.

Josh, you bring us up to speed with what we could be expecting here with the other officers.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, a major development today in this investigation involving the officers that were seen on those videos after this encounter between police and George Floyd.

Now, we know that the investigation was under way, learning today from law enforcement sources that the attorney general's office has reviewed all of the evidence and has come to a decision regarding whether there will be additional charges. And we're expecting that here in this room where we are in St. Paul, later this afternoon, from the attorney general here in Minnesota.

Now, we know that this investigation started out under the auspices of the county in Minneapolis. And one of those officers, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. We were waiting to see what would happen with the other three officers that were on that video. In that time, the investigation was actually transferred from the county to the state attorney general's office.

And in talking to law enforcement sources, they tell me that they have been reviewing all the evidence, they have been looking very methodically and slowly. One person telling me, they only get one shot to do this right.

[13:05:00]

They want to make sure that everything that they compile holds up in court. We're told that that review is now complete and they are prepared to announce a decision.

Now, our source is not telling us what that decision is at this point. Again, we expect that to come this afternoon. But, Brianna, this comes as this community, the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and indeed, the entire country has been on edge following this incident. We saw protests, most of them peacefully -- overwhelmingly, most of them peacefully, across the country, but also some that obviously turned violent.

We will see what this announcement is this afternoon and how that impacts folks around the country, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Josh, thank you. And, Omar, the family has been very clear, this isn't just about one officer. And they want to see speed here when it comes to the possibility of charging these other officers.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course. And Josh Campbell's reporting, saying that a decision has been made in regards to these officers. The people here on the ground at this site are anxious to see what that decision is going to be, because when it comes to the justice that they are asking for, that they are pushing for in this, they don't want just Officer Chauvin to see these charges. They want all four of them, not just to be charged, but to be convicted as well.

Now, a few moments ago, we had the family attorney along with some of George Floyd's family here at this site where just a little over a week ago, George Floyd took his final breaths, as we saw play out on that now-infamous cell phone video.

And Benjamin Crump, the Floyd family attorney, spoke to people here, supporters in some cases, lots of media, but also people that were offering strength to this family in what has been an incredibly difficult time, not just here in Minneapolis, but especially for this family. Here's a little bit of what was said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN CRUMP, GEORGE FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: We are demanding justice. We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, tomorrow.

QUINCY MASON FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SON: I'm here reunited with my family, trying to get justice for my father. And no man or woman should be without their fathers. And we want justice for what's going on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: And one of the big themes of the speech there, and speaking to everyone there in the exact spot where George Floyd took his final breaths simply came down to the fact that he said, we're America, and that means black people too.

And that seems to be the rallying cry that we have seen in communities across this country, wanting to be treated fairly, wanting to feel like they get the justice they deserve in cases where police are involved and where people either get killed or severely injured. Brianna?

KEILAR: Omar, thank you so much, to Josh as well.

So right now, we're awaiting the Minnesota attorney general's announcement. I want to bring Areva Martin, she's is our CNN Legal Analyst, she's a civil rights attorney, and also Laura Coates, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor.

I just wonder what both of you are kind of looking here for. What are you expecting? What kind of charges? Let me say to you first, Laura, what kind of charges do you think we could see for these three other officers?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they're going to be under the umbrella likely of a accomplice sort of liability, which says, if you are aiding or conspiring with or you're participating in the commission of a crime, look, you're held to the same level of culpability as the person who was the one to fire the shot, the one to put the knee on the person's neck. And if you engage actively and had your body on and compressing his body as well, contributing to that asphyxiation, you would be held liable.

And the only really way to get away from that accomplice liability, Brianna, and I know Areva can talk to this as well, is if you try to prevent the commission of the crime in some way, if you actively seek out a way to stop it. And as we see here, the rallying cries across Minneapolis and across the globe has been because of those failure of those individuals to either stop it and heed the begging of Mr. George Floyd and the community members around him.

KEILAR: Areva, what do you think?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I agree with Laura. And I think the family attorney is right for calling for the arrest and charging of these officers. And I think one thing is interesting, Brianna, the attorney general just got this case on Sunday, and here we are on Wednesday and they are ready to make an announcement about charges.

And I think that goes back to some of the underlying issues that we see played out in these cases, and that's the distrust of local law enforcement. We heard the district attorney initially come out some days ago and say it was going to take so much time for them to conduct an investigation before they could make a decision about charging these other officers. Yet, the attorney general gets the case on Sunday, and here we are three, four days later, and he's ready, Ellison, Attorney General Keith Ellison, to make an announcement.

[13:10:01]

And that just undercuts any argument that when you have videotape like the videotape in this case, you have eyewitness accounts like the eyewitness accounts in this case, that you need this prolonged period of time to get to an arrest.

We're just talking about probable cause for an arrest. We're not talking about conducting the full trial or getting a conviction. So I'm happy to see that Attorney General Ellison has the case, that he acted quickly and that he's going to provide information to the family and to the American people that have been waiting for these other officers to be charged.

KEILAR: I think there is a question about -- so, this accomplice liability, Laura, that you're talking about, I mean, it's sort of like -- isn't it just part of the American value or even just the human values that you step in if you see something wrong, just wash your hands of it? I know there are a lot of people who, you know, sort of it defies what you might expect. I know a lot of people do that sometimes.

But in the standards of the Minneapolis Police Department, it sort of -- it speaks to this, right? So, if that's actually something that these police officers, a code that they're supposed to adhere to, does that play into this at all when you're talking about what is reasonably expected of these officers to do in this situation?

COATES: It absolutely does. It's not only a code that is silently supposed to be enforced, particularly among people who have asked to be public servants, who have asked to be in this role. You're not assigned the role of a police officer. You're not assigned the role of a journalist. You're not assigned the role of a doctor or the role of a grocery store clerk. You actually are taking on these roles in your lives.

And so, the idea that somebody was a public servant, who has an elevated level of duty and obligation, one would think, in allegiance to the community than the everyday person and that everyday people were doing the right thing, begging and trying intervene and they did not, it's more than just that unspoken code.

It actually is in the Minneapolis Police Department manual. It was written in, in response to the shooting death of Jamar Clark, also from Minneapolis, where they actually have a duty to act or intervene if they see a fellow officer engaging in behavior that is excessive force.

Now, having it in the police manual as opposed to having it a legislatively codified law in the world and in Minnesota is very different. And what will factor in about the duty to intervene, what they should have done, it factored in most certainly into the chief of police's decision to immediately fire them.

Now, how it will play into a prosecution may be different.

KEILAR: Areva, how essential is it not just here in the case of George Floyd, but in cases going forward, that these officers are held to account so that other officers feel that, look, at least they can sort of hang their head on, I have to intervene, right? Because, look, the standard has been set that I am responsible and I can't just wash my hands of this.

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely, Brianna. We should have an expectation around this country that any police officer who takes on the responsibility to protect and serve does just that. And when they see fellow officers engage in the kind of misconduct that we saw with respect to George Floyd, we should be able to, as the public, expect those officers not only to intervene but to then engage in life-saving procedures to help someone like Mr. Floyd.

Beyond watching the cavalier attitude that these officers had as they watched Mr. Floyd cry for his life, you know, cry out that he couldn't breathe, cry for his own mother, once they saw that he had no pulse, that his body went limp, not -- neither of those officers involved gave him CPR, did any life-saving techniques that could have prevented his senseless death.

We saw in Laquan McDonald in Chicago, in that case, officers covered up what the other officers, the shooting officer had done. So, we've seen cases where officers not only stand around and do nothing, we've actually seen them go further where they actually engage in this conduct by lying, by covering up, by entering false information into police reports.

So, yes, we need to send a very clear message that if you are engaged in the shooting or the kneeling, you will be held accountable, and if you are in the vicinity watching the shooting and the kneeling, you will also be held accountable.

KEILAR: Such a good point you bring up, Areva. I'm so glad you did there, about the life-saving measures. Because it seems -- I mean, it's countless, right, how many videos we've watched where police wait for minutes, minutes that could have saved the life of someone, and they wait for paramedics, even though it's something they can take into their own hands.

Areva, Laura, thank you to both of you. I really appreciate it.

So, we're waiting right now this announcement from prosecutors in Minneapolis. This is an extraordinary moment. The defense secretary telling reporters what he knew about the photo-op that he took part in. A retired general who says Esper should resign, will join me, next.

[13:15:06]

Plus, speaking of that photo op, the president is now defending it but playing revisionist history. He also admits he went to the bunker during protests the bunker in the White House. But he says he did so to inspect it. We're going to fact-check. This is CNN's special live coverage.

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KEILAR: All right. This is what we're awaiting right now, the announcement on the decision of charges in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. So, we are waiting for that at this moment. We're expecting this to have to do with the three other police officers who were standing by, two who helped restrain George Floyd, one who stood by and did nothing as Derek Chauvin was there with his knee in George Floyd's neck for over eight minutes until he died.

[13:20:17]

In the meantime, sources telling CNN the defense secretary, Mark Esper, is on shaky ground with the White House after he attempted to distance himself from the president's much-criticized photo op Monday at St. John's Episcopal Church. Secretary Esper telling reporters he was unaware of the president's plans and that he believed they were going outside to look at the damage in Lafayette Park and to thank members of the National Guard who had been called in.

Instead, though, he ended up being part of that all-white Trump administration lineup that took part in a photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, very clearly there staging and posing for a photo. We saw them do that, it seemed very deliberate, as one would do when they're posing for a photo.

Esper also distanced himself from the president's threat to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy troops to quell protests around the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: 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. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. She joins me now. And, Kaitlan, I wonder what the reaction is to what Esper said. I suspect the White House didn't necessarily know he was going to say this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, they did not. And so far, the reaction inside the west wing, Brianna, has not been great to those comments. They were not aware that he was going to go and contradict the president on, of course, whether or not active-duty U.S. military troops should be deployed throughout the nation, something that the president had just said days ago in the rose garden before they went over to St. John's Church that he believed that they should. And now Esper is saying that he doesn't agree with that. Of course, there had been a lot of discussion behind the scenes as the president was going to make that announcement over whether or not they should threaten to invoke the Insurrection Act, which the president did. You saw attorney general, Bill Barr, privately had disagreed with that. And Esper is now saying he doesn't agree with it either, even though we know that about 1,600 of those active-duty troops are now in the Washington area.

And so, really, the question is what is going to happen to the defense secretary? His future is not clear at this point because he had already been on thin ice with the president, who had been venting about him in recent weeks, including at a recent trip to Camp David.

The national security adviser had also been talking about the fact that often his message was contradicting what the White House was trying to say. And now you have him going out and saying that he doesn't believe these active-duty troops should be out in the United States. He says where we are right now, it does not warrant that.

But also, Brianna, he's coming under fire for accompanying the president to that photo op at St. John's Church outside the White House. First, he told NBC News last night he was not aware of the destination. He said he didn't know where they were going.

Today, he said he did know that they were going out but he thought they were going to be speaking with the National Guard troops, and he said he wasn't aware that photos were going to be taken in the way that they were, where the president posed not only with the bible but also with his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the defense secretary, of course, as well, in addition to several other officials.

And so, you are seeing him put a lot of distance in between what the president chose to do. We should note, a move the president himself is defending today in an interview. And Esper is trying to put some space in between that.

And where that ends up for Esper himself, we don't. Though, shortly, after those comments, go over to the White House for a meeting in addition with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley.

KEILAR: It's so interesting, Kaitlan, that I suppose no one in the White House is saying that they're looking at what Esper has said and maybe actually reassessing their position on the Insurrection Act or the actions that have been taken. Instead, it's looking at Esper and being frustrated that there appears to be daylight between him and the president.

COLLINS: Yes, because the president had already been complaining about him. He had already been seen as on shaky footing. And then people did not think that that press conference really helped secure his relationship with the president. But it doesn't seem to be that the president is taking that, you know, hearing what he's saying about those U.S. troops being deployed.

The president still feels that that is very much something that should happen, and other officials have cautioned against it for now.

KEILAR: Yes, and many experts as well. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

I'm going to be speaking with a retired four-star general about this who says that Esper needs to resign.

Plus, we are awaiting an imminent announcement on possible additional charges in George Floyd's death.

[13:25:00]

This involves the officers, the three other officers, besides the one, Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on George Floyd's neck.

Stay with us for that.

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[13:30:00]

KEILAR: Back now to our breaking news.