Return to Transcripts main page


New York City Sees Continued Protests but Less Violence; House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) Interviewed on Continued Protests over George Floyd's Death and President Trump's Handling of Race Relations; GOP Looking for New State to Hold Convention; Princeton Names First-Ever Black Valedictorian. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 3, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There were some pockets of violence overnight. In Washington D.C. some clashes between protesters and law enforcement following peaceful protests earlier in the night. In Seattle protestors faced off with police. Look at this image. This is reminiscent of Hong Kong facing up to the Chinese there, police using umbrellas to block pepper spray. The Floyd family lawyer said he expects the other three officers to be charged before George Floyd's funeral next week. In Minneapolis, this morning, this is a live look at the memorial where George Floyd died. It continues to grow this morning.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Brynn Gingras live in New York City, where there was some damage, Brynn, but largely a very different night.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, listen, we saw a significant difference than what we were seeing nights before. But you're right, it wasn't a perfect night. There was a lot of damage. We have seen some videos of police officers who were being attacked on the streets. At some point that still happened, but certainly not in the way we had seen it from Monday and Sunday as well.

But take a look at what you're seeing here. This is a Starbucks in the East Village of New York. And these guys are trying to clean up all the glass that was shattered so that they can actually open this morning. And this area that we're in actually got hit pretty hard. We're here at a FedEx. There is really a number of businesses along this street that were hit.

But, listen, there was a number of things that changed overnight. There was that 8:00 p.m. curfew. We saw police that were mounted on horses. We haven't seen that yet. Uber, Lyft, other ride share programs were disabled, so cars were not allowed to get into Manhattan, which we're hearing looters often use those programs like the city bike as well in order to carry out their criminal activity.

And we have seen all the streets in Manhattan shut down until 5:00 this morning. No one was even able to get into certain parts of New York City. So all of these things combined certainly seemed to help the cause. So that's the good thing. And 8:00 curfew, again, tonight. So we'll see what else is put in place in addition to that, if more of those measures, more of that police beefed up system is going to have an effect tonight as well.

There were peaceful protests. In fact, there was a lot of them, carried out from 1:00 yesterday all through into the evening. At one point even there were protesters peacefully sending their message loud and clear as they gathered on the Manhattan bridge. And they were marching through the streets all over the city. So there were some really incredible moments, and I know you guys highlighted that one with the healthcare workers as well.

Of course, there has been this trading of insults between the mayor and the governor that we heard yesterday. The mayor wants an apology from the governor after he called the response the days before from the NYPD and the leadership in this city inexcusable. So we'll see if that happens later today. But another day of planned protests, guys, so we'll see how this turns out. Hopefully it will be a lot more, even better than what we saw last night.

BERMAN: Brynn Gingras on the streets of New York, terrific reporting, thanks for being with us, Brynn.

Joining me now is the House Majority Whip, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. He has endorsed Joe Biden for president. Congressman, it's always a pleasure to speak with you. And I don't know if you had a chance to hear this yet, but I want to play some sound, if you can hear it, from George Floyd's six-year-old daughter Gianna.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy changed the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy changed the world.


BERMAN: That's George Floyd's six-year-old daughter saying "Daddy changed the world." Now it has been more than a week since he was killed. How true do you think that statement is at this point?

JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC) HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Well, thank you very much for having me. That remains to be seen. I do believe that his part of this, involuntary as much as it was, could very well be the incident that set this nation back on the right course. The fact of the matter is whether we want to admit it or not, this case has been set upon the wrong course for a while now. I think you are beginning to see it now in the polling data. And I really believe that incidents like this could very well -- it was with Emmett Till. I'll never forget Emmett Till. In fact, my youngest daughter that I was having some difficulty getting to understand what was going on in the country, I made her sit down with me and watch "Eyes on the Prize." And when she saw Emmett Till in that open coffin, and I thank his mother for demanding that that be done, she has never been the same. She is now my most prolific political worker and probably the biggest supporter that Joe Biden has.


BERMAN: So incidents can change. Moments can change history. On the other hand, Congressman, you met your wife 58 years ago in jail during demonstrations. And I'm not saying that to date you.


BERMAN: I'm just saying that to say that you have been working at this for nearly six decades. So how do you promise the people on the streets this week that this change will come?

CLYBURN: Well, the fact of the matter is it has been more than six decades. My wife and I stayed married for 58 years. But we met in jail in 1960, March 15th, 1960. That would be 60 years ago, two months ago. But I tell people all the time, that we have to keep faith in this process. Nothing comes easy. You don't give up on this great country. And it is a great country. And as Alexis de Tocqueville told us when he wrote his two volume piece way back in 1835, this country is great not because it is more enlightened than any other nation, but because we have always been able to repair our faults. When we have seen faults, slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, was repairing a fault. Lyndon Johnson came along, the Great Society programs, to repair faults. The Supreme Court back in 1954 repaired faults. And that's what we're trying to do.

And so I tell young people, stay engaged in this process. It will not always happen the way you want to, exactly when you want to, but this country has always been able to repair its faults.

BERMAN: You have said in the last day that President Trump is responsible for more carnage than any president in history. And of course, "American carnage" was a phrase he used in his inaugural address. What do you mean by that?

CLYBURN: Well, what I mean by that is that this president maybe the worst president we've had since Woodrow Wilson. And so I'm not being partisan there. Woodrow Wilson was not a Republican, and in fact his home is in my congressional district. But I think Woodrow Wilson set this country back tremendously. He was -- this president seemed to be mimicking so much of what he did.

Do you recall, Woodrow Wilson entertained "Gone with the Wind," -- "The Birth of a Nation," I might say, in the White House as if he were trying to send a signal all across this country as to what he wanted this country to be like. This president is mimicking Woodrow Wilson, doing things in the White House. What he did, the day before yesterday, clearing a path for him to walk down as if he is some emperor. That was carnage, the misuse of power. That is violence. I've seen the definition of violence, unjust use of force. But I've also seen it as being the unjust use of power. This president is using his power unjustly. He's unleashing violence on this country in such a way that it could very well threaten our existence as a nation.

BERMAN: You, of course, are a key supporter of former vice president Joe Biden, maybe the most key during the primaries. And you do advise his campaign. He is undergoing now the running mate selection process, and you have said that the events of the last two weeks you believe hurt the chances of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. You say, quote, we are all victims of timing. This is very tough timing for Amy Klobuchar. Why?

CLYBURN: Because I think that we have to agree that in this business of politics, a lot of times things happen around us of which we have absolutely no control. I do believe that presidential campaigns can very well turn on events separate and apart from the campaign itself. I like Amy Klobuchar. I think she's an outstanding woman. I think she's a very gifted politician.

But the fact of the matter is the aura around Minneapolis and what we begin to see now is a civil rights complaint being filed by the state of Minnesota against the police department that really is kind of serious to me.


I used to run the agency that brought this complaint, or this suit in Minnesota. I ran that agency in South Carolina for 18 years. I know that agency in Minnesota. I interacted with them. So if they are going to -- that state agency, bringing this kind of a lawsuit against the police department, that's huge. And to the extent that anybody has ever been touched or in any way interacted with that police department, absolutely this can be a really catastrophic.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Clyburn, we do appreciate your time. Thank you very much for being with us.

CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Just hours from now, former President Barack Obama will speak on camera for first time about the unrest in America. More on that, next.


CAMEROTA: The eighth night of protests over George Floyd's death were less chaotic and violent than previous nights. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said it appears the curfew is helping.

Joining us now, Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker," and Toluse Olorunnipa, CNN political analyst and White House reporter at the "Washington Post."

Susan, I just want to start with you, because you spent some time last night in D.C. outside of the White House with the protesters and detected a different vibe than other nights?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Alisyn, I was really struck, actually, last night. There seemed to be a lot more people actually who came down, perhaps in response to the dramatic events of Monday night.


You know, there was young crowd there, it was very mixed, I would say, white and black, and very peaceful. You know, like almost any other protest I've attended in Washington, D.C. as a reporter, just observing and yet this striking scene of the U.S. military blocking off parts of downtown Washington, you know. I was about three blocks from the White House, right at the corner -- 16th and L and you could see armored Humvee and two young soldiers -- or from the U.S. Air Force.

And I said did you ever imagine that you would be here? This young guy in a bandanna shook his head at me. It was quite a moment.

But I do think that Trump might have not realized that it would back fire a bit in terms of bringing out more people and having a, you know, a demonstration that was determined to be peaceful on the streets.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: By the way, we are trying to get Toluse Olorunnipa's audio up so he can hear us.

But in the meantime, Susan, what is the impact going to be on the larger discussion at hand, underlying issue about what these demonstrations at least were about at the beginning, which is not just justice for George Floyd, but also justice in America?

GLASSER: Well, you know, it is interesting, of course, Donald Trump has this, you know, incredible both desire and instinct to want to change the subject, to make it about him. And by staging such a dramatic photo-op and having the park in front of the White House cleared in a violent manner the other day. You know, that distracts in a way as you said from the underlying issue that has caused protests all across the country, not just in Washington, D.C.

And, you know, here in the capital it seems more focused on Trump and politics. Across the country, obviously, this is a real moment of reckoning in a way for police forces, for racism, for the unacknowledged truths that we have sort of papering over. Right now, though, I don't see anything specific coming out of it at a national level except the election, you know.

This is really the lens through which I think all of our politics is going to end up being viewed for the next few months.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Toluse, what do you think happens next? Specifically, because things happen every day, obviously, the curfew changed things today, President Obama will be speaking live at 5:00 p.m. and then just, you know, figuratively what will happen next? Where do we go from here?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is a sort of rhythm to these kinds of things. I covered the protests in Ferguson, just over five years ago, and it was a sense that we started off with massive protests, riots, things got a little bit rowdy and violent and there was burning in the streets and a strong police crackdown and then the two sides came together and decided to talk about solutions. Now, there weren't as many solutions as some of the protesters wanted, after Ferguson, we did see more police officers and more police communities wearing cameras, for example, that was a policy change.

And I think at some point after this dies down, in terms of the initial unrest, there will be an opportunity for both sides to come together and talk about policy. I don't have very high expectations that major changes will be put in place, not by Congress, but I do think the voice has been heard from the protesters and there does seem to be a growing movement not only among the activists, but among corporations, among celebrities, to actually do something and that has led to some change among the politicians as well.

So, I wouldn't be surprised if there are some minor policy changes that come out of this after all of the unrest dies down on the street.

BERMAN: You brought up Ferguson. Overnight, Ferguson erected -- elected its first African-American mayor who will join us later in the show. So that -- something does happen. Change does take place, maybe not right away. It does take some time.

Toluse, as Alisyn were saying, we are going to hear from former President Barack Obama later today. What can he say at this point? What do you expect him to say, Toluse, and what can he say that will make a difference?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, the former president is still highly respected in the country. He has pretty high approval ratings and he has continued to remain engaged on civic issues since he left office. This is sort of right up his alley.

I mean, when he was in the White House, I covered his White House for a couple of years, and he launched the -- an initiative specifically focused on black men and boys, young men of color, and in part My Brother's Keeper Initiative was to deal with police brutality and discrimination and lack of resources and lack of opportunities.


So I would expect him to talk from a very personal standpoint, talking about growing up without a father, talking about how he was able to navigate a system that had been discriminatory at times and become the president of the United States. So I think he's going to provide a hopeful message, but you can also expect him to have some words that can be very easily interpreted as digs at Donald Trump, criticism of how President Trump has handled this, how he's manhandled protesters in order to get a photo-op and I wouldn't be surprised as we saw in George W. Bush's statement yesterday, we see something similar from President Obama, both sort of rising to the moment to talk about the actual issues, but also having some veiled digs at President Trump and his handling of this issue.

CAMEROTA: Toluse Olorunnipa, Susan Glasser, thank you both very much for all of your reporting. Also developing this morning, the Republican National Committee is

looking for a new state to host part of their convention. Officials tell CNN that President Trump will not accept the 2020 nomination in Charlotte, because of that state's coronavirus -- or city's coronavirus restrictions.

CNN's John Harwood is live in Washington, with the details.

So, how is this going to work, John?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRSPONDENT: Well, we don't know how it is going to work, Alisyn, and I suspect it's going to be less than meets the eye, because note that they're saying they're still going to have convention business in Charlotte, they are contractually obligated to do so. There is a lot of planning that goes into staging conventions for a reason.

They say the president will accept the nomination somewhere else. That could be anywhere. That could be Mar-a-Lago. That could be a hotel anywhere in the country.

When you think about the swing states, the possibilities where the president could go, they were already planning to do the convention in North Carolina. That's one of the system top swing states. Four of those six have Democratic governors. They're likely to insist as Roy Cooper is in North Carolina on following public health protocols that Trump's own administration is advocating. That is social distancing, mask wearing, that sort of thing.

The two that aren't, you got Arizona, which is a state where the president has been trailing Joe Biden significantly, and Florida, where you got a Trump acolyte, Ron DeSantis, you also have Mar-a-Lago there.

So, you could easily see an arrangement like that, but obviously the administration as they did in their photo-op walk across the street couple of days ago, they're making this stuff up as they go along and it is a pretty chaotic process.

CAMEROTA: OK, John Harwood, thank you very much for all of that breaking news overnight.

CAMEROTA: There is also new tensions at Facebook over its refusal to take down president Trump's post posts about shooting looters. We'll talk to a CEO who just pulled out of a big business deal with Facebook, next.



CAMEROTA: Time now for the good stuff. On Sunday, Nicholas Johnson became the first black valedictorian in Princeton's 274-year history. He addressed the class of 2020 in a virtual graduation ceremony. And his commencement speech focused on building a brighter future.

Nicholas Johnson joins us now.

Congratulations, Nicholas.


CAMEROTA: What an accomplishment for you.

And so, tell us what this does mean to you to become the first black valedictorian for Princeton.

JOHNSON: It means an incredible amount to me. I think particularly given the university's troubled beginnings with respect to its role in perpetuating slavery. I think that it goes to show how much progress has been made for that -- for there to now be a black valedictorian at Princeton.

That being said, I think the fact it has taken so long goes to show how much work still remains to be done. I hope that this achievement can be a source of inspiration for younger black students who, you know, are seeing this event and might have similar aspirations. And beyond that, I also hope to be a source of inspiration for all individuals, regardless of race, regardless of gender, who really want to pursue their passions and might have to break barriers in doing so.

CAMEROTA: In terms of your commencement speech, what does one say during such a tumultuous time to his classmates? What was your message?

JOHNSON: I will say I wrote my speech roughly three to four weeks ago, really with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind. And I really hoped to convey to my classmates a message of courage to really go into this difficult world and have the confidence to continue to use their expertise and continue to use their personal experiences to really fight to be most pressing problems in the world and not feel paralyzed in the face of feelings of powerlessness and response to this pandemic.

So, I really hope to get that message across through my remarks.

CAMEROTA: And what about all of the violence, what about George Floyd's death, what about the protests and the rioting that have sprung up in the aftermath? What are your thoughts about that?

JOHNSON: Well, my selection as Princeton's first black valedictorian is certainly a significant event in the university's history and also in the history of the United States. It by no means changes the fact that there is a strong legacy of systemic racism in the United States that has consistently worked to endanger and take lives away from black people. And this is really been -- this has really been illustrated by the events of recent weeks.

I empathize with the feelings of frustration that the protesters have, and these are feelings of frustration shared by many black people around the world, and many people around the world who aren't black who consider themselves to be allies or supporters of the safety of black people in society. I think that we all have a responsibility to uphold basic human decency and stand against racism, and ultimately, it is up to the relevant authorities to conduct an expeditious and thorough investigation and ensure that justice is ultimately upheld.

CAMEROTA: And so given that, I mean, as you graduate, as you are on the cusp.