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Largely Peaceful Protests Across U.S. After Ex-Officers Charged; Former Defense Secretary Issues Scathing Rebuke Of Trump; Michigan Sheriff Puts Down Helmet, Walks With Protesters. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired June 4, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Used or advocated by our agency.
A couple of important things, no complaint or call for medical help from Mr. Carroll that day. That officer has been placed on administrative leave. So far, no report on what the other officers, those two others who were there, what if anything will be happening to them. Jim, Poppy?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Clearly, still more questions to be answered. We know you'll stay on top of it. Victor Blackwell, thanks very much.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: It's the top of the hour, 10:00 A.M. Eastern, 7:00 A.M. Pacific. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.
Just hours from now, we're going to take you live to Minneapolis for the first of what will be many memorial services planned across the country for George Floyd.
Overnight, there were mostly peaceful protests but still well- attended, some of the massive in many cities across the nation following the announcement that all four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's death, they've all now been charged.
HARLOW: The man, the officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes before he died now faces an elevated charge of second degree murder. The other ex-officers, they will face a judge for the first time in just a few hours, all three charged with aiding and abetting in Floyd's murder.
Also this morning, a key witness who was in the car with Floyd that fateful day, he describes the final, helpless moments for his long- time friend.
We are following all of this. Let's begin our coverage this hour with our colleague, Omar Jimenez. He joins us in Minneapolis for more on what this key witness is saying, because they were able to find him and talk to him in a detailed fashion about this.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy and Jim.
This is a man who was in the car with George Floyd in the moments leading up to that now infamous cell phone video. And he spoke to The New York Times about what those moments, George Floyd's final moments were like. Specifically, he said, he was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in any form or way.
He went on to say, I'm going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd's face because he's such a king. That's what sticks with me, seeing a grown man cry, before seeing a grown man die. It's an image that's stuck with so many of us as this video has circulated.
And it's been a lot for the family to process specifically over the course of the past week, but now is when they're going to get a chance to process some of that amongst other people. Today is going to set -- is set to be the first of what is going to be a series of goodbyes for George Floyd, culminating in his funeral on Tuesday of next week.
But one important thing to keep in mind in regards to their mindset, the family attorney says it's not just enough to have these officers arrested, they want to see convictions. Poppy, Jim?
SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.
CNN's Josh Campbell, he is at the Minneapolis courthouse where three of those ex-officers will face a judge for the first time today. Help explain to viewers, Josh, if you can, because you've been following this closely, exactly what charges all four of them are facing right now.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. Well, This case has taken a dramatic turn over the last 24 hours. With all four officers now in custody, the attorney general announcing yesterday second-degree murder charges against Derek Chauvin. This is the officer in that video with his knee on George Floyd's neck. Now, that charge was elevated from the initial county charges, which were third degree murder.
The attorney general also announcing that the other three officers that were involved in that incident have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder. And we're told that all of these charges carry up to 40 years in prison for these officers as they face prosecution.
Now, where we are right now is actually in this government complex. And it's so striking, Jim and Poppy. You have the police department behind us, the jail, the courthouse, where these officers who were once in the police building and outside on the streets, they're now sitting in jail behind us.
This afternoon, they'll be facing a judge for the first time. This is only the beginning of this prosecution. The A.G. telling us this will be a long process, Jim and Poppy. HARLOW: We're also, Josh, learning more about the officers' backgrounds, including a host of complaints over years specifically about Officer Chauvin, who was just allowed to remain on the force.
CAMPBELL: Yes, that's exactly right. We've been doing a deep dive on these officers as well as The New York Times and other outlets when you look at the history of several complaints, specifically with Derek Chauvin.
Now, he was in the department for over two decades, a very experienced officer, but had at least 17 complaints against him in and throughout his career. Now, the other officers were on the job a lot less. The officer, Tou Thou, was on board for just about 12 years. The other two officers, very new, very young. One of them was just over a year, the other had been on the job for just a matter of months.
So, really, a range there, Derek Chauvin, the officer that we see in that video with his knee on George Floyd's neck, very much the senior officer, lots of experience, two decades, also lots of complaints over that long career, Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: Okay, Josh, thank you for that reporting today.
Let's bring in our Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Good morning, Jeffrey. Good morning.
As we wait for this appearance today of the three of them, I'd like to just begin actually with the one who won't appear in court today, and that is Officer Chauvin, and what this elevated second degree murder charge means in a way that Attorney General Ellison did it. Because it was interesting and something that's not allowed in every state.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. It's called felony murder, which is a doctrine of law that says murder is a more serious crime with elevated penalties when you are also committing another crime at the same time. It often comes up, for example, in bank robberies. That if you kill someone in the course of a bank robbery, that can be seen as a felony murder because it has the crime of bank robbery and, of course, the crime of murder.
What the attorney general of Minnesota has done here is he's said that Officer Chauvin was assaulting Mr. Floyd and then also committing murder. So the combination of the two is a felony murder. That elevates it from third degree murder to second degree murder and the potential penalty from 25 years to 40 years.
SCIUTTO: Okay. So let's talk now about the three other officers who were on the scene watching. They're charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder. Explain how that works legally and how hard it is to get a conviction on that.
TOOBIN: Well, that's actually fairly straightforward. It means assisting someone else in committing a crime. Where it gets difficult in terms of proof in the courtroom is that in order to be convicted of aiding and abetting, you need to show that the defendant knows that the crime is being committed.
And you can assume -- now, we don't know for sure -- but you can assume that the three officers, if they go to trial, will say, I didn't know Chauvin was killing this guy. Now, whether that's credible or not, that will be up to the jury to decide.
But the key point about aiding and abetting is you have to know that you are aiding and abetting in a legal act, not just aiding and abetting someone who may or may not be doing something illegal.
HARLOW: Yes. Well, one of the officers did take the pulse in the middle of it, of George Floyd, and then Officer Chauvin kept his knee on the neck for minutes more following that.
TOOBIN: And you have the words of the spectators saying, you know, he's dying. So, just because they're going to raise that defense doesn't mean the defense will be successful. The jury is going to have to consider all the evidence here.
And it's important to remember, we're just getting the testimony or the information from one of the passengers in the car. The prosecutors, if this case goes to trial, are going to have to collate all that evidence and decide which is best for the jury, including, potentially, if the judge allows it, aspects of Chauvin's history, which may show a predisposition or pattern of behavior in this way.
SCIUTTO: Is there, Jeffrey, before we go, going to be a claim here or a quest for change of venue? And then, of course, you'll have defense lawyers say that, regardless of where you go, this has been such a public case, they'll make the argument can they get a fair trial, I imagine?
TOOBIN: I think that's a virtual certainty, and I think you saw a hint of that yesterday in the attorney general's comments. It is true that the amount of pretrial publicity in the twin cities has been enormous, and you can be sure that the defense, again, if there's not a plea bargain, if there's a trial, will try to move it.
But here's where it gets interesting and complicated and potentially controversial, because the twin cities are basically the only places in Minnesota with a substantial minority population. If you go to Duluth or any of the other sizeable cities in Minnesota, you are going to have a much less diverse jury pool. Now, that may be one of the goals of the defense in this case, but that is certainly a controversial factor to consider as this case begins to move through the legal process.
SCIUTTO: So many levels. Jeffrey Toobin, we know we're going to have you there to follow each one of those steps.
Right now, three men are answering murder charges in the death of another, African-American man, Ahmaud Arbery, this in the State of Georgia. The defendant's lawyers are in the courtroom for this preliminary hearing while two of the suspects appear virtually, due to concerns over coronavirus, the third suspect has waived his right to appear virtually. [10:10:08]
HARLOW: They've all been arrested and charged. This just happened though, their arrest, early last month after Arbery was fatally shot while jogging through the suspects' neighborhood back in February. Nothing happened to these men until the video surfaced and there was outcry.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations lead investigators testifying about the case now. We'll continue to monitor this hearing. We'll bring you any major developments.
SCIUTTO: And still to come this hour, a former military general is coming out with strong criticism of President Trump, including the man the president himself picked to be his first defense secretary.
HARLOW: Plus, a sheriff in Michigan puts his helmet, his baton down and he walks with protestors. He joins us live.
And also, Drew Brees this morning apologizing, a lengthy statement, for what he said that offended so many about football players taking a knee to protest police brutality. We'll talk all about that, ahead.
HARLOW: President Trump's former defense secretary now leading really an unprecedented vocal revolt against the president and especially his response to protests after George Floyd's killing.
SCIUTTO: These are remarkable words. The former defense secretary, James Mattis, says that Trump is the first president in his lifetime who does not try to unite the American people. He suggests the president is making, quote, a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. Remarkable.
Barbara Starr, Jeremy Diamond, they're with us now. Barbara, there was a remarkable few hours yesterday because before Mattis' public statement, you had the sitting defense secretary also disagree with the president on the deployment of uniformed soldiers in U.S. streets to respond to these protests. I mean, that division, in all your years of covering the Pentagon, have you seen that before?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Esper is -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper really sought to put some distance, if not a full break, between himself and President Trump. What he said yesterday is he doesn't see a need right now to put active duty forces on the streets. National Guard is out there, and he believes that's enough for now. He does not want to see the Insurrection Action invoked.
In just a few hours later, we had former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, say partially in that message he says about Trump, we are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberative effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy as the past few days have shown. We owe it to our fellow citizens to past generations that bled to defend our promise and to our children. Mattis making it very clear he thinks the country can unite without him.
HARLOW: Yes, that was a striking part as well.
Jeremy, just talk to us -- I mean, give people a little bit of history here between Mattis and the president. Of course, the president hired Jim Mattis, and now how he's responding.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The president responded to Secretary Mattis' letter in a tweet yesterday evening where he accused Mattis of being an overrated general. He said that he asked for his letter of resignation and felt great about it. That is not true, actually. Mattis resigned of his own accord because he disagreed with the president's decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
And the president also writes that he believes Mattis did not bring home the bacon in military fights that President Trump directed, again, the president resorting to ad hominem attacks here and not actually addressing the substance of Mattis' criticism.
But in the past, as you mentioned, Poppy, President Trump really wrapped himself in Jim Mattis' name and reputation, including that nickname, which the president did not give to Jim Mattis despite his own claims. Listen to a sound of the president talking about Jim Mattis in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our Secretary of Defense.
I have a general who I have great respect for, General Mattis.
Secretary Mattis has devoted his life to serving his country.
I think he's a terrific person. He's doing a fantastic job.
Mad Dog plays no games.
He's a man of honor, a man of devotion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And as we were also just talking about here with the situation with the current defense secretary, Mark Esper, it is remarkable that Mark Esper did come to the White House yesterday after those comments, in which he took some serious distance with the president over the Insurrection Act and over the deployment of active- duty military troops here in American cities.
We are told White House officials were really upset, as was the president, by the comments that Esper made. So far that we're told that Esper is remaining on the job. But it was remarkable to see the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, yesterday refusing to actually say that the president had confidence in Esper instead saying, as of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper and saying that we would all learn at the same time, most likely on Twitter, if the president loses confidence in his defense secretary.
SCIUTTO: Well, we've seen this movie before, you can say. Barbara Starr, Jeremy Diamond, thanks to both of you.
We've been looking for good news in this, and there are silver linings. These protests have not played iut in the same way in every city on every day. A white Michigan sheriff, this is him here, walked shoulder to shoulder with protestors upset over police brutality. What will he do to continue to be a force for change going forward? We're going to ask him. He's going to be on this show, next.
HARLOW: And across the country, we are seeing some examples of some officers standing with, not against, protestors. Look at this moment. Here is our good news moment for the morning. This is out of Lincoln, Nebraska, Wednesday morning. Police there dancing with protestors, doing the shuffle.
We'll be right back.
SCIUTTO: The governor of Virginia is set to announce plans to remove a statue honoring the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. Activists have been pushing for this for years. CNN's Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, he's been following the story. Where is this? What's the expected reaction?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, good morning. This, of course, is coming after really years of protest about these confederate statues, but it was earlier this week in Richmond on Monday night when there was a peaceful protest surrounding some of these monuments, including that of the commanding general of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, when police fired a tear gas and other matters at peaceful protestors. That led the mayor of the city to apologize the next day saying that, indeed, should not have happened.
So that is setting the prelude here for what we're going to see in the next hour, expecting to see the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, saying that he is ordering that statue of Robert E. Lee to come down from monument row. Right there, you can see it with the graffiti. It's been surrounded by protestors all this week. The governor is going to say that it should, indeed, come down.
And, Jim, this is really going to be the beginning of what we've seen in cities across the country, in Birmingham, Alabama, Alexandria, Virginia, other cities taking down these statues. So, clearly, the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota is having an effect in the south as well. This is not a new issue here but finally action being done on some of these monuments, Jim.
SCIUTTO: That was the roots of the white supremacist demonstration Charlottesville in 2017, right, the General Robert E. Lee statue. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.
HARLOW: So let's go to Michigan now. One of the first powerful images came out of mid-Michigan, images of hope that went viral when violence was escalating across the country. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These cops love you. That cop over there hugs people. So you tell us what you need to do.
EVERYBODY: Walk with us. Walk with us. Walk with us. Walk with us. Walk with us. Walk with us. Walk with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: And walk, they did, and listen, they did, and peace was kept.
Joining us is Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson. It's so nice to have you. I think a lot of us were moved and touched watching that video. And you said it was a moment you'll remember for the rest of your life.
I want to talk to you about what's next. Because it is one thing to do what you did, and I think everyone commends that, and you walked with them and you listened. But what are you going to do next?
SHERIFF CHRIS SWANSON, GENESEE COUNTY, MI: Well, first, I just got to say if it wasn't for those protestors there, for those leaders in the crowd, for those cops on the line to listen to the message that was being given, then we wouldn't be talking. So that was a great moment not only for my police career, but also for Flint, Michigan, for police, and it's evolved from there. And I love the stat.
Since Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we've had demonstrations every day on the front lawn of the sheriff's office, which is at the heart of the City of Flint, zero arrests, zero fires and zero injuries. Because the story of hope has been restored here, and now is the beacon of light around the nation and we want to keep it that way. There's pride restored in Flint.
HARLOW: I would be remiss not to bring up all that Flint has gone through for years. You have the African-American population in Flint is nearly 54 percent, what they have had to go through in terms of injustice, especially in the middle of the water crisis there, the lead water crisis, that is not over, disproportionately impacting the black population there.
And I just would like to ask what your message is to all of those families who see injustice after injustice after injustice in their own community and now playing out in the case of George Floyd. What is your message to all of them?
SWANSON: George Floyd changed American policing forever. And by that, the message has now grown to a nation begging for unity and healing. It was the tipping point that I have seen and those that we work with every day in Flint since that Saturday, I'm talking black lives matters members who are now my friends, that I talk to every day.
They're coming in today for Jimmy John's.
These conversations have to be talked about every single day. In fact, we had a long meeting yesterday, two hours.