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George Floyd's Body Arrives at Memorial Site; Memorial in Minneapolis Today for George Floyd; 3 Former Officers Charged in Floyd's Death in Court Today; Former Baltimore State's Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, Discusses How Freddie Gray Case Offers Lessons to Minneapolis Prosecutors; 1.9 Million More Americans Filed Initial Jobless Claims Last Week; Former Defense Secretary James Mattis Issues Strong Rebuke of Trump; Trump Mad at Current Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 4, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.
It's an important day for us in Minneapolis, now ground zero in America's moment to racial reckoning. George Floyd's body arriving -- you see it there -- at the site of this afternoon's memorial service.
His death 10 days ago under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer is now the rallying cry of daily demonstrations demanding justice, justice for Mr. Floyd, and change in police practices across the country.
Four officers have now been charged in Floyd's death. And three will appear in court just moments before that memorial service begins. Officer Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd with his knee for nearly nine minutes, now faces second-degree murder charges. The other three who face initial court hearings today are charged with accessories to Floyd's death.
There are other events honoring George Floyd elsewhere. New York City, there will be a memorial service and a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
And you're looking here at live pictures. This is Harlem. Let's listen for a second.
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KING: "Black Lives Matter" among the chants there in Harlem as we watch these pictures unfold around the country.
North Central University in Minneapolis is the sight of today's public memorial for George Floyd.
Omar Jimenez is there for us.
Omar, the memorial service is a bit later this afternoon but already, as you see the body arrive there, the emotions of the moment.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Today's memorial service will essentially be the first in what will be a series of goodbyes that will play out over the course of the next few days and will culminate in his funeral on Tuesday in Houston, Texas.
It was just a few moments ago that the hearse did arrive and the casket was taken out of that hearse and transported inside for the memorial service, again, set to start in a few hours from now.
We're expecting to hear from multiple family members, likely the attorney for the family as well. And it will be eulogized by Reverend Al Sharpton in this.
The family here is waking up with a mindset where basically we are seeing all four of the former officers in this case arrested and charged. This was something that the family had been pushing for. This is something that the family had wanted to see. It will likely be part of trying to process the pain that they have gone through with Floyd's death now over a week ago.
And also some insight into their mentality in regards for that. The attorney for the family, Benjamin Crump, said it doesn't just stop with the arrests of these officers. They want to see it go through to full convictions. So in regard to that, there's an air of cautious optimism there.
But the day today will be remembering Floyd, the man that he was, and trying to begin a series of long and, in many cases, hard goodbyes.
KING: Omar Jimenez at the site of the memorial service. We'll be in touch throughout the day.
I want to hold this up. It says charges for all four, as Omar noted. That in Minneapolis today. Some hope among those who have been coming to the makeshift memorial, that these charges will lead to convictions in the end.
It is the first court hearing for three of the now-fired Minneapolis police officers. The charges against the fourth, Derek Chauvin, were upgraded yesterday.
CNN's Josh Campbell is tracking the proceedings for us.
Josh, the initial court proceeding, those are usually quick and succinct but, in this case, they are incredibly important.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. We're about half a mile from that memorial here in downtown city government plaza.
Just a remarkable scene playing behind me right now. I want this to sink in for our viewers. We are here at the city jail. Inside that jail are three of the officers who are accused of involvement in the death of George Floyd.
As you can see, outside that jail, members of the Minnesota National Guard. They are now protecting that building. These soldiers were called in to protect this city in the wake of violent protests that were sparked, John, by the alleged actions of those officers. Just remarkable what we're seeing.
As you mentioned, these officers are charged. They will have their first appearance today. Those charges include second-degree murder for Derek Chauvin. We're also told that the three officers that are also seen in that video have now been charged with accessory, aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
It's those three officers who will be in court today for that appearance. We expect it to be brief. We're told by the attorney's office that this case will take time, the prosecution will be lengthy.
We're learning one piece of information overnight. This is involving a witness, John, who was at the scene when George Floyd was killed. This is a friend of his. We have CCT footage where you can see him in the passenger seat of this vehicle. He was there with George Floyd.
And the reason why his comments are so important -- he spoke to the "New York Times" -- is because prosecutors have been asking for anyone with information about this case to come forward.
What he contends is that George Floyd was not resisting. In fact, he said in his quote to the "New York Times," "Floyd was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show that he was not resisting in no form or way. I could hear him pleading, 'Please, Officer, what's all this for?'"
Again, we have additional evidence, John. We've seen the videos. We're also hearing what witnesses are telling the police officers.
And in this city, as we reported over the last couple of days and in the last 24 hours these dramatic developments with these arrests, people are relieved, those who were seeking justice, that these officers are now being presented in court.
Still yet to be determined, John, how this trial will go, whether there will be a trial at all, whether they will plea. A lot of unanswered questions but we're at the next milestone as they face their day in court -- John?
KING: An important beginning of court process.
Josh Campbell, appreciate your reporting on the scene there. Charging police officers is one thing, getting a conviction is quite
another. The 2015 case of Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, just one reminder. Gray was taken for what police called a rough ride in a Baltimore police transport van. He had been shackled, handcuffed, and he was not strapped in. He later died of his injuries, including a partially severed spine.
Marilyn Mosby prosecuted the cases. In an op-ed for the "Washington Post," she writes: "The people of Minneapolis need answers. Their protests echo those experienced in Baltimore. They should know that when the dust settles on this incident, their city may never be the same. To say that things have been tumultuous is an understatement."
"However, the decision that I made in 2015 to charge six police officers for the death of Freddie Gray led to accountability. That accountability led to exposure. That exposure led to reform."
Marilyn Mosby is the former state's attorney for Baltimore city. She joins us.
Thank you so much for being here today.
So help me understand --
MARILYN MOSBY, (D), STATE'S ATTORNEY, BALTIMORE CITY: Thanks for having me.
KING: -- understand how you view this moment, the sense that you were unable to convict the officers. But you believe positive change came from it. Correct?
MOSBY: Absolutely. I think what we've seen is the power of a prosecutor cannot be underestimated. In fact, the fact is there was an awesome power that the standard of justice is what everyone is screaming for. Treat police the same way you would treat anyone else, regardless of race, sex and religion, and that's your obligation.
When you don't do that, there's a lack of faith in the system. And that's what we've seen with the independent autopsy, the protests where people want justice.
So I'm happy that the prosecutor, Attorney General Ellison, has looked at the evidence and made a determination that this is requiring charges.
What happened in Baltimore City, I do believe that that accountability led to exposure. A week after I charged those officers, the Department of Justice came in and exposed discriminatory policing practices of the eighth-largest police department in the country.
That exposure ultimately led to reform, now federally enforceable, that even despite the Trump administration who tried to forestall it, is still on record.
And we have tangible reforms that have come about as a result of those charges. Police officers are now mandated to seat belt all prisoners. They're mandated to call a medic when requested.
There's an affirmative duty and responsibility for colleagues, if someone crossed the line, for them to go and inform folks about that, right? There's de-escalation in use of force policies that emphasize the sentencing is right.
But in addition to those tangible sorts of reforms, there are still systemic reforms that have to take place in order to truly hold those officers accountable.
MOSBY: What we saw in Freddie Gray, when we talk about what systems are in place, first and foremost, I had a police department -- when it comes to accountability cases, these cases should be independently investigated.
I had a police department that was, quite candidly, working against us. Witness statements where they weren't asking the most pertinent questions. You had search-and-seizure warrants that weren't being effectuated and executed. You had witnesses in the case that were somehow assigned to investigate the case.
These are all sort of issues that we have to look for in the prosecution of George Floyd.
KING: As you mentioned, Mr. Ellison is now the attorney general in the state of Minnesota. He's been named special prosecutor in this case. The attorney general would normally handle it, but the attorney general is now handling it. He will look at your case as well. He will look at the Philando Castile case in Minnesota as well. He will look at other cases around the country where you had charges but not convictions.
Listen to how he explains the challenges ahead.
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KEITH ELLISON, (D), MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Winning a conviction will be hard. I say this not because we doubt our resources or our ability. In fact, we're confident in what we're doing. But history does show that there are clear challenges here. And we are going to be working very hard and relying on each other and our investigative partners and the community to support that endeavor.
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KING: In this case, Ms. Mosby, unlike what you just described in Baltimore, the chief in Minneapolis has said he believes those officers are complicit. You seem to have a police chief who wants to cooperate the best he can with the prosecutor.
What other challenges would you say -- take us inside the courtroom. What is your most important advice for Mr. Ellison, or whoever the lead prosecutor is in the courtroom when this comes to trial, assuming it comes to trial, to look the jurors in the eye and tell them this has to be different?
MOSBY: That's just it, John. We have to make sure that when it comes to having the ability to hold police officers accountable to the community that they get a jury trial.
What often happens in police accountability cases where you attempt to prosecute police is they circumvent the community and they take bench trials. That's what happened in the Freddie Gray case.
The first officer we tried in front of a jury, the jury split. Some believed he was guilty. Some believed he was innocent. It was a hung jury. It entitled us to then try him again.
But what happened was all three of the subsequent officers elected a bench trial where they felt there was possibly more defer deferential treatment. So that's another thing we have to look for, whether or not these officers are going to circumvent the community that they serve and elect to go before a bench trial as opposed to answering and addressing and being tried in front of a jury.
When it comes to even after this case in presenting evidence, some of the hurdles they'll be up against is these will be colleagues. There's what some call the Blue Wall of Silence. And they're going to have to confront their colleagues and talk against them.
I think one of the things that is in the benefit of the Floyd case is that there's a broad sort of understanding now and recognition that this murder was committed on camera in front of everybody to see. In the Freddie Gray case, we didn't have this kind of concrete sort of evidence to suggest and to determine what happened with Freddie Gray.
KING: Marilyn Mosby, I'm grateful for your insight and expertise on this today. Let's keep in touch as this continues. Thank you so much.
MOSBY: Thank you.
KING: Thank you.
Update, nearly two million more Americans filed for unemployment as the coronavirus economic crush continues.
As we go to break, an important moment here. A moment of silence up on Capitol Hill in honor of George Floyd.
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SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We gather here in solemn reverence to not just mark his tragic death but to give honor to his life.
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[11:17:09] KING: More devastating unemployment numbers from the federal government.
Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, takes a closer look.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, so many jobs lost over the past 11 weeks. It's three times as many as were lost in the entire Great Recession.
Almost 1.9 million workers filed for unemployment for the first time last week. More than 42 million over the past 11 weeks either laid off or furloughed. That's more than 26 percent of the labor force.
Some states hit hard than others. Take a look at Georgia. And 45 percent of its labor force is receiving jobless benefits. In Kentucky, it's 43 percent. In Hawaii, 37 percent.
Never before have so many people lost their jobs so quickly. The hope is, though, that the worst might be behind us. First-time unemployment benefits have been declining since mid-March. That's a good sign. But the overall volume of these layoffs is still really hard to grasp.
Another thing to consider, continuing claims. The total number of people receiving jobless benefits, that rose a little bit last week. We want to see that number falling before we're sure that the hiring has begun again.
This is just a weekly snapshot. We'll get the monthly look tomorrow with the May jobs report. That's forecast to be another 8.5 million job losses in May and an unemployment rate that could reach 20 percent -- John?
KING: Tough day today. Be a tougher day tomorrow.
Christine Romans, thank you so much.
President Trump retweeting his own tweets today. He wants to make sure you know he's mad at his former defense secretary, James Mattis. The president says Mattis, who is a retired four-star Marine general, in the president's view, he lacked military strength. And President Trump making clear he didn't like his leadership style when he served in the cabinet.
The president's Twitter counter punch is a familiar tactic but don't allow yourself to just to file this one away as another amusing or annoying but otherwise not very meaningful Trump tantrum.
The president is mad because Secretary Mattis delivered a stinging rebuke of how the commander-in-chief is reacting to the George Floyd killing.
In a statement posted in "The Atlantic," James Mattis described President Trump as the first president in his lifetime who, quote, "does not try to unite the American people."
Joining us, CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, and our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, I want to start with you.
We know when Jim Mattis left the administration, there was some bad blood, but for a four-star to use these words at this moment is startling.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Especially for Jim Mattis, John, because Mattis, of course, a decades-long career that was absolutely devoted to loyalty to a commander-in-chief, whoever that might be. And now Mattis is saying the country can't unite without the president, and it should.
He put this message out quite unexpectedly because everyone knew Mattis had been thinking a lot about what was going on in the country but had not wanted to say anything so as not to send mixed messages to the troop, not to make life harder for the currently serving defense secretary, let's take a pause for one second.
Current Secretary Mark Esper yesterday taking pains to say he did not support putting active-duty troops on the streets of America, he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act, putting distance between him and the president.
But Mattis saying these words: "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequence of three years of this deliberative effort. We're witnessing the consequence of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society."
Where are we at this point today? The entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of them, have issued statements calling for the basic concept of listening, paying attention to institutional racism in this country, talking about bringing people together.
None of them are talking about invoking the Insurrection Act. None of them are talking about putting active-duty military force on the streets of this country -- John?
KING: All of them in their own way sending a message.
Barbara Starr, I appreciate that.
And, Jeremy, as Barbara noted, the currently secretary, the president is mad at his former defense secretary. He's also mad at the current defense secretary. He's mad at anybody who doesn't just stand up and say, "Yes, sir, whatever you say."
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's true. We have seen this as a pattern in the Trump presidency throughout. And many cabinet members have been burned by either taking some distance from the president or not agreeing with him wholeheartedly. We have witnessed that time again.
And just yesterday, as Barbara noted, Mark Esper, the defense secretary, taking a serious chunk of distance between himself and the president over the notion of putting active-duty military troops in American cities, saying, as of now, he is opposed to using the Insurrection Act, the 19th century law which would allow the president to deploy active-duty troops to help the unrest in some American cities.
We were told yesterday, John, that the president and top White House officials were upset by the statements Mark Esper made from that Pentagon briefing room. And not only were they upset by the statements, but they didn't get any heads up from it. That was also quite striking for some White House officials.
Three sources are telling us, as of now, John, that Mark Esper is safe as defense secretary, at least for now. But it was striking that yesterday Mark Esper went to the White House after delivering those comments. We're told that he did meet with the president.
And despite that, when the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, gave her briefing yesterday, she would not express the president's confidence in Mark Esper, saying only, as of right now, Secretary Esper is still the secretary of defense.
She said that if that changes, we would certainly all learn about it. As we know, the president has fired many other officials by tweet -- John?
KING: Yes, he has.
Jeremy Diamond, appreciate your reporting from the White House.
Let's discuss this further now. With us, CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley is with us. CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier, as well.
Kim, I want to start with you and just go through the list. In recent days, the last 48 hours or so, General James Mattis, Admiral Mike Mullen, General Martin Dempsey, Admiral James Stavridis, General John Allen, if you add up the service of these gentlemen in Afghanistan, NATO allied supreme commanders, chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of them -- you see them here -- all of them American heroes.
All of them to whom we owe an enormous debt for their service to our country and their leadership. And all of them say they're worried about the current commander-in-chief and how he's reacting to the death of George Floyd, talking repeatedly about using the military to quell the violence and the protests.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: John, all of them are thinking about domestically and internationally that militarizing the crackdown on protestors sends.
Domestically, the military has had trouble recruiting enough qualified candidates to fill its ranks. It's one of the most integrated forces in the United States.
It is sending the message right now from the White House, the Trump administration is sending the message that these forces might be used against fellow citizens. That is not what the military wants to send out to young black people watching this who might be future candidates for recruiting.
And internationally, the U.S. military, on multiple fronts, whether it's an Air Force officer training forward pilots or whether it's a Green Beret working with Special Forces in Afghanistan, they teach them that military forces are not the first ones you use against your citizens. It's the police that are supposed to do that. The president's words counteract all of that.
KING: And, Doug, it is really hard sometimes to get context, to understand the context because there's so much happening so fast, especially over the last 10 days or so. If you listen to the president's words or read his tweets -- and you study history -- you hear George Wallace. Where are we?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we're in a very weird place. I mean, the idea of COVID-19 mixed with Donald Trump's demagoguery, combined with the unemployment rate, 40 million Americans in desperate need of a job right now, it's really surreal and unlike any other.
I think, though, we can read what Donald Trump's strategy of this is, and it's a page directly from Richard Nixon. Nixon was the one who put down the whole law-and-order motif in 1968. And the idea is that you bring the Bible and guns and you kind of make it a cultural war to get reelected.
I think, out of all the strange reality TV moments we've had, when Donald Trump walked across Lafayette Park spraying tear gas on protestors and standing and holding the Bible in this weird photo op with military personnel with him, it was just a real bridge too far for people in the Pentagon.
For reasons Kimberly just said, we are a highly integrated armed forces and that just reeked of a kind of Elmer Gantry, go wild, bizarre, kooky, reality TV moment.
The fact that General Mattis is speaking out -- he has huge support in the Marine Corps and he is a leader among admirals and generals and top people in the Air Force. He goes across the boards.
This is a big turning point on the American public, I think, turning against President Trump's failed leadership.
KING: We have also seen -- and I can show you a headline from the "Washington Post." I'll go to Doug first, and then Kimberly - the idea that I mentioned all the military brass, these distinguished leaders.
All four of the living ex-presidents have issued comments these days. They don't criticize President Trump, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to read these statements and they seem to be crying out this is the way it should be, this is the what a president should be saying, this is what a president should be doing.
Doug, can you remember a moment where an ex-president's club, an exclusive club has tried to shake the incumbent?
BRINKLEY: It's never happened before. There's such respect for the office, that's why most of them try to stay out of politics.
George W. Bush has been down in the Dallas area. He doesn't like making news. Barack Obama is politically engaged, but he does it in very incremental ways. Bill Clinton has put out a beautiful statement about what's going on now.
They all see Trump as a danger to democracy. They understand what authoritarianism is. Yes, there's people that are center right, center left, but we are dealing with an extreme right-wing authoritarian president in Donald Trump.
So I was proud of our ex-presidents to start putting out statements, need to do it more, to remind people that this isn't OK. That this isn't a TV moment or that we like the personality of Donald Trump.
He is destroying sacred institutions across the board. He's demonizing reporters and journalists as being the enemy of America. He's trying to behave like a dictator would, not like any other American president has ever acted.
He now owns the field. There's no James Buchanan with Warren Harding or Nixon and Watergate. He kind of owns Trump trying to sledgehammer the institution of the American presidency to fit his oversized ego.
KING: Kim, you talked to a lot of people around the world, diplomats and the like. How is the world looking at America and its president at the moment?
DOZIER: They're shocked. They're worried.
And to chime in on what David (sic) was saying, what those former presidents are trying to do is send the message that the America that you know is still here.
And also to send a message to authoritarian dictators who are watching this and saying, well, what's good for you can be good for us in the future, they're saying, no, this is not the way the normal America operates. We respect the rights of our citizens to protest and we don't send our own military against them.
KING: Kimberly Dozier, Doug Brinkley, really respect your perspective at this important moment.
Up next for us, an example of what we do in America. We march. We march around the country. You see Harlem. It's right here. Live in Harlem. This is democracy the way it's supposed to play out. People marching peacefully, as Minneapolis and the rest of America paying tribute to George Floyd.
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