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Protests Out in Force in Cities across the U.S.; All Four Officers Charged in George Floyd's Killing; Former Defense Secretary James Mattis Slams Trump as Threat to Constitution; Floyd's Death Sparks Global Protests. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 4, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world, I'm John Vause. Just after 3:00 pm Central time, it seems there was a sigh of relief across the United States, as Minnesota's attorney general announced the arrest of all four police officers involved in the death of George Floyd.

The attorney for the Floyd family credited the nationwide protests and says they were a tipping point in the ongoing struggle against racial injustice in the U.S.

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PROTESTERS: We've got all four. We've got all four. We've got all four. We've got all four.

VAUSE (voice-over): Demonstrators in Minneapolis chanted, "We got all four," and charges were upgraded to second degree murder for the former officer, whose knee was pressed down on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

More word all four officers had finally been charged brought some relief. It did not mean there was an end to the outrage. A huge crowd marched through downtown Los Angeles in defiance of a 9:00 pm curfew which the mayor says will be lifted on Thursday.

Curfew in Seattle has also been lifted but, in Atlanta, the mayor announced the curfew here has been extended through the weekend.

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VAUSE: Washington on Wednesday was a much different scene compared to earlier in the week.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) VAUSE: You hear the crowd singing there "Lean on Me," holding their cellphones in the air. But as the curfew approached, tensions rose. CNN's Alex Marquardt was there.

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ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The large demonstrations that have been gathering here in Washington, D.C., have been focused for most of the past week on the White House.

But today this was as far as demonstrators could come. Pushed back even farther away from Lafayette Park where they have been gathering. Now about another half block away you can see those trucks blocking the line of sight to the White House.

Still, the protesters came in huge numbers, peacefully, chanting, taking a knee, at times singing and listening to music, a real party like atmosphere.

At other times much more intense, as protesters marched straight up to the line of National Guard forces as well as officers from the Bureau of Prisons, which really speaks to this patchwork of federal law enforcement that has come to D.C., working in D.C., in this time of crisis.

Also want to point out that church right there. That is St. John's Episcopal Church, where President Trump went for his now infamous photo up in which he held up the Bible. I was speaking with the rector of St. John's.

He said worshippers were not allowed into the church today. In fact, it was the first time since 9/11 that worshippers could not get to St. John's. There is a curfew in effect in Washington, D.C. That was at 11:00 pm. It has now long since past. Protesters are still out here, still protesting peacefully.

And the mayor of Washington said that curfew in essence would not be enforced as long as the protesters do indeed stay peaceful -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

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VAUSE: At this point, we would like to welcome our viewers in the United States who are joining us.

The attorney for George Floyd's family says the massive protests that have taken place for nine days now across the United States are a tipping point for racial injustice in the U.S.

Ben Crump made that comment after the four former Minneapolis police officers were charged in Floyd's death. Three of those officers are expected in court on Thursday. But Minnesota's attorney general says getting a conviction on these charges will not be easy. Miguel Marquez has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A long awaited decision for George Floyd's family and supporters.

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: George Floyd mattered, he was loved, his family was important, his life had value and we will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it.

MARQUEZ: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announcing charges for the former police officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck killing him, will be increased to second degree murder.

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MARQUEZ (voice-over): And the other three former officers, who either helped hold Floyd down or stood watching, have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder. Ellison asking for patience as they work through the process.

ELLISON: Trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard, but history does show that there are clear challenges here.

MARQUEZ: Just hours earlier --

BENJAMIN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: All of the world is watching.

MARQUEZ: George Floyd's son stood at the spot where his father took his final breath.

QUINCY MASON FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SON: Trying to get this for my father. And no man or woman should be without their fathers and we want justice for what's going on right now.

MARQUEZ: Family attorney Benjamin Crump making a powerful statement that Floyd's death shines a light on inequality everywhere.

CRUMP: When George Floyd said I can't breathe because when he can't breathe, none of us could breathe. And so this is a tipping point.

MARQUEZ: Earlier today, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz visited the same hallowed ground.

GOV. TIM WALZ (DFL-MN): For me I have to personally and viscerally feel this. I don't think we get another chance to fix this in the country, I really don't.

MARQUEZ: And as protesters take to the streets across the country today, last night protests remained largely peaceful. But as curfews passed in some cities, there was once again unrest.

CNN cameras were there as looting continued in New York and in Lafayette Park across from the White House where after mostly peaceful protests police used pepper spray through the fence directly at our camera.

But in many cities protesters and police came together. In New Orleans, police officers took a knee with protesters. In Boston too and in Houston, a protester praying with a police chief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen.

MARQUEZ: But as George Floyd's family continues to grieve --

ROXIE WASHINGTON, GIANNA FLOYD'S MOTHER: She wants to know how he died. The only thing that I can tell her is he couldn't breathe.

MARQUEZ: Their hope, that his death will bring change.

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VAUSE: Thanks to Miguel Marquez for that report, reporting from Minneapolis.

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VAUSE: Joining us now from New York is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

Thanks for being with us, Joey.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Nice to be here, John.

VAUSE: OK, firstly, the way this has been handled by the authorities in Minnesota, why did it take, what, nine days to get to this point where the people who were obviously going to be charged have been charged?

JACKSON: So that's the problem. And I think there in therein lies the rub as it relates to people just protesting and people feeling less than. And you know, communities of color just feeling that there are two systems of justice. One that works for one group and one that doesn't work for another.

And why do I say that?

Because in practical terms, if there's reason to believe that a crime was committed, that's the standard. It's called probable cause. There's a reason to believe a crime was committed.

An arrest is effective immediately. They don't wait, authorities that is, police, prosecutors until they have enough evidence to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to arrest you. That's the standard at trial. But there's no requirement that you interview every witness. Get every videotape, do everything.

And so the fact that the officer Chauvin who actually was the one who engaged in the knee to the neck for nine minutes was arrested four days later and then just today nine days later there's the arrest of the other three.

It's troubling, problematic and it leads to what you're seeing in the United States, which are pockets of protests throughout the country with people saying, I'm mad as heck, I want change and I'm not going to take it anymore. So in essence the basis for the arrest now, it's inexplicable that it's taken this long.

VAUSE: The attorney general upgraded the original charge facing Derek Chauvin from a third degree murder to second degree felony murder. And this is how he explained the difference between the various possible murder charges he could have brought. Here he is.

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ELLISON: According to Minnesota law, you have to have premeditation and deliberation to charge first degree murder. Second degree murder, you have to intend for death to be the result.

For second degree felony murder, you have to intend the felony and then death be the result without necessarily having it be the intent.

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VAUSE: OK so, in the course of committing a felony, in this case, assault, and the victim dies, have I got this right, all the prosecutor needs to prove is that the assault happened?

JACKSON: That's exactly right. And so there was a lot of clamoring for a first degree murder charge to be applied here. And that I believe the prosecutor felt it was problematic.

Why?

He explained it, because you would have to show intent, plus premeditation, deliberation, planning.

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JACKSON: And that would be a high standard. Instead what he did is he pivoted to what's called second degree murder.

And in that second degree murder, the theory is -- just as you said it, John -- that you establish that there was a commission of a felony, that being the assault and in the commission of the felony even though you did not intend for the death to occur, it did.

It's felony murder, that gets you where you need to be. And remember, that's the charge as to officer Chauvin. It's also the second degree murder felony charge as to the others.

What does it mean?

It means they aided, they abetted, they participated and as a result of the participation in the felony, the assault, they would be equally guilty. And in analogy would be, you rob a bank, you're not the guy who goes inside, you're the one in the getaway car, you're the lookout, at the end of the day you're just as guilty as the person who went in with a mask and a gun. That's the theory the prosecution will have moving forward.

VAUSE: Charging an on-duty police officer with murder is a very rare act in this country. In fact, according to one study between 2005 and 2015 charges have been brought just 54 times despite on average more than 1,000 fatal police shootings every year in the U.S.

So is the attorney general here -- as he's looking at what his best chances for a conviction and that's why he's gone with a felony murder second degree because that's probably -- I won't say easiest but the most likely one that's going to convince a jury.

JACKSON: I think that's exactly right. I think what you have to do is not withstanding the public pressures, notwithstanding, you know, the public outcry for murder, murder, murder.

Now of course, you understand why people feel that way, but your operating within the law. What you're doing if you're the prosecutor, is you're saying, listen, I could establish presumably that they were engaging in, the officers, that is, a felony.

That felony was assault. We can see it with our eyes. If I can prove that they were engaging in an assault, we know that he died as a result. Therein lies my conviction.

The problem historically has been to your point is that it's very difficult to get prosecutors to arrest officers. If you arrest them, it's hard for a grand jury to indict them. If you indict them, it's hard for a jury to convict them.

And there's these attitudinal problems and concerns, right. Just historically that people are reluctant to convict police officers. I think the prosecutor here sees that this is his best shot, that's what he's going with and he's hoping, obviously, that he gets justice for George Floyd and his family.

VAUSE: From your lips to god's ear, let's hope so. Joey, good to see you, thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thank you, John. My pleasure.

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VAUSE: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University and author of "Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America." He is with us this hour from Washington.

Thanks for joining. Us

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Has in this country been down this road before?

We have seen an African American man, usually unarmed, killed by police. There is a public outcry. Occasionally charges are brought against the officers involved. Those in power sigh with relief, pat each other on the back and say, see, the system works.

But if the system worked, George Floyd wouldn't be dead. DYSON: That's right. The system is broken. We have been down this road before. But there seems to be something different here. We won't be able to tell until a little while later but it does seem different.

There was a bus boycott in Louisiana before Martin Luther King Jr. led a bus boycott in Montgomery. Another young woman, who was 15 years old, attempted to achieve the same thing elsewhere. But it was Rosa Parks who rose in our memory because she sat on that bus and refused to get up and it sparked a movement.

You never can't tell where your Rosa Parks will come in. Other people have died, specifically claiming they couldn't breathe, Eric Garner in New York City. But it was George Floyd with the policeman's knee impressed on his neck, with Mr. Floyd calling for his mother.

And what's the irresistible metaphor that black people feel, that the system itself has its knee on our necks, converging together with his pleas for the policeman to relieve his knee and the sense that we identified with him so very thoroughly and so radically, that it inspired people to take to the streets, to say enough is enough. This time has got to be different.

VAUSE: The Minnesota attorney general who brought the charges against the four police officers, he also seem to be fairly realistic about the impact of a successful prosecution. Here he is.

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ELLISON: But what I do not believe is that one successful prosecution can rectify the hurt and loss that so many people feel. The solution to that pain will be slow and difficult work of constructing justice and fairness in our society

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VAUSE: The nationwide protests we've seen over the last week or so evolved into something about a lot more than just the murder of George Floyd. There are these underlying issues, justice and fairness.

Unless they are addressed, the protests may stop for a while but is it almost certain that they will be back?

And when they do come back they will be bigger in number, louder and possibly more violent than before.

DYSON: There is no question that they will be equally engaged, more aggressive. Dr. King at the end of his life talked about aggressive nonviolence. And I think that people are fed up. They are tired, they are fatigued by this repeated ritual, this endless cycle of a black death, recrimination on the part of some who are forced to acknowledge the wrong of the system, an extraction of a promise to do better and then another black death and the cycle repeats.

But as you said, there were bigger issues here, not simply the death of one black man but the continual pursuit of black people in a legal justice system, in a criminal justice system that is often fundamentally unfair, where black people go to jail far more often than others for the same crime, where black people are given heavier sentences for lighter offensives in some instances and where black people are met by a judge and jury in the form of a policeman on the streets.

When you combine that with the policing of black bodies and mobility, random white people stepping up, asking questions, are you here?

Do you belong here?

Are you sure you belong here?

Do you work here?

Why are you selling water there?

Why are you watching birds there?

Why are you selling lemonade here?

Why are you at the coffee shop?

So when you think about the policing of black bodies by any random white person, combined with the police's extraordinarily hostile and invasive practices when it comes to black people, there are bigger fish to fry. And that's why these protests seem to have a life of their own.

VAUSE: We heard from President Barack Obama, who was speaking on camera for the first time, about these protests. He had a very optimistic outlook at this prescient (ph) point in time. Here he is.

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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they have been, they've also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends. And they offer an opportunity for us to all work together to tackle them.

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VAUSE: In a way, President Obama is right. These protests have highlighted issues like never before.

But do you believe the majority of Americans are willing to do what so many have never been willing to do before?

DYSON: No, they're not. And we must press the president and ask, does it take the death of a black man yet again to provide a learning opportunity for America?

Is that the price we must continue to pay? That's why some people in the street, who are actively and aggressively engaging in protests, are saying, no, let's share some of that weight. Let's share some of that burden. Let's shift some of that responsibility onto the shoulders of other people, people who have businesses that have been invested in communities that have depleted African American people of resources.

And when people say, well, why would you destroy your neighborhood?

If you don't even own your own body in that neighborhood, if the police can come into your neighborhood tyrannically, nearly fascistically, and deprive you of life, you don't really own anything. You certainly don't own meaningful property that can prevent you as an American citizen from being taken down and murdered ultimately by a rogue cop.

So these are issues that have to be addressed. Many Americans are unwilling to address them. And it is incumbent upon all of us to continue to fight forward. It is important to do so. But we also have to be realistic about the resistance we meet when many Americans for a moment are inflamed with passion and then it dies down and things go back to normal.

VAUSE: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, we will leave it there. But it's great to have you with, us and really appreciate your insights and your experience. Thank you, sir.

DYSON: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: The normally reticent former us Defense Secretary has delivered stunning rebuke of President Trump's leadership. Mattis went public with his concerns after the president's threat to deploy the military if states are unable or unwilling to end violent protests.

In an email to small number of journalists, James Mattis wrote, "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 consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.

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VAUSE: "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."

In response, President Trump tweeted, "Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world's most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was 'Chaos', which I didn't like, & changed to 'Mad Dog'..."

VAUSE: You are watching CNN. Still to come here, with protesters for social justice in the U.S. now spreading around the world, the British prime minister is siding with the protesters. That's next.

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VAUSE: The nationwide protests in the U.S. have sparked similar demonstrations around the world. Many outraged over the death of George Floyd in police custody. But it has also highlighted their own problems with racism.

In the U.K., protesters filled London's Hyde Park and marched through the city on Wednesday. The crowds were met by the British prime minister, who described Floyd's death as "appalling," said that racism has no place in society. CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris with more on the international reaction.

Clearly the death of George Floyd has struck a nerve but at the same time it's causing people to look at their own problems, their own backyard.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen that throughout the protests. We have seen, of course, these are largely about Black Lives Matter, about what's happening in the nineties and showing support for those demonstrating for justice in the name of George Floyd.

In London, yesterday, but also in Paris this week, it has also been about the issues these countries are facing, similar problems, given all the differences, taking into account the different circumstances and histories of these country.

Nonetheless, here in Paris, it was over the death four years ago of a 24-year-old Frenchman who died after being taken into police custody, a great deal of anger out there on the streets about the fact that nearly four years on, no one has been brought to justice and there is still controversy over how exactly he died.

On one hand, yes. The sympathy for the American movement. You see it on their signs, Black Lives Matter. You hear it in their chants but also looking again at how these things function here, with new statistics that COVID-19 really provides us to show us how police practices do discriminate in cities like London in Paris.

We've heard from the police the last few days that the black population of London is disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Here in Paris, much harder to get this is the because the French don't do ethnic statistics. It's illegal, they don't count them, they don't collect them. But we are seeing is neighborhoods, which have a much higher proportion of people of different ethnic backgrounds.

And one week in April, there were twice as many police checks there as the national average. What COVID-19 has done is provided some kind of metric for looking at how these things are playing out here. I think that's also at the heart of this demonstration.

VAUSE: Melissa, thank you, reporting live for us from Paris. Appreciate it.

When we come, back more on the very public stand taken against President Trump by his own Defense Secretary. How Mr. Trump's threat to use military force to control the protests led to Mark Esper's very blunt, very public statement.

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Just coming to 2:32 here on the East Coast. I'm John Vause. A growing list of current and former senior military leaders are speaking out against the U.S. president. A very rare public criticism seems to be inspired by Trump's threat to turn the U.S. military on American civilians to bring an end to nationwide protests. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has details now from the White House.

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

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.

COLLINS: In a remarkable press conference, the Pentagon chief contradicted Trump who threatened days earlier to invoke a 200-year- old law and put troops on U.S. streets.

ESPER: The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.

COLLINS: As the military takes a larger role in confronting protesters in the nation's capital, around 1,600 active-duty troops have been placed on standby in the Washington area. After telling NBC News, "I didn't know where I was going," Esper conceded today he knew Trump was headed to St. John's Church when he left the White House on Monday.

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

COLLINS: Protesters were forced out of Lafayette Park using smoke canisters and pepper balls for that photo-op. The administration has disputed that tear gas was used though the CDC considers pepper spray to be in that category. The White House believes that moment mirrored Winston Churchill inspecting bombing damage during World War II.

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

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

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

COLLINS: While Esper was distancing himself from that photo op, the President is defending it and dismiss the religious leaders who condemned it.

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

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

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

COLLINS: Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

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VAUSE: If the U.S. President is OK with peaceful protesters being teargassed to clear the way for a photo op, then how far would he go to hold on to power come November's election? For many current and former CIA analysts, Monday's chest-beating display of who's in charge by Donald Trump is the kind of autocrat bravado often seen in countries on the verge of collapse.

The Washington Post reports former intelligence officials said the unrest and the administration's militaristic response among many measures of decay they would flag if writing assessments about the United States for another country's intelligence service."

Bob Baer is a CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst and former CIA Operative and he is with us from Ojai in California. Good to see Bob.

[02:35:21]

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you.

VAUSE: I want to go back on Monday, at the beginning of Donald Trump's national address, before we had the church photo op scandal, listen to this.

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TRUMP: As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property. We are putting everybody on warning.

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VAUSE: The reaction from a lot of people on social media and elsewhere, you know, this sounded like a declaration of martial law. Congress will be dissolved, they've seized the television station, because in turn and almost in substance, it kind of sounded like the sound of the paragraph.

BAER: Well, you know, frankly, John, if I were a foreign intelligence officer assigned to Washington, I'd ask how close he is to imposing martial law because it looks pretty close to me. I mean, he said he will. He's preparing for it. He's got a secretary of defense right now who's balking. It's very easy to remove him and put somebody in his place.

This president is very insecure. And we've watched him go after the FBI and the Department of Justice, and he will go after the Pentagon until he gets the officers in that don't countermand his orders. I mean, this is -- I have never seen this in the United States, never heard since the Civil War.

And you know, the way things are going, John, now, it's -- first of all, it's very easy to panic. And I'm really hoping this all goes away. But I really doubt. I mean, will there be elections in November? And if he's voted out, will he leave? If I were a foreigner, I would really wonder whether what's happening to American democracy.

VAUSE: Former CIA agent and now a democrat Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger tweeted, "I know this playbook and I know the President's actions are betraying the very foundation of the rule of law he purports to support, the U.S. Constitution." It's part of that playbook undermining the credibility and the legitimacy of the voting system, you know, the mail-in ballots that they're no good. You know, ignoring subpoenas and other legal measures of oversight, and also using troops like the ones circling the White House on Wednesday.

They had no identifying badges, no insignias. They refuse to say who they're with and where they came from. If memory serves, the Russians invaded Crimea and their soldiers had no identifications.

BAER: Well, it's more than that, John. You've got militias in Michigan who took over the state capitol. You've got a country that's divided. We're heading into a depression. People are running out of money. There's desperation. There are protests and there are riots and there is looting. And it's not just racial, it's fear in this country, and it's fear that this is going to move to violence.

And with a lot of policemen being shot and a lot of firing into these crowds, you really have to wonder. I've been in a lot of collapsing states, and there's every sign that this one is moving in that direction.

VAUSE: You know, the president likes to portray himself as just this tough kind of guy, this leader who, you know, is willing to break all the other state governors if they're not doing the right thing, not cracking down on the protesters. That's what he did on Monday. Listen to this phone call.

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TRUMP: You got to arrest all those people and you got to try them. And if they get five years or ten years, they have to get five years or ten years. There's no retribution. So I say that and the word is dominate. If you don't dominate your city and you state, they're going to walk away with you.

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VAUSE: Today is what, June 4th, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It would undermine -- that sort of stuff undermines any protests the U.S. wants to make about protests not being held in Hong Kong.

BAER: Well, I mean, yes. I mean, he's talking about dominating the American populace, and he's talking about battle spaces, and they're flying helicopters over Washington. I mean, all the signs are there. I don't know why people aren't panicking more. I mean, this president clearly is -- fancies himself as an autocrat. He's always admired Kim Jong-un, Putin, and right down the line. And that is where he's heading.

I know he's -- it's mostly bluster up to this point, but as the man becomes more insecure, he becomes more irrational, and you can see that happening by the day.

VAUSE: The question though, really, I guess, at the end of the day isn't necessarily what is Trump willing to do, but what are those around him willing to let him do? And right now, the Republican Party, for the most part, the answer to that for the last three years has been whatever he wants.

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BAER: They're not doing anything. No one is -- no one is standing up. I mean, the Democratic Congress cannot do anything about it. The Senate clearly won't do anything about it. And the military right now isn't going to do anything. What is standing between him and taking power? Nothing at all.

And I think the man is -- his office is suffering some sort of dementia, and this insecurity on top of it. I just think is a terrible, terrible formula for a disaster that's going to get worse over the summer, and as we approach the elections, much worse.

VAUSE: Very quickly, though. This implies that there would be a military willing to follow whatever he says, and no one in the military to stand up and say no.

BAER: Well, the problem with the military, the combat units are very conservative. They are loyal to the south, if you want, the army -- the Army of Northern Virginia. A lot of evangelical groups in the military very supportive of Trump. I know that 40 percent of the military is of color, but they're not the combat troops. So you send the 82nd Airborne, and they'll -- they will follow orders.

VAUSE: Got you. Bob, we are out of time. (INAUDIBLE) that question, and so thank you very much for that and good to see you.

BAER: Thanks.

VAUSE: Well, U.S. leaders have a message for demonstrators. If you're going to protest during a pandemic, at least please, please do it safely.

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VAUSE: It's going to be 14 minutes before the hour. Welcome back. For more than a week, tens of thousands of people have been protesting across the U.S. and they've been doing it in the midst of a global pandemic. And while emotions can run high in the heat of the moment, health officials are urging them not to forget to take precautions against the coronavirus. CNN's Erica Hill has the story.

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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): If you're going to protest, protest intelligently. Remember the COVID virus is still out there.

ERIC GARCETTI, MAYOR, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Please, please, please, everybody who's been out there protesting so beautifully around Los Angeles, make sure you get tested and make sure you're maintaining your physical distance.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Officials across the country urging protesters to be safe and smart. This Oklahoma State linebacker tweeting, he's now tested positive after attending a recent protest in Tulsa. Overall, new cases in that state are trending down over the past week. New York also seeing a decline. The numbers are on the rise in 18 states including California and Texas, where new cases are surging. Stay at home orders in the state expire on May 1st.

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, TECHNICAL LEAD FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE, WHO: These Public Health and Social measures may need to be reintroduced again.

HILL: It's important to note, testing is more widespread and each day we're learning more about the virus. A small study from Columbia University found severe symptoms were more likely in obese children, while infants were not at a higher risk for serious illness.

TRUMP: It's just a line of defense.

HILL: Hydroxychloroquine, the controversial drug touted by the President does not prevent COVID-19 according to a new study from the University of Minnesota published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The lead researcher says he warned the White House of the initial findings early last month. The nation's top infectious disease expert says 100 million doses of a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year.

ANTHONY FAUCI, ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're going to start manufacturing doses of the vaccines way before we even know that the vaccine works. And by the beginning of 2021, we hope to have a couple of 100 million doses.

HILL: Fresh produce the focus of new guidance from the CDC. Fruits and vegetables are safe to eat, but those picking and processing the food work in close contact and often live in shared housing. The agency recommending employers adopt enhanced cleaning measures, offer PPE for workers and better separation to avoid an outbreak.

This Tyson pork processing plant in storm like Iowa back online today after a quarter of the workers tested positive for the virus. 75 percent of those cases did not show symptoms.

The World Health Organization today also noting that the virus doesn't appear to be mutating, but saying it's important to remember the virus is still out there and it is still dangerous. Here in the United States, we're still adding about 20,000 cases a day. Back to you.

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VAUSE: Erica, thank you. Now, when we come back, on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, legislators in Hong Kong have been debating a controversial bill which will outlaw criticizing China's national anthem. We'll go live to Hong Kong in a moment.

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. A few hours ago, Hong Kong's legislative session was suspended when a scuffle broke out during debate over a controversial bill which would criminalize criticism or disrespect of China's national anthem. For more on that, live to CNN's Will Ripley in Hong Kong.

So, Will, the timing of all of this, this debate seems to have salt into the wound. This is the anniversary of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square that they -- many in Hong Kong would hold a vigil.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Every year, since 1990, you know, Hong Kong has been the only place in you know China, Chinese territory to mark the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, and the rallies have been huge. I mean, last year, you're talking tens of thousands of people who gathered at Victoria Park just across the harbor there.

This year is looking like it's going to be very different because local authorities have for the first time banned a public gathering to mark the anniversary. This is something that Hong Kong has really cherished because they value that that freedom to assemble, the freedom of the press, the kind of freedom that isn't enjoyed in mainland China. It's something that they cling to very dearly here. And it's why we've seen the protests really fire up, you know, from last summer for months and months.

And yet today on this anniversary, we're here in Whampoa, Kowloon where we were told there was going to be an event happening right around this time. We've been driving around, John. We can't find a thing. We were at another scheduled protest earlier. There were four protesters there. The kind of event that would have drawn hundreds of people last summer, smallest protest I've ever seen in Hong Kong.

So the COVID laws state that only fewer than eight people can gather. And people are being told that if they go to Victoria Park, and they stay in small groups, they can still commemorate the anniversary. But police have warned that if there are multiple small groups together, that could constitute a large, illegal gathering, and police could crack down.

We have not seen any police here but we know that around Victoria Park there has been an uptick in the number of officers observed. Now, they're saying that Coronavirus is the reason why people can't gather. But of course, on everyone's mind here, John, is this looming national security law. After 23 years in multiple Hong Kong governments failing to pass this national security law, Beijing decided they're going to go ahead and do it anyway.

And what's going to happen essentially, is that you're going to have a national security apparatus similar to mainland China set up here in Hong Kong, which means that the Tiananmen Square protests as we know it, we could never see again or any protest for that matter if Chinese law deems those illegal.

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VAUSE: You got to it. We appreciate that, everything. Thanks, Will. Will Ripley live in Hong Kong. Thank you for joining us this hour. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. I'll be back with a lot more news right after a very short break.

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