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Peaceful Protests Continue after Police Officers Charged; Key Witness in Floyd Death Speaks Out for the First Time; Former Defense Secretary Rips Trump for Dividing America. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 4, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We felt that the proper charge would be second- degree murder and that it would be proper to charge the other three with aiding and abetting.

[06:00:06]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is still a level of skepticism. We know, looking at previous cases, it oftentimes is difficult to get a full conviction on a police officer.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Massive peaceful protests all across this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're seeing protesters now, weaving their way through downtown Los Angeles. It is stretching as far as I can see.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What you're seeing from the president's tweets ignores the primary criticism Mattis made, which was withering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all respected Secretary Mattis for his letter, calling out the president's abuse of authority.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, June 4, 6 a.m. here in New York. We have a lot going on this morning.

Some of the largest demonstrations we have seen yet across the country overnight, in some cases, defying curfews. These were largely peaceful. But we're getting some new information about an incident in New York City, and we'll bring you those details shortly.

Major developments in the actual legal case in Minnesota. The remaining three police officers involved in George Floyd's death were arrested and charged.

And this morning, we're hearing for the first time from a key witness, a long-time friend of George Floyd, who was in the passenger seat when Floyd was killed. He says that George Floyd did not resist police.

And despite the video showing a police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, Minnesota's attorney general is warning it could be hard to get a conviction in this case.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Also, this morning, former defense secretary, General James Mattis, publicly criticizing President Trump. Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, says the president is intentionally trying to divide Americans.

He also talks about the recent things President Trump has done that have made him appalled. So why did Mattis come forward now, and what's the reaction in Washington and beyond?

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is live for us in Minneapolis, where a memorial for George Floyd takes place this afternoon. This is just the beginning of the memorials -- Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. Today's memorial is set to be the first in what will be a series of goodbyes for George Floyd, culminating in his funeral on Tuesday in Houston.

And this, of course, comes as we are now seeing all four of the officers in this case in custody and facing charges. We saw cheers and applause from people in Minneapolis as that news came down but also, we've seen demonstrations across the entire country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No peace!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No peace!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No peace!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No peace!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No peace!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No peace!

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Large demonstrations on display from coast to coast for a ninth day in a row, with crowds of hundreds and sometimes thousands marching in the name of George Floyd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's his name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Floyd!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Floyd!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Floyd!

JIMENEZ: The protests, as all four officers involved in Floyd's arrest are now behind bars, facing charges related to his death.

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.

JIMENEZ: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announcing an upgraded charge to second-degree murder for Derek Chauvin, the former officer seen pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we got all four! We got all four!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we got all four! We got all four!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we got all four! We got all four!

JIMENEZ: Cheers in Minneapolis as protestors heard the news, but Ellison offering this warning, saying it's often difficult to convict a police officer on murder charges.

ELLISON: The net effect is that it's very difficult to hold the police accountable, even when there's violation of the law. If we can help the jury understand what's really happening here, what their duties and obligations are, we're confident we will get that conviction.

JIMENEZ: Earlier, Floyd's son, Quincy, visiting the growing memorial at the site of his father's final moments.

QUINCY MASON FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SON: This is my father. And no man or woman should serve -- should be without their fathers. We want justice for what's going on right now.

JIMENEZ: And as many Americans continue to press for justice for Floyd and others who have died at the hands of police brutality, his family's attorney calling the moment a tipping point within the country.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: After so much effort on everybody's part, you finally have these murderers being arrested and brought to a court of law to answer for their crimes.

JIMENEZ: And for Minnesota, where people are still fighting for change, the governor says the message is clear.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: I think this is probably our last shot as a state and as a nation to fix this systemic issue. The systemic issues and the systemic racism and the lack of accountability up and down our society that led to a daytime murder of a black man on a street in Minneapolis.

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JIMENEZ: Now, family attorney Benjamin Crump has said now is not the time to celebrate, because an arrest is not a conviction. In his words, he says they don't want partial justice. They want whole justice.

And in regards to the prosecution, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has said that it is going to be difficult. And this is a process that is going to take, at the very least, months.

And for the family, processing this all is going to take so much longer. Today's memorial is set to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern Time -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Omar Jimenez, thank you very much.

This morning, we are hearing for the first time from a long-time friend of George Floyd, who was in the passenger seat of the car during that fatal encounter with police.

CNN's Josh Campbell has the latest on the investigation. And Josh broke the news yesterday than all four officers were being charged in Floyd's death.

So what's the latest, Josh?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, the 24-hour period here has been very dramatic for this community. Again, we heard yesterday about the arrest of all of the officers that were involved in that incident here behind me, that encounter between police officers and George Floyd.

One of the officers has now been charged with second-degree murder, that charge being elevated. The other three officers charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

We learned yesterday afternoon that all three, or all four, rather, are now in custody. Court hearings begin this afternoon.

As you mentioned, and I want you to look at this video, CCTV footage that we have. A key witness in this investigation, who was here at the scene with George Floyd, a long-time friend, he was in the passenger seat in the vehicle where George Floyd was, he is now speaking, talking to "The New York Times," telling them about that experience.

Police officers now believe that he is a key witness. in addition to this video evidence that we've seen. They want to hear from people who were here to get their experience.

And what he was saying is that George Floyd was not resisting. In his own words, he said that "from the beginning," he was "trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way. I could hear him pleading, 'Please, officer, what's all this for?'"

Now again, him being a key witness, because officers want to hear from the people that were actually on the scene.

As far as where the investigation goes next, we know from the attorney general that the initial phase of the arrest is now occurring. They continue to seek information from the public and additional evidence. We also know that the FBI continues to investigate. A civil rights investigation into those officers.

And I can tell you, just in talking to people who are in the community, talking to law enforcement experts, this attorney general, Keith Ellison, has been under a lot of pressure to bring charges in this case. We heard from him yesterday. He said that he did not allow that pressure to influence his decision, saying that he took the time to methodically go over all of the evidence in this investigation.

And I also asked him, when we saw him yesterday, what this case means for the rest of the nation? We've seen all of those protests from coast to coast. He told us that, although his focus is on this case, he knows that it goes above and beyond, saying that, in his words, he thinks it's important to seek justice everywhere -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. Josh Campbell for us on the ground there in Minneapolis.

Keith Ellison, the attorney general, also says it will be hard to get convictions here. Why? Why, given the video and the evidence that we've seen?

Joining me now, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Counselor, what will prosecutors need to prove here, and why is Keith Ellison saying that will be difficult?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, with the elevated charges to second-degree murder, there's an additional intent element that the prosecution has to prove. They have to prove that Chauvin intended to kill. That's really what's here. It's not carelessness or negligence, not even recklessness. They have to show he intended to kill. I'm sure you remember and everyone remembers, Berman, that it is very hard historically to convict police officers. Think about another thing, particularly in this case. It seems to me almost certain that there will be a motion to change venue in this case. That the amount of pretrial publicity in Minneapolis and St. Paul will require this case to be moved out of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Where can they go in Minnesota. It will have to stay in Minnesota. It's a state case. It will go somewhere, maybe one of the next biggest cities, like Duluth that has a lot fewer people of color in it. You are looking at a case that is likely to have a jury with relatively few people of color on it. That suggests that -- if you look at the history, for better or worse, the fact is white people on juries have a hard time finding white cops guilty of serious crimes. That's what I think is the backdrop to what the attorney general is saying.

On the issue of Derek Chauvin, the police officer with his knee on George Floyd's neck. If they can prove that the death occurred during the act of another felony, doesn't that also qualify as second-degree murder here? They're going after the theory of he was illegally assaulting George Floyd, another felony was being committed, that led to the death.

That's felony murder, murder in the course of a different crime. Frankly, I have a lot of skepticism about the ability of judges, much less juries to injures the subtle distinctions between the different degrees of crime. The recklessness, the -- the various levels of how we describe what is in the mind of criminal. You know, juries decide is this right or wrong and that's really going to be the issue in this case. To many of us and frankly to me, it looks like an open and shut case. But so does the Rodney King state case. That ended in an acquittal. They had to do a federal civil rights case about that. The history there is open and shut cases against cops don't necessarily turn out like that.

This witness has come forward to "The New York Times" who says George Floyd was not resisting. How much does that play in? Is what's important the nine minutes, nine minutes on video? How does that compare and contrast with what does it matter, for instance, about the police officer's record in the past in terms of their policing, the complaints against them? What does it matter about George Floyd, his record in the past? Or is it just about those nine minutes?

TOOBIN: Well, with the -- with the elevated charges, the second-degree murder, there will be an additional intent element that the -- that the prosecution has to charge -- has to prove. They have to prove that Chauvin really intended to kill. That's truly what's here. It's not carelessness. It's not negligence. It's not even recklessness. They have to show he intended to kill.

And I'm -- and I'm sure you remember, and everyone remembers, Berman, that it is very hard, historically, to convict police officers.

And think about another thing, particularly in this case. It seems to me almost certain that there will be a motion to change venue in this case. That the amount of pretrial publicity in Minneapolis and St. Paul will require this case to be moved out of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Well, where can it go in Minnesota? It has to stay in Minnesota. It's a state case. You'll go somewhere, maybe one of the next biggest cities like Duluth, that has a lot fewer people of color in it.

So you are looking at a case that is likely to have a jury with relatively few people of color on it, and that suggests that -- and if you look at the history, for better or worse, the fact is white people on juries have a very hard time finding white cops guilty of serious crimes. So that's what I think is the backdrop to what the attorney general was saying.

[06:10:03]

BERMAN: On the issue of Derek Chauvin, the police officer with his knee on George Floyd's neck, this charge, if they can prove that the death occurred during the act of another felony, doesn't that also qualify as second-degree murder here? I think they're going after the theory of he was illegally assaulting George Floyd at the time. Another felony was being committed, and that also led to the death.

TOOBIN: That's right. That's -- that's called felony murder, which is murder in the course of a different crime.

You know, frankly, I have a lot of skepticism about the ability of judges, much less juries, to understand the subtle distinctions between the different degrees of crime.

You know, the -- you know, the recklessness, the -- the various, you know, levels of how we describe what -- what is in the mind of criminals.

You know, juries decide, Is this right or wrong?

BERMAN: Right.

TOOBIN: And that's really going to be the hard -- is going to be the issue in this case. You know, to many of us -- and, frankly, to me -- it looks like an open-and-shut case. But so did the Rodney King state case, and that ended in an acquittal. They had to do a federal civil rights case about that.

So, you know, the history there is open-and-shut cases against cops don't necessarily turn out that way.

BERMAN: So we now have this witness, who's come forward to "The New York Times" who says that George Floyd was not resisting. So how much does that play in? Or is, really, what's important here the nine minutes? The nine minutes on video. How does that compare and contrast with what does it matter, for instance, about the police officers' records in the past, in terms of their policing and the complaints against them?

What does it matter about George Floyd, what his record may have been in the past? Or is it just about those nine minutes?

TOOBIN: Well, if you were the prosecutor in this case, you'd want to make this case about nine minutes. I mean, about those nine minutes.

You know, one of the things all of us who work in television, you know, have a very clear sense of how long a minute is and how long, you know, three minutes is. Nine minutes is an incredibly long time. I mean, just -- you know, someone should stare at a clock for nine minutes and see how long that is.

And to think about a human being with a knee on his neck for that long, including more than two minutes where he is clearly unconscious, that to me, frankly, is going to be the dominant issue in the case.

Now, certainly, the defense is going to try to make the case about more than the nine minutes. They're going to try to say that the police were somehow justified.

But one fact in this case is -- doesn't get mentioned often enough. And I think it is incredibly important. And that is that Mr. Floyd was handcuffed during this period.

So the argument that you often hear in these cases, like you heard in the Rodney King case, which was that the officers were somehow at risk, is really just not available to the police here. Because he's handcuffed. He couldn't possibly be a threat to them. That, to me, is almost as important a fact in this case as the nine minutes.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, great to have you on. Thanks so much.

TOOBIN: All righty, Berman. See you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Now to the former defense secretary, James Mattis, publishing a scathing critique of President Trump and the job he's doing. Mattis accuses President Trump of intentionally dividing the American people and being a threat to the Constitution.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What have you learned, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Listen to these words: "We can unite without him." Those are the words of James Mattis about the president of the United States in this scathing message that was e-mailed to Pentagon reporters from him late last night.

Mattis going after the president on several points. Very upset. Very concerned and disturbed about what he says is basically the militarization of this effort against peaceful protesters.

Mattis saying, and I quote, "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. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."

Now, yesterday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper here at the Pentagon came out in front of reporters and distanced himself from the president, saying that he does not support the use of active-duty military troops on the streets unless the situation was so dire, and he does not believe it is.

So at this point, what you have is Esper, along with Mattis, but perhaps even more importantly, the entire joint chiefs of staff, all of them have now issued statements supporting peaceful protesting.

[06:15:11]

You have no one at this point supporting any notion of putting military force, active-duty troops, on the streets of America as the president has suggested multiple times. The joint chiefs of staff are on a very different page -- Alisyn, John.

CAMEROTA: Barbara Starr, thank you very much for all of the reporting. We will have much more on Mattis's extraordinary rebuke, next.

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CAMEROTA: It is not every day that you read a scathing essay about a sitting president from one of his own defense secretaries, but that's what's happened this morning. General James Mattis says President Trump is trying to divide us as

Americans and that he's a threat to the U.S. Constitution. Mattis says, "We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution."

[06:20:09]

Joining us now to discuss this, we have CNN political commentator Errol Louis. He's a political anchor for Spectrum News. And CNN political analyst David Gregory.

Let me just read a little bit more of this extraordinary letter or essay, I guess, from General Mattis. He says, "I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled. When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the constitutional rights of fellow citizens, much less to provide a bizarre photo-op for the elected commander in chief, with military leadership standing alongside."

David Gregory, the significance of this?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that General Mattis, who has an impeccable reputation in the military and political circles in Washington, someone who is up close and personal, who's heavily praised by President Trump, who saw him up close, has condemned him at this level.

And frankly, a lot of people wondered what took so long. They found his -- his silence after he left the administration in protest over Syria something that was not laudable. You know, I mean, people were frustrated that -- that Mattis didn't speak out, when he made allusions to the fact that he was critical.

But to do this in such a stark way, to say that there's an absence of mature leadership. To do something else that I thought was significant, too, which is to say don't pay attention to the minority of the protesters who have been violent. That's a distraction.

And yet, that's been everything to President Trump, who wants to dominate people he calls domestic terrorists and rioters on the street.

You know, here you have Mattis saying, No, that's a distraction. Let focus on the demand of the peaceful movement and say we need equal justice under law. It is a searing critique. And to see the president's response only underscores his insecurity about somebody like Mattis.

BERMAN: This letter, 650 words, is careful. It is deliberate, but it is seething, Errol.

I want to point out, yesterday the White House press secretary compared President Trump to Winston Churchill. But General James Mattis essentially compares him to Hitler. All right? It's unmistakable in here. Mattis points out that "The Nazi slogan for destroying us was 'Divide and Conquer.'"

And then the president says that he tries that -- Mattis says of the president, He tries to divide us. "We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort." It's just extraordinary.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It really is. And to read the essay, which I would urge everybody to do so. It's a short read. It's important. It's passionate. And it gets to the heart of what has troubled one institution after another for these last three years.

The Trump presidency, in many ways, and the Trump candidacy even before that, has been a challenge to many of our basic institutions. Not just the media, which we talk about all the time. Not just the political party that he now dominates, but also the intelligence community, the Department of Justice and now the military, one of our most respected institutions.

I read the essay as Mattis really sort of calling out to the country, to his fellow officers, retired and active-duty, to say, We've got to rescue this institution. We've got to defend this Constitution. This is the oath that we swore. And this is a challenge to the oath that we swore.

And it's really remarkable. It's one thing to sort of sit around at a cocktail party and say, Well, gee, the president is really kind of trampling on the Constitution or challenging what makes us free.

It's another thing to hear a lifelong warrior who's dedicated his life to this and proved it, put his body on the line, saying that, Look, I've worked closely with this man. He is dividing us. This is a huge, huge problem.

CAMEROTA: That leads us to current defense secretary, Mark Esper, David, who you know, has tried to explain why he stood there in Lafayette Square, why he was led. He says, basically, blindly across the street; why the protesters had to be beaten back with batons in order for the president to have that photo-op in front of the church.

He says he didn't know where he was going, I guess, or what he was doing, which is -- obviously raises other questions about why a defense secretary would not know where he was going. But what do you think the future is there?

GREGORY: Well, you know, once he walked back his remarks, once he said that he disagreed with the president about invoking the Insurrection Act, he got pretty damning remarks from Kayleigh McEnany, who said, Well, he's the secretary of defense for now. In this administration, I wouldn't feel so great about that.

[06:25:06]

We know how vindictive this president is, how insecure he is, and that he'd want to lash out. So as the president often says, you know, we'll see.

But I think it's such a symbol of the inability of those around President Trump to stand up to him, to say, no, don't do this. Now, we're learning that behind the scenes, the attorney general and Esper had pushed the president not to invoke the Insurrection Act, which is another indication that the president has all these impulses. He doesn't seem to be dissuaded much. But on some of these he can be.

But I think the point that we're learning about Esper and the -- sort of the larger point about Mattis that I think is so important, is that this is criticism of Trump that he doesn't try to lead the entire country, that he doesn't try to unite the entire country and that he never really has tried to do that. He's tried to lead by speaking to his political base.

And in a pandemic, in a national moment of crisis and trauma and frustration like this, that will not do. You need presidential leadership, and Mattis was so stark in saying he's not offering that. He's not even trying to unite people.

BERMAN: It's not just Mattis. As you point out, it is a lot of retired military leaders. John Allen overnight said that this could be the beginning of the end of the American experiment. Admiral Mullin has come out. We're seeing a number of people come out.

And Errol, I just want to make one point, and I think we have this video in the control room. We can play this. The president is trying to hit back at General Mattis, as we knew he would, on Twitter overnight, you know, claiming that he doesn't like him, doesn't respect him.

Donald Trump did everything he did to cover himself in James Mattis for a long time at the beginning of this administration. Let's just remind ourselves of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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)

BERMAN: Yes, Mad Dog plays no games. I think he could say that again this morning, Errol.

LOUIS: Yes. Well, I mean, look, one of the habits that we've gotten used to over the years is that, when the president feels he wants to hit back at you, facts go to the side, past statements go to the side, consistency is ignored. And he puts out these heated tweets, saying things like that gave General Mattis his nickname of Mad Dog. And it's simply not true. Instantly fact checkable. There are, like, books with that title in it.

But the president doesn't care. The important thing for him is to hit back, to completely rewrite history if he possibly can. His supporters, I suppose, will sort of like it. That's, you know, a style of fighting.

Those of us who care about accuracy look at that and say this is, you know, kind of in the same category as the childish nicknames that he likes to bestow on people. It's -- it's silly, frankly. You know, there's much more at stake. There are some important issues at stake here. And, you know, making up a lie about General Mattis is not going to change that.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And General Mattis got to those more important issues in that essay.

Errol louis, David Gregory, thank you both very much for all of that analysis.

One of the country's most iconic Confederate monuments may be coming down. The big announcement today. We have the details, next.

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