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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison Upgrades Charge for Derek Chauvin to Second Degree Murder for Death of George Floyd; George Floyd's Friend Stephen Jackson Interviewed on Demands for Justice for George Floyd; Former Defense Secretary James Mattis Criticizes President Trump for Dividing America; Obama Urges Americans to Make Change After Floyd Death. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 4, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Marine General says the president is intentionally trying to divide Americans. He also talks about the recent actions of President Trump that have left him appalled. Why did Mattis come forward now, and what is the reaction in Washington?
But let's begin with CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is live in Minneapolis, where a memorial for George Floyd will happen today. Omar?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. We still have seen demonstrations in places across the country, even last night, and on the day of the memorial here for George Floyd in Minneapolis, all four of the now former officers in this case have been arrested, and all four former officers have now been charged a little over a week after George Floyd's death.
Now, specifically Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded the third degree murder charge for Derek Chauvin, the officer seen with his knee on George Floyd's neck, up to a second degree murder charge, and then charged the other three with aiding and abetting a second degree murder and aiding and abetting a second degree manslaughter.
This is largely, I should say, what protesters, the family, and many in the community here wanted to see, but some, including in the family, were hoping that Chauvin would get a first degree murder charge, which, Alisyn, didn't rule out, but only if the evidence they may uncover was there to match.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Trying this case will not be an easy thing. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JIMENEZ: And he also touched on the fact that one of the major issues here, the central issue, I should say, is larger than just this case. In his words, he says one successful prosecution can't rectify generations of pain. And in the family's words, they say now is not the time to celebrate. They say an arrest is not a conviction, and in their words again, they want whole justice, not just partial justice here.
And, again, today's memorial service will be the first in a series of celebrations of George Floyd's life that will obviously culminate in his funeral early next week in Houston. John?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Omar Jimenez for us in Minneapolis. Omar, thank you very much.
Joining us now, former NBA star Stephen Jackson, a friend of George Floyd who has vowed to step up to be there for Floyd's daughter Gianna. Stephen, first of all, we continue to be so sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. First, I just want your reaction to the news, the upgraded charge against Derek Chauvin and the new charges against the three other officers who were there.
STEPHEN JACKSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Good morning. Thanks for having me. Just like the family said, there is no reason to celebrate. We have seen this before. We want a conviction. And they said that this conviction would not fix all the Freddie Grays, the Philando Castiles, the Trayvon Martins. It might not fix those, but for black people, it may. These guys need to be make a sacrifice for all the other the police and all the other police brutality we missed and didn't get justice for. So this can, in our minds, this can be a big step in fixing things and getting justice for black people.
BERMAN: Keith Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, warned everyone yesterday that convictions here could be hard to come by. What happens if they don't get those convictions, Stephen?
JACKSON: I don't know. We'll see when we get there, but it's going to be something, trust me that. We won't go quietly. But I think we're going to get convictions. It's funny that they're already thinking that way before we even start the trial. They're going into it with a negative mindset. It is not that difficult. The same way I'm on this camera and the same way you're filming me for your show, for people to believe it, the same way my brother was murdered. So it was filmed for everybody to see. So it is not difficult. It's common sense. And that's what the world has lost.
BERMAN: There was video you posted of George Floyd's six-year-old daughter Gianna on your shoulders. I want to play that for people right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy changed the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did what? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy changed the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy changed the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "Daddy changed the world," she said. What was it like to hear that for you?
JACKSON: Oh, man. It was emotional. I just want to lift her spirits. I just want to life her spirits. I want her next days to be her best days. And that's all I care about, man. Gigi is a sweet soul. There's three people that I know Floyd loved to death, and that's three people that I care about, his daughter Gigi, her mother Roxie, and his close friend Milton. Those three people I really care about because I knew him and I know how much he cared about them. And anything I can do to make their days better, I am my brother's keeper, so I'm going to do that.
BERMAN: She says daddy changed the world. How did her daddy change the world?
JACKSON: Listen, we've never seen 50, all states protest at one time. This is the first time. Look around the world, in Iran, every place you can name, Somalia, France, the Netherlands, I've been getting pictures from everywhere in support of justice for my brother George Floyd. So it has been amazing, and everybody understand right is right, wrong is wrong, and the people that are really looking at this too deep, and not having common sense, and seeing what's right is right, then that's the people that have the problem with what's going on, and that's why we don't have justice yet.
BERMAN: First memorial is today in Minneapolis. What will that be like for you?
JACKSON: It ain't really about me. I'm being strong for the family. I'm being strong for his daughter. I'm being strong for Roxie. Obviously, that's the role I took on in this. I've got to be strong. I really haven't had time to really think about it because I've been moving so fast, but this is the goal. This is where I want to be. This is filling my lap, so I have to lead, I have to step up, and I have to continue to fight for justice for my brother and for a better life for his daughter. And that's the things I'm focused on.
BERMAN: You promised to be there for Gianna forever, to walk her down the aisle. What will you tell her about her father?
JACKSON: I have my own daughters. So I know what it feels like. I know what it feels like when I haven't been there for my daughter or when I miss something or miss the call. I know what that feels like, and it brings me to tears. So I know how he came to Minnesota to change his life, in order to be a better father and to continue to provide for Gigi. And that was the main focus of his. So that's the role I love to take. And I embrace because I have my own daughters, and she will fall in line with the rest of them.
BERMAN: Stephen, something happened in the sports world over the last 24 hours, and I want to get your reaction to that, and that's New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees commented on his feelings about players kneeling during the National Anthem. I already see you shaking your head. Let me play that so people who haven't seen it can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW BREES, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS QUARTERBACK: I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the National Anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army, one in the Marine Corps, both risking their lives to protect our country, and to try to make our country and this world a better place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So you were shaking your head, Stephen, before we even played it. What is your reaction?
JACKSON: As intelligent as Drew Brees is, how is he still that naive? All that's going on, all the protests, and you still don't understand why Kaepernick kneeled? It has nothing to do with the flag. Drew Brees is an intelligent guy, but he looked real retarded by saying that. The time is sensitive, OK. You can't say that right now. That's equivalent to me saying when JFK got killed, that's equivalent to me saying, well, he wasn't black, so I don't care. It's the same thing. If you're not with us, if you're not standing on the side of right, then obviously you are the problem, or you are a part of the problem. There's no more straddling the fence. We can't accept that. No more straddling the fence. Either you're with us or you're against us. And obviously by his comment, he's not with us. But I love the fact that his teammates stood up and spoke because they know him best, but we're not going to tolerate that no more. You're either with us or against us.
BERMAN: What do you think it is going to be like for the players who are back in the locker room with him?
JACKSON: It will be hard, because anything he says now is to cover-up or put a band aid on what he already said. We know how he really feels. It is not the first time Drew Brees has said something like that. So we understand what he feels. Just stay on that side, Drew.
BERMAN: Finally, Stephen, you knew George Floyd. What would he make of all of this? What would he make of everything that going on right now in the world?
JACKSON: Man, I just see the smile on his face, because to be receiving so much love, I think this is a guy that showed love for everybody, he tried his best to be a protector and provider for everybody, even me. He even tried to protect me at times because he knew people abused my kindness and abused the friendship we had. He never did that. He wanted everybody to be OK. He wanted to protect everybody, and one thing he would say to the world right now, he would say, man, you all are doing it big because the love everybody is showing him is the way he showed love to everybody else.
BERMAN: Stephen Jackson, thank you for taking the time to talk to us this morning, and thank you for what you're doing for the family.
JACKSON: No problem. Thank you.
BERMAN: All right, three years without mature leadership, a stinging rebuke of the president's handling of protests nationwide.
What else former Defense Secretary James Mattis says and why it matters, next.
CAMEROTA: A scathing critique of President Trump by his own former defense secretary. General James Mattis writes in a new statement that he never thought he'd see the things he's seen this week, and that President Trump is trying to divide the American people.
Joining us now is CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, she's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times," and CNN White House correspondent John Harwood.
Maggie, I think that there were many weeks where people wondered out loud, when will some of the people, former cabinet members in President Trump's cabinet, speak out. And I think back to a year ago, people wondered if James Mattis would do that someday. And today is the day. He reached his tipping point, he says, because of everything he's seen this week. In fact, I will read a portion for you. 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 defend and support the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking the same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens, much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander in chief with military leadership standing alongside." Your thoughts?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think two things can be true at once, right. I think it was an extraordinary statement by James Mattis. He, as you noted, has been reticent to talk. He has been criticized for publishing a book but not talking about --
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- it was an extraordinary statement by James Mattis.
He, as you noted, has been reticent to talk. He's been criticized, in fact, for publishing a book but not talking about his views of the president, especially as a number of people believe that he was somebody who had taken issues with things the president had done in the past.
That said, will it have an impact? That I think is too soon to say. Are people persuadable still, who are on the fence about Trump, will they be persuaded by James Mattis? That I think is too soon to say.
I do think it raises the question of do other people start to come forward now who served, who may have shared -- served under President Trump -- who may have shared a similar view?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Different way of looking at it, though, is that it already has had an impact on James Mattis, right? I mean, John Harwood, James Mattis hadn't spoken out before this.
You know, he didn't want to wade in. He did everything he could not to criticize the president more directly and then when he decided to finally, something pushed him and this is -- this is not meek. I mean, this is the furthest thing from meek. He basically compares the president to Nazis, in this letter, he says three years of governing without any maturity. It really is extraordinary.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Maggie is right. We don't know what the impact is going to be.
But we do know a couple of things. First of all, if you look at the polling in the last few days, we could see the president's political position is deteriorating. Secondly, we see Jim Mattis' statements as of a piece with the criticism from former chairs of the joint chiefs, Marty Dempsey, Mike Mullen.
We see that Mark Esper reversed himself and said yesterday that he does not believe the Insurrection Act should be invoked to send active duty U.S. troops against protesters in the streets. I think, collectively, those things amount to an unofficial signal from the American military establishment to ordinary Americans that something is going on here that is wrong.
That is not going to help the political -- the president's political position, it may weaken it further.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Maggie, we know that President Trump thrives on some level in chaos. What has his mental state been for this past week?
HABERMAN: He's been very unhappy, Alisyn, although, in a number of conversations with people he's sounded fine and, you know, sounded a level of confidence that he feels OK about how he's going ahead. We know that over the weekend, the president was taken for a brief time to the bunker below the White House because of the protests getting closer and piercing some level of the barricades around the White House complex.
We know that when Peter Baker and I at "The Times" learned of this and reported on it, and we reported on it because it is news, information on what is happening on a developing matter. The president decided this made him look weak, got upset at the criticism and he's been reacting to that over several days. He had to have it explained to him several times over the weekend the protests are not about him.
They are about a much greater issue, it is not specific to Donald Trump. And I'm still not sure he processes that. So I think we will see him continue to lash out. We saw him, you know, do sort of a schoolyard taunt at James Mattis last night on Twitter. I think you will see more of that.
But how they get out of where they're at right now? The White House isn't sure.
BERMAN: One of the things that he's doing is trying to lie his way out of certain parts of it, right, saying that he just went down to the bunker to inspect it earlier in the day. That wasn't true based on your reporting or any reporting since, Maggie.
And, John Harwood, also lying about something as silly as Jim Mattis' nickname, saying he coined the phrase "Mad Dog" when it was around years before that. I mean, this is not the time -- the type of thing or type of moment, John, I think you can lie your way out of.
HARWOOD: Look, the president routinely, constantly, he has for four years said things that are untrue. He continues to do that last night. But when you think about the president's attacks on Jim Mattis -- remember, Jim Mattis at the outset of the administration was the single most respected member of the Trump cabinet. And President Trump's own words at the time affirmed that.
What he's doing right now is something that is entirely predictable, he said in an interview on Fox the other day, when he was asked why do you go after people like Joe Scarborough and Chris Cuomo, he says, I just do it, they hit me, I hit them back.
The president's words don't have any weight. Words for him are rocks he picks up on the playground and hurls at somebody. It doesn't mean anything.
But the president is the one who is in a shaky political position right now, he knows it, and that's why he's acting the way he is right now.
CAMEROTA: Maggie, how is President Trump feeling today about current Defense Secretary Mark Esper?
HABERMAN: I think the same way he was feeling about him yesterday, Alisyn, which is less than thrilled. [08:20:00]
Look, Esper, we have reporting that the president was very angry at him yesterday. He had been summoned to the White House, went over after his briefing, where he said these remarks he was against invoking the Insurrection Act.
President was already angry because Esper had given an interview saying he didn't know where he was going with the president, multiple aides say there were 15 people around when Esper was heard saying I'm going to go to the church with the president. And the president sort of let all of that loose.
Whether he gets rid of Esper is an open question, we're within the window where he could appoint somebody Senate confirmed for other jobs to fill the time until we get to Election Day. But other people are cautioning the president inside the White House, this is not a good place to go right now.
The president is unhappy with a number of officials serving him. Esper is just one of them.
BERMAN: And I imagine, Maggie, based on reporting from you and Alex Burns overnight, he's unhappy with the status of his campaign. I know the campaign based on your reporting is concerned about his standing in several key states at this moment, that the map is not looking good.
HABERMAN: No, look, the president's map has taken a hit. His internal numbers are similar, not precisely the same, but similar to some of the polling, which is that the president is well behind Biden now. He's behind him nationally. He's behind him in battleground states. He's seen his standing with independent voters take a hit.
In the last couple of days, the president has done himself great damage. And I think the president was already having trouble before we went into this weekend, this past weekend, because of his response to the coronavirus and the economic situation in the country. And he just, you know, poured gasoline on the fire that is engulfing him right now.
There is still five months. As you know better than anyone, John, there is a long time to go. We have no idea what it will look like in five months, but his advisers are well aware that he's on defense right now.
CAMEROTA: John, let's talk about the president's physical -- go ahead, quickly.
HARWOOD: I was going to say, I talked to a National Republican pollster yesterday who said, look, no one likes where the country is right now.
The president's position is weakened. And we talk about the possibility of replacing Mark Esper, firing Mark Esper, the president is on shaky ground than Mark Esper is. Mark Esper has a long career, getting fired by the president would probably enhance his reputation in his peer group within the military establishment at this point.
So this is not a situation where the president has a lot of leverage. Yes, he can replace someone, but that doesn't mean it is going to help him.
CAMEROTA: OK, so, John, let's talk about the president's physical health. He got a physical but we don't have a completely thorough explanation for how he's doing. What do we know?
HARWOOD: Well, we know as you discussed with Jonathan Reiner in the last hour that they released information that indicates that his cholesterol issues, his coronary issues are under control. But we don't know exactly what is behind that, what procedures have been done. We know that he's getting high doses of statin drugs to try to control the levels of cholesterol.
We have gotten some information about height and weight and, you know, 6'3", 244 pounds, but we don't have a detailed picture that we normally get from White House physicians of exactly what the state of the president's health is, and don't have full explanations for his abrupt visit to Walter Reed that occurred a few months ago.
BERMAN: John Harwood, Maggie Haberman, great to have you on this morning. Thanks so much.
HARWOOD: You bet.
BERMAN: So, America's first black president speaking out about the death of George Floyd. What did President Obama say and what didn't he say? A former key aide joins us next.
CAMEROTA: Former President Barack Obama speaking publicly for the first time since the killing of George Floyd and the protests that have ensued across the country. He called for police reforms and echoed a familiar theme, hope and change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: I hope that you also feel hopeful, even as you may feel angry, because you have the power to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that's got to change. You've communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I've seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Reggie Love, former special assistant and personal aide to President Obama.
REGGIE LOVE, FORMER ASSISTANT AND PERSONAL AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hey, Alisyn. How are you doing today?
CAMEROTA: I'm doing OK. It's great to see you.
And so, so tell me why now. I mean, President Obama has not been that visible or vocal for the past three years. Let's be honest. And so, to hear him speaking now, you think that this week was the tipping point for him?
LOVE: Well, I would say that this week is -- we're in a point and time publicly where we haven't probably been in, in a while. And I think there are a lot of people who feel lost, who are looking for guidance, who are looking for leadership, who feel like they're not being heard, who want direction, and, you know, as you see, there hasn't been a lot of leadership or empathy shown by our current administration.
So I think it -- I think people were -- I think people were looking for something, and I hope that it helped to hear his voice and from what I heard, people did appreciate it.
CAMEROTA: Do you think this is the start of something? Do you think that starting now we will hear more from President Obama and maybe even former First Lady Michelle Obama as we move towards the election?
LOVE: Well, you know, in 2016, the Obamas were super active.