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Two Rookie Cops Blame Senior Officer In George Floyd Death; More Former Military Officials Join General Mattis In Criticizing Trump. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 5, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: George Floyd's appear in court.


Two of the, it turns out, were rookie, one had just been on the job for four days and the other was on his third full shift ever.

Now, they are blaming the senior officer, Derek Chauvin, for Floyd's death. He is the arresting officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. The split within those four officers significant, and we'll delve into that as well.

We're going to start though with the story out of Buffalo. CNN Anchor Laura Jarrett here with that. Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: John, there's been a fair amount of alarming footage this week of how some police have handled protesters across this country. And the scene we're about to show you is a prime example of why it's just so crucial that these instances are documented on camera.

Two Buffalo police officers have now been suspended without pay after video shows them shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground. We need to warn you that the video we are about to show you is disturbing.

The mayor of Buffalo says the man has been hospitalized in serious but stable condition. Police originally released a statement saying the man tripped but the video clearly shows that he was shoved to the ground.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the incident wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful. And Mayor Byron Brown said that the city's police commissioner has ordered an immediate investigation of this, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Laura, thank you very much.

Peaceful protests continue across America after a very moving Memorial service for George Floyd. CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Minneapolis again for us with more. So tell us everything that's happened, Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's been a tenth straight night of people demonstrating in the streets in the name of George Floyd across the United States. And last night's came just hours after his memorial here in Minneapolis. And the majority of the world or a lot of the world really knows George Floyd through a ten- minute video posted to social media, the majority of which he is under a police officer's knee.

Yesterday began the process of learning who he was to the people who loved him and the legacy he now leaves behind.


JIMENEZ: A time to mourn, to grieve and to celebrate the life of George Floyd.

RODNEY FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: I want you guys to know that he was standing up for any injustice everywhere.

JIMENEZ: For eight minute and 46 seconds, the memorial service for the man killed in the custody of Minneapolis police stood still in silence as outside in the streets of American cities, thousands protested in honor of Floyd for the tenth straight day.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say, get your knee off our necks.

JIMENEZ: While people in Minneapolis gathered outside Floyd's service at the heavily gathered Hennepin County courthouse across town, three of the four former officers involved in the incident, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, made their first courtroom appearance after being charged with aiding and abetting, both second degree murder and second degree manslaughter. This as the man who was in the car with Floyd during his arrest speaks out, saying he found out that his friend died on social media the next day.

MAURICE LESTER HALL, GEORGEY FLOYD'S LONGTIME FRIEND: What I believe the energy was said wrong by the police when they approached him because they approached with like an energy where it startled Mr. Floyd and he was just trying to defuse the situation as best as humbly that he could.

JIMENEZ: In Minneapolis, the Floyd family joined demonstrators at the site of his final moments.

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: The more people out here protesting peacefully, the more that we can have an effect on this world. I love you all. Y'all my brothers and sisters. Justice for George Floyd.

JIMENEZ: While thousands gathered with Floyd's brother, Terrence, in New York City at a march demanding change.

TERRENCE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: At the end of the day, my brother is gone, but the Floyd name still lives on.

JIMENEZ: And at the King Center in Atlanta, a community marched with a message of solidarity and thanks to protesters there and everywhere.

BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: For not letting up, for not giving up, for your tenacity, for your strength, for your resilience, for your determination to ensure that we have justice and equity in this nation.



JIMENEZ: Now this was the first in what will be a series of goodbyes for George Floyd. Tomorrow, there will be a memorial in North Carolina where he was born and then all of this will culminate with a funeral back in his hometown of Houston, Texas on Tuesday. John?

BERMAN: Omar, important moment to mark. Thank you so much for being there for us. I appreciate it.

As for the case against the four officers, two of the officers, rookies, are blaming the senior officer, Derek Chauvin, for the death of George Floyd. Chauvin is the arresting officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck four nearly nine minutes before his death.

CNN's Josh Campbell is live in Minneapolis. You were in the courtroom, Josh. This is really interesting, and important not just for this case but perhaps in the larger context as well.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We got our first look at three officers who have been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder in the death of George Floyd. And we're also getting a sense of what their defense strategy might be, at least for two of them, and that is apparently shifting the blame to senior officer, Derek Chauvin.

Now, this was a very surreal moment to be here behind us in the courtroom. I was here with our producer, Aaron Cooper. And I say, surreal, because these officers who work for the criminal justice system are now being prosecuted by that same system for alleged crimes.

Now, inside court yesterday, there were three separate hearings. The defendants were brought in wearing orange prison uniforms. They had members of their family in the audience. And the state's assistant attorney general began by saying that this is a very serious matter involving a very tragic death and these are very serious charges.

Now, the state asked for a very high bail. That obviously countered by defense counsel. And we got a sense of the strategy of these officers because one of the attorneys for a former Officer Kueng pointed out that as this encounter happened with George Floyd, his client turned to Derek Chauvin and said, we can't do this.

Now, attorney for Officer Lane similarly used that type of thinking, pointing out that his client had only been on his third shift, so very junior. Now, I caught up with that same attorney outside court and what I tried to do was get a sense of what is this strategy you're trying to put forward. Because while we were in court, that attorney actually said, what is my client supposed to do but to follow what the training officer said?

So what I wanted to know was, are you saying that your client was simply following orders, which as we know is an excuse that often raises eyebrows. The attorney got very heated. As it turns out, defense attorneys who get paid to ask tough questions sometimes don't like answering them. Here is how that exchange went.


CAMPBELL: Do you think that he was following orders?

EARL GRAY, THOMAS LANE'S ATTORNEY: No, I'm not claiming he was following orders. I'm claiming that he thought what he was doing was right. Because he asked the training officer, should we roll him over, twice. You've got to have criminal intent for second degree murder. and Frankly, this is bull shit.


CAMPBELL: Now, profanity aside, this is obviously going to be their strategy to try to point to the senior rank of Derek Chauvin as the person who is responsible here. The judge wasn't buying any of it, by the way. The bail was set at $1 million, as the government requested, or $750,000 with conditions.

For Chauvin's part, he will be here behind this in court on Monday. We'll get a sense of what his strategy is. John and Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Josh, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Joining us now, we have CNN Political Analyst David Gregory and CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers.

Bakari, I want to start with you. Though I know that we have -- though we don't have you.

BERMAN: He's worth waiting for though.

CAMEROTA: So I'm not going to start with you, Bakari, and stop giving me the silent treatment, Bakari.

David, I'm going to start with you, as I said. We always like on a Friday to kind of assess, if we can, where we are after another tumultuous week. And I think that what Josh just reported on in terms of what's happening with those police officers in Minneapolis is a microcosm, a bit, which is that two rookie cops who knew in their hearts and in their guts that what they were seeing was wrong and now say that they wanted to speak out or act out against it, but the more senior officer, Derek Chauvin, was taking command and that officer, David, had 17 other separate past complaints against him for excessive force and callousness, basically. And I know we can't fix all of the systemic racism in the culture overnight, but we can put guys who have an inordinate amount of complaints against them on desk duty. I mean, there are things that we could do right now in police forces across the country after this week that might help.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And we as citizens can empower local officials who have that responsibility to put a spotlight on the issue of peace, police training and oversight and community relationships.


President Obama, in a piece this week, talked just about that. Elections matter at the national level. Of course, these protests matter. But, really, keeping a focus, keeping pressure on local officials to do this is so important.

I think one of the takeaways from this week is now we're getting a closer look at how the criminal justice system will deal with this particular case. And we look at history and it's fraught with a lot of disappointment, anger and frustration after the prosecution of police officers accused of abuse. So that's a piece of this that we're going to follow very carefully.

I think the other piece is just how there was a distraction, I think, earlier this week with a minority of people engaging in looting and destruction. I've seen it in my community in Washington, people have seen it around the country. And I think we've largely moved beyond that to really seeing how powerful, how peaceful, how purposeful these large demonstrations have been around the country.

BERMAN: Bakari Sellers is now joining us. Bakari, you are worth waiting for and we've lost David. Bakari pushed David out of this segment completely.

Bakari, among your many --


BERMAN: Among your talents, you're a damn good lawyer on top of everything else. I just want you to address for a second the split now amongst these four officers, the younger officers turning on Derek Chauvin.

You know, we always talk about this thin blue line, officers stick together. I know there's also a tendency for people to do whatever they can if they think it would get them a lighter sentence. But do you see something happening in a larger context where police are now saying this is bad for us, we need to change ourselves?

SELLERS: I'm not sure you can extrapolate it out that far. I'm not sure it's the shattering of the thin blue line. But what I can tell you is these criminal defense attorneys, maybe not Chauvin but for the other gentlemen, are going to attempt to lay the blame somewhere else to get their clients off these very high murder charges where you have to have a certain level of intent.

I heard the excuses that were made, that they were just following orders, that he actually rendered CPR in the ambulance, that he told Chauvin to stop not once but twice. He tried to turn him over. I've heard all of these things. And these are classic defense tactics as a criminal defense lawyer. They will be the same that I would say.

And these prosecutions, I don't want people -- this is why I say, arrests are not justice, because arrests simply are not. These prosecutions are going to be so difficult for Attorney General Ellison. Maybe not Chauvin, because I think you can find premeditation in any one of the minutes that he had his knee on neck. But for the other three officers, it's going to be extremely, extremely difficult.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And I would like -- I would love to dive into that. But we've heard that and we've seen that with our own eyes. We know how difficult these are and how often the families of the victims do not feel that they get Justice at the end of a long court case.

David, President Trump seems to be on a very different page than the protesters outside of the White House. He has been this week starting, from the photo-op at the church that we saw, he has been casting about from how to explain these protesters and this letter that he and his lawyer, John Dowd, composed in response to General Mattis criticizing the president, saying he provides immature leadership and only divisiveness, is so -- I mean, I use the word science fiction because it sounds Orwellian.

They're saying that the protesters who were peaceful are, quote, terrorists. I mean, is this going to work? Is this where the country is right now?

GREGORY: No, I don't think it's going to work. I mean, I think if you look at the nature of these protests -- I know I got cut off before. But to me, what is striking is how the distraction of a minority of protesters who were committing crimes and looting and whatnot doesn't detract from the peaceful nature of these protests, just how impactful they have been, how purposeful and diverse they have been. That's the message. That's what General Mattis got. That's what others are taking away from all of this.

The president is in the corner, trapping himself in the corner and lashing out. To call them terrorists just totally misses the pain and the frustration, the sense of trauma and misses completely the moment. I mean, this is a president who is alienating those to work around him right now, alienating anyone who might dare to criticize him and trying to appeal to a band of the country that sees this in a kind of Nixonian sense in the '60s, like, oh, we need law and order in the country in the face of these protests, I think, just completely missing the moment.

BERMAN: And things are closing in on the president to an extent.


You can't see it with this parade, no pun intended, of military leaders coming out and saying that how he has handled this is wrong, Lisa Murkowski siding with Jim Mattis. I know, Bakari, you don't have a lot of faith in Lisa Murkowski.

But, overall, when you see the president who clearly is in the corner and you see the president leaning into this notion that the protesters are terrorists, if nothing else, it shows that he's not listening.

SELLERS: I don't really have a level of expectation down on Donald Trump either. Here I am not setting expectation for anybody this morning. I'm sorry, I'm not giving you more, John.

But the fact is that this president, we've been here before in these moments. And the last thing that I want is Democrats, or people on the side of justice and peace to somehow get comfortable because we've seen this before. This president has been down before.

We had a race four years ago when there was no one who thought that he could win. His back was against the wall. He had these tapes coming out, et cetera, but he seems to find some level of resilience because there's no one who speaks out against him within his base. And we may have the generals who speak out, we may have Murkowski who speaks out, but there's a solid 35 percent of this country who are turning a blind eye to the injustice in the streets, unlike the protesters, and also the way that he tramples against the Constitution.

So the president was right, figuratively, when saying that he could walk, I believe it was down Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and they would still be there. I mean, I think, figuratively, he is still very accurate that he has a grip, not just on this country and 35 percent, but he has a grip on the Republican Party.

This Republican Party is going to be the Trump party not just for now but at least for the next decade or two. And people are having a hard time just untethering themselves from his grip. And that, in itself, is poor for democracy.

CAMEROTA: David, final word?

GREGORY: Yes, I think it's an important point. Not only have we seen the resilience of the president, but we're still seeing a relatively small number of elected officials who are challenging him for fear of what the backlash might be.

And you see the president, we can look objectively at what we've seen, keep our focus on facts and yet, the president can begin to whip up a sense of overreaction in all of this. He can call protesters domestic terrorists. He can keep doing this week after week and garner perhaps enough support. That's why I think a General Mattis coming up is important. And why other military leaders have a duty to challenge the president and we're seeing more of that.

But the ultimate political outcome in November, I'm with Bakari, I think it's too early to assess.

BERMAN: David Gregory, Bakari Sellers, our thanks to both of you. Bakari, let me say ahoy based on your background. I appreciate it. CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

All right, moving on, we're going to get some new information about how bad the unemployment crisis is in America today. It could be as high as 20 percent. The new jobless numbers, the new jobs report coming up on New Day.



BERMAN: President Trump has boasted for years about his love of generals. But more former military leaders are turning against the president and influencing at least some Republicans in the process.

John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: General James Mattis dropped a bombshell this week saying, Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, doesn't even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us, said Trump's former secretary of defense. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.

Now, the tipping point was apparently Trump's autocratic stunt of violently dispersing a peaceful protest outside the White House for a photo-op with a bible as a prop. It sparked an unusual firestorm of dissent from respected military and national security figures who have trained to remain silent on political matters.

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, wrote on Twitter, America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy. Bush and Obama chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, wrote, whatever Trump's goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country. Retired Marine General John Allen said that Trump's threats of military force this may be the beginning of the end of the American experiment. A former CIA analyst, Gail Helt, told The Washington Post, this is what autocrats do.

This is not partisan bluster. This is the sound of lifelong patriots warning that this president's autocratic impulses are a threat to the republic. It's notable because the military is to play sympathetic to Republicans presidents with military veterans voting for Trump almost two to one margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And despite dodging the Vietnam era with claims of bone spurs, Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to claim that he is the most militaristic person to occupy the presidency.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm a very militaristic person.

I am the most militaristic person.


AVLON: There's always a reflexive impulse on the right to demonize Donald Trump's detractors, often led by the president himself.

But his attack on Mattis quickly got pushback from Trump's own former chief of staff, General John Kelly. And, in fact, many of Donald Trump's former cabinet members have painted a consistent portrait of a president who has been out of control and over his head since day one, including Kelly, John Bolton and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who gave this assessment.


REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: A man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things.

And I'd have to say to him, well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law.


AVLON: Crowing about owning the libs kind of loses its luster when it's directed at former Trump cabinet members, because those folks know the president far better than the fan fiction, his hardcore supporters have raised.


Our country is in crisis. When so many respected members of the military start to warn us about the danger to our democracy, it's an urgent reminder that the phony, tough (INAUDIBLE) to hyper-partisan politics is small compared to the broader responsibility we all have to defend our democratic republic.

As Mattis said, we can unite without him drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to fellow citizens to past generations that bled to defend our promise and to our children.

And that's your Reality Check.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks to John Avlon for that.

The Justice Department has filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a taxpayer-funded catholic adoption agency that is refusing to work with same sex prospective parents. The Justice Department argues that the City of Philadelphia is violating the Constitution. The city is trying to enforce its contract with Catholic Social Services, which requires the agency to treat prospective same sex adoptive parents the same as anyone else. The Trump administration, which is not part of the case, says that Philadelphia's requirement amounts to anti-religious discrimination.

All right, we have seen a shocking scene this morning of police pushing a 75-year-old man to the ground. That man in serious but stable condition. What does that say about policing? That's next.