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Peaceful Protesters March for Justice in Cities Across the U.S.; Backlash After Trump's Show of Force in Nation's Capital; Trump Attacks Colin Powell in Tweets. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 7, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're following several major developments, protests continuing at this hour across the country for a 13th straight day. More than 110,000 dead here in the United States alone as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which continues and in the past three months alone President Trump -- in the past three months alone, I should say.

Meanwhile, President Trump remaining out of sight this weekend, except on Twitter. Former Republican secretary of State Colin Powell criticizing the president today for his response to the nationwide protests telling CNN's Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION" that President Trump lies and has drifted away from the U.S. Constitution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the president has drifted away from it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: General Powell going on to say he will be voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden this November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: I'm very close to Joe Biden in a social matter and on a political matter. I've worked with him for 35, 40 years, and he is now the candidate and I will be voting for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: As for Biden, he plans to travel to Houston, Texas, on Monday to meet privately with the family of George Floyd and offer his condolences. Floyd's funeral services is set to take place on Tuesday. His death at the hands of police launch widespread protests across the nation, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia joining other major cities today announcing the lifting of curfews, citing the peaceful nature of protests that continued throughout the weekend.

On Monday, President Trump is scheduled to participate in a round table with law enforcement over at the White House. Administration officials, meanwhile, are also deliberating, having the president address the nation this week on issues of race and unity.

And the iconic Michael Jordan giving an exclusive interview to the "Charlotte Observer" in which he says of the African-American community, I'm quoting now, "We have been beaten down for so many years, it sucks your soul, you can't accept it anymore. This is a tipping point. We need to make a stand. We've got to be better as a society regarding race."

Lots to cover. Let's begin our coverage in New York City right now where Mayor Bill de Blasio just lifted the city's curfew a day early. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is following the protest for us in New York City's Time Square right now.

Evan, you're walking with the protesters. Where are you heading? What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Yes, this protest is currently walking south on Broadway towards Soho. Protesters we're dealing with today were in Times Square. They were in Union Square. And this is another peaceful, civil disobedient protest. They're walking on the street. They're being civil disobedient but they are being peaceful. And it's a different tone to the protest today. A feeling that something is happening.

But there's a victory, maybe. At Union Square, the protesters kneeled down and referring to the changes to the police department promised by the mayor, Bill de Blasio, and new police reforms promised by the governor, Andrew Cuomo. A young man with a bullhorn stood in front of that kneeling crowd and said, we beat the NYPD, we won.

It's a different feeling today. A feeling that this is accomplishing something -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay in touch with you, Evan. Thank you very much. Evan McMorris-Santoro in New York City.

From New York, let's head to Washington, D.C., and you can see peaceful protesters marching down P Street right near Logan Circle right now. So less than a mile from the White House, I should point out. Our Pete Muntean is on the scene for us there.

Pete, what are you seeing?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Well, Wolf, this crowd has thinned here a little bit at the U.S. capital, but that does not make them any less determined. This group marched from the White House about an hour ago, nearly two miles, about 1,000 strong, maybe even more. The group has been relatively large and we know that it is not the only one.

I just want to show you, first, a bit of a scene over at the White House earlier today and what is the new Black Lives Matter Plaza. This has been a relatively large group. There, it was a bit more quiet, at least, for a moment. Protesters laid down after marching from Dupont Circle with their arms behind their back and softly chanted, I can't breathe, for eight minutes in honor of George Floyd.

We know that's not the only group here in Washington. Groups of evangelicals marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, not that long ago. Among them, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican, perhaps the most prominent Republican to take part in any one of these Black Lives Matter protests. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): End violence and brutality, and to make sure the people understand that black lives matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:05:04]

MUNTEAN: The capitol steps are a key part of this protest today. The Senate is in session tomorrow. We know that the House is meeting remotely and protesters I've been talking to say these protests will persist until there is meaningful reform and that should come from the legislature they say -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Crowds gathering clearly here in the nation's capital as well. Pete Muntean, thanks very much. Very interesting about Senator Romney as well.

For more now on the Trump administration's response to the protest here in the nation's capital and cities around the country, I want to bring the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. And as you know, we have lots to discuss, but a number of former U.S. Military officials, including some former members of the Trump administration, came out this week and severely criticized President Trump and his suggestion to use active duty military personnel to help quell the protests.

Earlier today on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," the former Secretary of State General Colin Powell added his voice to a group that already includes former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the president's former chief of staff, John Kelly, retired general John Allen, among others. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: Look at what he has done to divide us. Forget immigrants, let's put up a fence in Mexico. Forget this, let's do this. He is insulting us throughout the world. He is being offensive to our allies. He is not taking into account what our foreign policy is and how it's been affected by his actions. So yes, I agree with Allen, I agree with all of my former colleagues. And remember, I've been out of the military now for 25 years. And so I'm watching them closely because they were all but junior officers when I left. And I'm proud of what they were doing. I'm proud that they were willing to take the risk of speaking honesty and speaking truth to those who are not speaking the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Secretary, these are all former, these are retired U.S. generals and admirals. Let me give you a chance to respond to General Powell.

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DEPUTY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, first of all, it misses the point about what's going on here. The Insurrection Act, which is what he's referring to being invoked, has been used 20 different times since it was drafted and the president made it very clear that within the Constitution under that law, he has the authority, if needed, where governors or mayors or local officials won't protect law-abiding American citizens to use that act.

Thankfully, to this point, we haven't reached the point of needing that additional force. However, it is well within the president's prerogative and fits with his first priority of keeping America and Americans safe to keep that as an option. And he made it very clear, it was an option on the table. As we've seen, Wolf, it hasn't been used to this point, and hopefully consistent with the reporting you just ran through, we're seeing a more directed -- maybe a direction of these protests that is much more purely peaceful and there isn't a need for as much law enforcement for protection and so forth.

So we wouldn't need to go beyond that point. But part of the reason we're there is because the president was frankly strong on this subject, and as I heard the director of the FBI say at one point, where we were forward leaning in our police presence, responsibly executed, of course, we saw violence decline and where that didn't happen, you saw violence persist. So there is a formula here. It's not rocket science.

And thankfully, we've reached a point thus far where that level of force that General Powell is complaining about the possibility of being utilized hasn't been necessary.

BLITZER: You're referring to the Insurrection Act of 1807. And I want you to listen to what the president said earlier in the week, specifically on this, and what his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said because we got two very different perspectives on whether active duty U.S. military troops should be on the streets of America. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States Military and quickly solve the problem for them.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so who do you believe is right, Mr. Secretary?

CUCCINELLI: Well, actually, those two things aren't in conflict. As I noted in my earlier comments, Wolf, that the president has not deemed us to have reached a point where any particular place is so out of control that the Insurrection Act needs to be invoked.

[19:10:09]

Secretary Esper noted the high bar for the invocation of the Insurrection Act. That high bar has been respected by President Trump, but he has continued to say it is an option and he is legally and constitutionally, absolutely correct and that will be used if it becomes necessary, if we were to reach that threshold of violence. As I said earlier, thankfully, it looks like peace is being restored across our country, slowly but surely, and that we aren't likely to come to that point.

BLITZER: Well, I will point out that some actively duty military personnel were put on standby duty in case the president gave that order. But let's move on and talk about what House Democrats are planning to do tomorrow. They've got a sweeping police reform bill and I want to get your response to various specifics.

CNN has learned it will include reforms that make it easier to sue police, for example, for bad behavior, establish a national police misconduct registry so that fired officers can't get simply a job elsewhere, and ban chokeholds among other reforms. So what do you think of those recommendations?

CUCCINELLI: I think these sorts of recommendations are well worth a discussion. I was a state attorney general, as you know, Wolf, and worked closely with police before that in my prior capacities and, you know, this is always an area where we have to look at how can we improve? It is -- it hasn't -- I don't want to say a double negative. It's gotten a lot of attention long before last week and the tragic murder, let's call it what it is, of George Floyd by that police officer in Minneapolis.

I would note that if you look back over the last 10 or 15 years, you can see a lot of changes to how policing has taken place that have brought down the level of force used in various circumstances, whether it be with people who are mentally ill, whether it be with crowds like we saw here. And so long as that's all done intelligently and thoughtfully, I think that's an outstanding discussion to have.

It's very important that those discussions take place at the state and local level because for 99 percent of law enforcement in this country, you're well over 90 percent, I don't know the exact number, they are state and local officers. And the state and local governments control the training and the deployment and the accountability of those officers. The first charges filed against the officer in Minneapolis, appropriately, were state charges.

The FBI, as the president ordered them to accelerate their review, and I don't know about that investigation, but the logical charges from the federal level would be civil rights charges. And that takes longer to investigate.

BLITZER: It does. I --

CUCCINELLI: So always important to --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Yes. You were the attorney general in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Do you believe, Mr. Secretary, there is systemic racism in American police forces?

CUCCINELLI: No, there's not. There are individuals who are racists, there's a small number. And I would actually suggest, and look, from Virginia as attorney general, part of what I spent some of my time doing was dealing with the consequences of a state that did have that as a problem in the past, and we've worked our way out of that as a systemic matter. That does not mean that you don't still have problems and that you still have to be vigilant.

However, as a simple matter of pure numbers, I would suggest that a bigger problem that can be filtered and trained for is simply bullying. If you listen to the audio and the video of the police officer on Mr. Floyd's back, you listen to the banter. That was not professional. That was not respectful. Even if nothing bad had come out of it for Mr. Floyd, instead of the tragedy that happened, how does someone with that attitude stay in a police force that long?

That's a broader problem that captures the racists and captures other problems as well. And I would suggest that since we do not have a systemic racism problem in our policing in this country, that we should challenge that attitude when we find it among officers and it should be worked into the training to work it out. It is a very tough balancing act that law enforcement will have to conduct every day.

BLITZER: Very quickly because I know we have to run. But if George Floyd had been white, would he be alive today?

[19:15:02]

CUCCINELLI: No, I don't think he would. I think that the behavior by that officer -- we'll learn more as the FBI investigation goes on in civil rights, if there's something special about this guy in terms of racism. But I think that the behavior conducted there, George Floyd of course is an African-American who perished under the knee of Officer Chauvin, but what I heard in that 8 1/2-minute clip was someone who was a bully, who was abusing his position of authority and power in the law, and I have a funny feeling, I don't know anything about his professional history, but I have a feeling we're going to find that he wasn't necessarily that well thought of as a role model among law enforcement through the time of his career, and to say the least. And -- BLITZER: I assume you agree, Mr. Secretary, the other police officers

who were watching all of this or even participating in this should have stopped him?

CUCCINELLI: Absolutely. And, you know, why they didn't is going to be a very important question for all of us who deal with law enforcement and legislation. The Department of Homeland Security is the largest collection of law enforcement officers in America. We were the first to lose an officer, Officer Underwood, in the reaction to Mr. Floyd's murder.

We had an assassination of Mr. Underwood who also is African-American while he was defending a building and dealing with a protest out in Oakland. So, you know, we're trying to do this in a balanced way while keeping peace across the country.

BLITZER: Ken Cuccinelli is the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

CUCCINELLI: Pleasure to be with you, Wolf. Have a good night.

BLITZER: Thank you.

More Republicans, meanwhile, are speaking out right now against President Trump, including several former Defense officials criticizing his threat to use military force against protesters. One of them, the former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, he's standing by live. We'll discuss right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:21:13]

BLITZER: Looking at some live pictures coming in from Los Angeles. That's a car caravan. A lot of cars on the streets of L.A. right now. They're protesting from their vehicles, presumably, because of fears of coronavirus out there, still very much alive right now. So all of these cars, they're moving on the streets of Los Angeles right now. You can hear them beeping and they've got their signs. There are clearly a lot of angry folks not only in L.A., but all over the country. And we're going to continue to watch this car caravan in L.A.

Meanwhile, when Colin Powell endorsed Joe Biden for president earlier today right here on CNN, he clearly hit a nerve, a very sensitive nerve with President Trump. The president immediately took to Twitter and in a series of tweets called the former Republican secretary of State and retired four-star general, in the president's words, a real stiff.

Here's more of that interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that got the president striking out against General Powell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: We are at a turning point. I mean, the Republican Party, the president thought they were so immune. They could say anything they wanted. And even more troubling, the Congress would just sit there and not in any way resist what the president is doing. And the one word I have to use with respect to what he's been doing for the last several years is a word I would never have used before, I never would have used with any of the four presidents I've worked for. He lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss with the former secretary of Defense under President Clinton, William Cohen, former Republican senator from Maine as well.

Mr. Secretary, what's your reaction when you heard that truly stunning rebuke of the president from General Powell?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I thought he was speaking the truth just as Jim Mattis was speaking the truth, just as General Allen, Admiral Stavridis, Admiral McRaven, all of them, Admiral Mullen, have all been speaking the truth about what is taking place in this country under President Trump's leadership. So it did not surprise me, but I'm delighted to see so many former ranking, high- ranking generals coming out and admirals speaking about what this country stands for and what it doesn't. So I welcome the general's comments and all those who have spoken out.

BLITZER: Secretary Powell also called out Republican lawmakers who he says have failed to speak out against the president's recent behavior.

Do you share in the secretary's disappointment with your own party?

COHEN: I do. I think we've been witnessing the silence of the lambs. The members of the Senate, especially the Republicans, have remained virtually silent every time President Trump does something that is outrageous, that is insulting, that is demeaning.

I go back to the whole list and the reason I came out opposed to him during the last election was because he tried to denigrate John McCain for almost six years as a person of war, beaten almost every day. He denigrated a Gold Star family. He mimicked and mocked a handicap reporter. He called Colin Kaepernick a son of a bitch and said he should be thrown off out of football all together. He called four women of color who are members of Congress, he said that they were unpatriotic and probably should go back to their own countries. Well, three of them were born here, and one is a naturalized citizen, all were elected.

So this is a systematic thing that we're seeing as far as the president is concerned by denigrating, criticizing and trying to demean. As a matter of fact he said that Secretary Mattis or General Mattis was overqualified. I'm not -- he was given too much credit. He was underwhelming as a general. Yes, that's like saying that LeBron James is overrated or Steph Curry, or any of the other great athletes, including Michael Jordan.

[19:25:08]

Jim Mattis is not overrated. He earned every stripe that he has, every star that he had, and everything he suffered during so many years of battle. So the things which set men and women off. This is why the generals are speaking out and normally they wouldn't do this because they want to maintain respect for certainly the office of the president, but also for the military so the military is never perceived as being political.

And in my judgment, what the president has been doing, he's been trying to politicize the military time after time, intervening in a process of the military justice. Making sure that the McCain ship was not in site of his visit to Japan. Having them wear MAGA hats, et cetera. I think what he is doing is trying to send the message that this is his military and he will fire anyone in the chain of command that at all criticizes him or disagrees with him and simply replaces them with yes men.

Firing all of the independent inspector generals.

BLITZER: Yes.

COHEN: Where is Congress in all of this? Congress has a role to play and they're simply sitting on the sidelines. And so silence is complicity. They're either acting or failing to act out of fear or complicity. And --

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, Mr. Secretary, some live pictures of protesters in Chicago right now. These protesters now clearly continuing all over the country. The acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, I just spoke with him, as you heard, earlier he urged governors to bring in the National Guard in order to restore order to the streets.

Do you believe that approach is necessary or only perpetuating the unrest we're seeing?

COHEN: I think it's up to the governors and the local mayors to make that decision in terms of whether they have control over the local situation. But basically it's far better to work with the community, to establish relations with the community, not to be seen as an occupying force. I think also Coach Greg Popovich, he and Steve Kerr have been in the forefront of saying that basically it's a white problem.

It's one thing to see black people who've absorbed 100 percent of the burden of being black in America, while all the white people have been silent. Democrats as well as Republicans. And so the burden is on us to step forward and say this should not be the case. We're all Americans regardless of color, regardless of religion, regardless of ethnicity. And so white people have to step up. And so it was really encouraging to see so many white people on the streets, young and old, to say this is an America that we believe in, where the justice is equal.

It's not law and order alone. You can't have law and order and not have the justice. Then you're turning into a -- something of a police state. In fact, when I saw the effort being made in Lafayette Square, I thought I might have been in Moscow or Soweto or in Pyongyang. Those were the perception of armed police and uniformed officers going, and some of them not even wearing badges.

And what does that tell you? That's like the little green men in Moscow who invaded Crimea without any patch identifying them as Russian soldiers. So I think that was a very dangerous move that was made all for the purpose of having a photo-op. And if there's anything that is more I think sending a signal that this is law and order but no justice, it was that that was taking place. So I commend the people who are out there right now protesting peacefully.

I think we should condemn the violence, we should arrest them, we should prosecute them, but don't lose sight of what the cause of this is. And it is systematic or systemic racism through many if not all of our institutions, where we red line people into narrow confines, where we gerrymander them, where we deny them opportunity, access to health care, access to education and then we blame them when they have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to the coronavirus.

So we've got a lot to do and it means white society, white members of this society have an obligation to step up and say, are we willing to measure up to the ideal that is we proudly pound our chest on, that we're number one in democracy? Well, if democracy is only for a few and not for all, then it's really not a democracy.

BLITZER: Secretary Cohen, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all your service to our country over these years as well. We appreciate it very much.

Coming up, CNN is learning the White House wanted to have 10,000 active duty U.S. military personnel on the ground to crack down on protesters this week.

[19:30:00]

We'll hear reaction from a Republican Congressman who has served as a member of the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Trump trying to downplay the size of those massive crowds we've been seeing in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. He announced his decision, by the way, to withdraw National Guard troops from the Nation's Capital.

He says it's because -- and I'm quoting now, "Everything is under perfect control. Far fewer protests showed up last night." But is it something he should have done to begin with? Let's discuss with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He is an Illinois Republican. He is joining us now live.

[19:35:11]

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks so much for joining us and I want our viewers to know, you joined -- you've served in the U.S. Military in Iraq, and Afghanistan. You're still a very active member of the Air National Guard, I understand you were just deployed last week. But do you agree with people, for example, like Republican Senator Tom

Cotton who says the military should be put in the streets at this delicate moment?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): No, I don't. And, you know, the military wasn't put in the street when it's the National Guard. It's the National Guard's role. And I think the National Guard is largely misunderstood in this conversation.

Their job right now is to augment and reinforce law enforcement. Anything the National Guard does is at the direction of law enforcement.

Active duty military, you know, that I think is something that should only be on the table if there's a threat of an overthrow of the government. If a governor, for instance, says I don't have enough forces to be able to do what needs to be done, not just unilaterally, the Federal government putting these troops in short of, again, a real threat to a state or to a Federal survival.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what the 1807 Insurrection Act is all about. If there's an insurrection, if there is a real threat to the United States government.

What's your reaction, though, Congressman to the CNN reporting that at one point, the President actually wanted 10,000 active duty troops deployed to the streets of D.C. to quell all of the protests, including some of the violence that was going on?

KINZINGER: Yes, well, I'm glad it didn't happen. It seemed like the system of, you know, the Secretary of Defense and advisers worked. They did suggest, let's use the National Guard, which is appropriate, by the way.

You have to think of where we were at that moment. I mean, we had pharmacies basically being looted, stores being destroyed and burned. There was a charge against the White House where you had to have Secret Service repel that and there was a lot of concern.

But there is no doubt that 10,000 Federal troops wouldn't have been the right answer on that. But I do think the National Guard was.

Any place we've seen where the National Guard -- by the way, it's not a partisan thing because mostly Democratic governors have called in the National Guard in their states. Where the National Guard has come in, there's been calm.

Is it intimidating to see MRAPs and men in BDUs, yes, that's kind of the point, though, it's meant to be a distraction from robbing and looting stores and allowing for space for peaceful protest.

BLITZER: As you know, in recent days, a group of former Defense officials have openly criticized the President's response to the protests. We're talking about James Mattis, John Kelly, Mike Mullen, among many. Do you basically agree with their points of view? KINZINGER: Well, not necessarily. Look, I think the President says a

lot of stuff he shouldn't say. I wish Twitter didn't exist, first of, at all, but I certainly wish he didn't have a Twitter account.

But I think -- you know, I read this letter today where the Defense officials were saying that, you know, the President said he wants all the governors to basically squash the protests. The President hasn't said that. At least, I haven't heard him say there shouldn't be protests where his concern is, where mine is too, and frankly, where every American's should be as well, is the violence that I think detracted from the beautiful message of this is something as a nation we have to pay attention to.

So, you know, I think it's kind of -- for some us, the straw that broke the camel's back because, you know, it's been three and a half years of tweets that some of us get tired of, but I don't necessarily agree with them and their final conclusion on that.

BLITZER: As you know, House Democrats will unveil several sweeping police reform legislation details. You've seen some of those details already emerging. Is this something you think you could support?

KINZINGER: Well, the devil is totally in the details on this. If it's training, you know, training about how to treat people equally better, you know, screening of police officers to see if there's an issue there. That's something in theory I could get on.

If it's defunding the police like I've been hearing, no, absolutely not. I mean, that's a short sight and I don't think anybody is actually taking that seriously, but -- and turn to real police reform, sure.

BLITZER: By the way, defunding the police is not in that reform bill.

KINZINGER: Yes, good. And so I'll have to take a look at what it is. If it's a political document that's being put in front of us and not a serious attempt, I'll be sad because I think we have a real moment here and this is what the protests have shown us.

There's all of this talk about systemic racism in the country. The reality is, I'm seeing a lot of young white people out on the street saying, we've had enough of this and I think that's a good thing and that's something we ought to celebrate that this country is recognizing an issue and we're going to stand up and deal with it.

BLITZER: But do you agree there is systemic racism at least among some police departments?

KINZINGER: I think -- well, yes, I'm sure, yes, among some police departments. But when you talk about systemic, it means that it's basically as what I understand it, baked into laws. It's baked into treating people differently in courts. To the extent that that happens, sure.

But I think we have to celebrate the fact that this country has come a long way even though we have more to go, because once I think we start fighting and getting in our corners, no reform is going to be made and that's what my concern is.

[19:40:25]

KINZINGER: Look, as a white man, I have to understand that, you know, black -- especially young black men, when they walk down the street, they have a fear that I've never felt before, and I think when we can all see the world through each other's eyes, we can come further on this.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

KINZINGER: Of course. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Be safe out there. We will stay in close touch.

Coming up, demanding change in the city where George Floyd died. Members of the Minneapolis City Council right now announcing their intent to dismantle the Police Department. What could that mean for the community? We are about to get reaction.

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[19:45:07]

BLITZER: New tonight, members of the Minneapolis City Council have just announced they want to disband the city's Police Department and instead invest in community-led public safety in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Joining us now to discuss, the former D.C. Police Chief, the former Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Charles Ramsey. Back in 2014, President Obama tapped him to lead a Taskforce on 21st Century Policing.

Also with us from Minneapolis, our security correspondent, Josh Campbell. First of all, Josh, give us the latest from the City Council. What are they proposing?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We know there are multiple investigations underway into the actions of these officers after that incident that resulted in the death of George Floyd. But the City Council here, not waiting for the results of those investigations before they start moving forward with reform.

Now, I just spoke a little while ago, about an hour and a half ago to the City Council President here, Lisa Bender, who told me that she now has a veto-proof majority to move forward with new regulations that would largely dismantle and disband the city's Police Department and in her words, replace it with a new public safety model.

Now, it's important to note that we don't have specifics yet, Wolf, about what that would look like. She told me that they now want to listen to members of the community to get a sense of what they want.

I also asked her if she is in favor of just abolishing all law enforcement and she said that's not the goal, but it is, Wolf, to create some new model here yet to be seen what that is, she said that they continue to listen to the community and obviously, they'll have to move forward and with the Mayor's support as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of details we don't know. Chief Ramsey, what do you think? What's your reaction?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, not having read anything and knowing the specifics, it's hard to really say anything. It seems a bit extreme to me. But I need to read the proposal.

I mean, what is it that they plan to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with? How will that operate? Will they have -- will they be armed? Will they have powers of arrest? I mean, all of those kinds of things, the training -- I mean, that's not easy to do.

So it will be interesting to see exactly what it is that they come up with. But right now, it just -- I think you can fix something without necessarily just totally getting rid of it. But that's just my opinion.

Minneapolis, of course, will do whatever they choose to do. But I think it needs to be very carefully thought through before they decide to do this.

BLITZER: What? Because you believe that communities need a police department, Chief Ramsey, and the notion of defunding police departments, you oppose that?

RAMSEY: Well, you know, criminals don't go on holiday. And you still have crime and disorder, 911 calls, all kinds of things going on. And that's why I think it's important that we carefully think this through because it's the public that will suffer should this not work out.

Now, granted, the Minneapolis Police Department seriously needs reform, I'm certainly not saying that it doesn't, it clearly does. But throwing the baby out with the bath water, if you will, I don't know if that's the solution.

But, again, I need to see the proposal first or the specifics before I can even say that this makes sense.

Right now, it doesn't to me. But that doesn't mean that it wouldn't if I had access to more information.

BLITZER: I know you support reforms, but not completely disbanding the Police Department or stopping funding for police departments.

RAMSEY: Yes.

BLITZER: What's it like now, Josh, in Minneapolis? Right now, we are still seeing protests there. We are showing our viewers large crowds have gathered and they're marching in Chicago. These are live pictures coming in right now.

CAMPBELL: Yes, Wolf, we're continuing to see protests here. We just left a large group. Again, they were demonstrating in support of policing reform. So, they want to see the Police Department revamped, but they also want to see justice, Wolf, in the case of George Floyd.

And I can tell you, behind me in this jail, tomorrow will be the first appearance for the officer that's at the center of this controversy, Derek Chauvin. He will be appearing via video link to a judge in the courtroom behind me.

We know, Wolf that the defense strategy for two of those officers has been to point to Chauvin as the senior officer, as a person that is responsible. We are waiting to see what his defense strategy will be, Wolf, and more importantly or just as important, we are awaiting to see what members of the community think about that strategy and what comes next in this case, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you and our team in Minneapolis will keep us up to speed. Josh Campbell, thank you. Chief Ramsey, as usual, thanks to you as well.

We have a quick programming note for our viewers, "Unconscious Bias," what is it and how does it affect us? Join Fredricka Whitfield for a special conversation, "Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism." That will air live later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

We're also continuing to monitor protestors across the country. This hour, they're marching for justice.

At the same time -- get this -- we're keeping our eye on tropical storm Cristobal as it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast. We'll take you live to New Orleans when we come back.

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BLITZER: Mixed to all of this, we are now following breaking news from along the Gulf Coast where tropical storm Cristobal has just made landfall in Louisiana. Let's go to our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam. He is in New Orleans tracking the storm for us.

So, what's the latest?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good evening, Wolf. We are on an eerily quiet Canal Street in downtown New Orleans, and maybe a sign of the times, let's say, because this tropical storm is painted under the backdrop of several national emergencies that are taking place across the country, namely, COVID and the ongoing protests.

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VAN DAM: Now, we have had some of these businesses which are susceptible to flooding because of the ancient structure of the sewage and drainage system within New Orleans, they have boarded up. It's not clear whether or not that was because of the protests that happened this weekend, but you can also see some of the sandbags that they have put in place right at the doors and windows to ensure that their businesses and their most prized possessions are not impacted by rain water. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Derek, we're going to check back with you throughout the night. Thank you very, very much. We'll watch what's happening.

Meanwhile, it's been a weekend of peaceful protests across the country. Take a look at some live picture this is hour coming in from Chicago where protesters are marching towards Wrigley Field. We'll update you, when we come become.

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