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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Democrats Unveil Police Reform Bill; Houston Honors George Floyd; Police Reform Advocates Accuse Unions of Protecting Bad Cops; Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interviewed About the Sweeping Police.. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 8, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin with the national lead today.
Right now, the public memorial for the late George Floyd is under way in his hometown of Houston, Texas, with thousands expected to pay their respects.
It's now been two weeks since Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. That now former officer, Derek Chauvin, appeared before a judge a short time ago. It was his first hearing since being formally charged with second-degree murder.
And after a second straight weekend of demonstrations across the country, there is a new nationwide push, bipartisan, for police reforms, with House Democrats today unveiling sweeping new legislation, and, in Minneapolis, nine of the 13 City Council members announcing they intend to dismantle -- quote -- "policing as we know it" in the city and rebuilding a new model of public safety.
We're going to begin with CNN's Sara Sidner, who in Houston, where crowds of mourners are gathered to honor George Floyd in the third and final public memorial.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A somber homecoming for George Floyd in Houston, where the hearse carrying his casket arrived at the Floyd family church this morning for a public memorial attended by thousands.
Jennifer Edwards and her son live in Houston.
JENNIFER EDWARDS, HOUSTON RESIDENT: It's all about solidarity at this point. I feel like that could have been my son that's in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of scary, like, not being able to, Well, go outside and go places and not feel safe.
SIDNER: Presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden met privately today with the Floyd family. The family will have their final private service here tomorrow.
In Minneapolis, the first court appearance for fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is the officer that held his knee on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes, until Floyd died.
The judge set bail at up to $1.25 million. Over the weekend, from coast to coast, huge protests continued calling for racial justice and police reforms, including defunding police departments. In Minneapolis, the City Council approved a plan to start the process of dismantling the police department and rebuild a new model of public safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our commitment is to end our city's toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it.
SIDNER: But the mayor is not on board.
JACOB FREY (D), MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: I am for massive structural and transformational reform to an entire system that has not for generations worked for black and brown people. We have failed them. And we need to entirely reshape the system.
Am I for entirely abolishing the police department? No, I'm not.
SIDNER: Leaders across the country are already looking for new ways to repurpose some funds from law enforcement to other areas, like in New York City.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, NY: We're going to be able to take money out of that police force, put it into youth programs, and still, of course, keep New Yorkers safe. But this is preventative. This is proactive.
SIDNER: And, in Washington, D.C., where activists painted "Defund the police" near the Black Lives Matter street mural, the mayor said what's been submitted for police funding in her budget is what's needed. She avoided directly answering whether the addition to the mural would be removed.
MURIEL BOWSER (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: We recognize it as expression. And especially right now, acknowledging and affirming expression is important to this discussion that we have to have as a community.
SIDNER: Back here in Houston, you are looking inside of the church here, where people are paying their final respects, the public coming up one by one wearing their mask, each of them having to have their temperature taken and asked if they have had any symptoms of coronavirus, as they say goodbye to George Floyd.
Some of them knew George Floyd well. Others are strangers who have heard what George Floyd has done for this country. And I have just spoken to Sheila Jackson Lee, who is here about to pay her respects, and she put it succinctly: "This country has never fully dealt with racism and the problems between the black community and police. It's time now to do so" -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Sidner in Houston, thank you so much.
Moments ago, President Trump was meeting with state, federal and local law enforcement officials at the White House. Once again, he did not take any questions from reporters, as the president continues to push an aggressive -- quote -- "law and order" -- unquote -- response to the protests over George Florida's murder.
The president has in recent days retweeted conservatives attacking George Floyd, the dead man, as not a good person.
But, despite that and the president's history of racially incendiary, if not outright racist remarks, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports that officials in the White House are working on a plan for the president to address this nation this week on race and unity.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Following two days of nationwide protests, President Trump met with law enforcement today, as some aides are considering whether he should address the nation again.
BEN CARSON, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: I believe you're going to be hearing from the president this week on this topic in some detail.
COLLINS: Trump is still facing criticism for his last statement on the protest, and a new survey finds it may be hurting his standing with voters.
The president's approval rating slipped seven points in the last month, according to a new CNN poll, and 63 percent of adults disapprove of how he's handled race relations in the country; 65 percent say his response to the protest has done more harm than good.
The president once said all negative polls are fake news. And, today, he dismissed the new numbers by claiming: "CNN polls are as fake as their reporting."
But the new poll showed that Americans now believe that race relations is as big of a campaign as health care and the economy. In turn, Trump's campaign is focusing on activists who have advocated for defunding police departments, while Trump portrays himself as the law and order candidate.
Moments after the Trump campaign said Biden was endorsing defunding the police by staying silent, Biden's campaign said he does not believe the police should be defunded.
This comes as several of the president's top Cabinet officials have said they do not believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's racism in the United States still, but I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist.
CHAD WOLF, ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I do not think that we have a systemic racism problem with law enforcement officers across this country.
CARSON: That kind of thing is very uncommon now.
COLLINS: Today, the White House wouldn't say if the president believes there is systemic racism in law enforcement.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes most of our police officers are good, hardworking people. And there's a lot of evidence of that. And he has great faith in our police departments.
COLLINS: As he faces criticism for his own handling of the unrest across the country, the president mocked Utah Senator Mitt Romney for marching with Black Lives Matters protesters.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Finding a way to end violence and brutality and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.
COLLINS: Trump tweeted: "Tremendous sincerity. What a guy."
Besides his tweets, the president has kept a low profile in recent days and has declined to engage with the press at length in over a week, ignoring reporters' questions during his last appearance on Friday.
COLLINS: Now, Jake, you will remember that, when the president was talking about those NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem as a form of protest of police brutality, he not only said they shouldn't be doing that. He said they should be fired from their jobs.
Now, given that the NFL's, even, commissioner has apologized over how they handled that situation, I asked the White House press secretary today if the president still thinks those players should be fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Does he still believe that NFL players who kneel as a form of protest against police brutality should be fired?
MCENANY: The president is very much against kneeling in general. The president has made clear for years that kneeling is tied to our national anthem, that it does not respect our military men and women across this country. He's not a fan of the kneeling movement.
He's made that very clear, particularly because he thinks it's disrespectful to our military, as the kneeling originated at the kneeling during the national anthem. COLLINS: But does he think they should be fired?
MCENANY: I have no comments on that. He is against the kneeling movement, though.
COLLINS: So, you see there, Jake, not a yes-or-no answer on whether the president still maintains that position.
We should note, as he was just meeting with law enforcement here at the White House, as you noted, he also did not take questions there either.
TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much.
Today, House and Senate Democrats introduced a sweeping police reform bill, which includes a ban on choke holds nationwide. It limits military-style equipment given to officers, and it requires all federal uniformed police officers such as Border Patrol agents or Park Police to wear body cameras.
The bill does not -- quote, unquote -- "defund the police," which protesters and activists and even some members of Congress have been calling for, a potential fissure in the Democratic Party.
In the Senate, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and, in the House of Representatives, Jim Clyburn, Karen Bass, Hakeem Jeffries, and others, introduced the legislation after kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds, that, of course, the amount of time that police officer had his knee on George Floyd's neck, ultimately killing him.
CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill for us.
And, Manu, the bill would also create a national registry to track police misconduct. Why?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
The reason for that is, if one police officer were to engage in any misconduct, and he or she were to go to another jurisdiction, this database could track their pattern of behavior. Now, that is one aspect of this larger bill that includes a number of national standards, including, like you mentioned, banning the use of choke holds, also making it harder for -- making it easy for officers to get sued in civil court if someone's constitutional rights have allegedly been violated.
Now, this bill has more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors. The Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, in the House told me that he plans to have a vote in his committee as soon as next week, have a vote in the full House, the Democratic leaders are hoping for, the week after. But what it does not have is support of Republicans, no Republican co- sponsors as of yet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he was leaving the floor this afternoon, I asked him if he would support any national standards, including the banning of choke holds.
He did not answer that question. But when he was on the floor, he was sharply critical of this defund the police movement, saying: "I think you may actually want a police officer to stop a criminal and arrest him before we try to work through his feelings."
Now, Democrats, Jake, are not embracing this defund the police movement. At least they're not embracing the rhetoric or the slogan, the Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi.
I asked her about it today. She said that this is a local issue that needs to be debated in local jurisdictions. The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is a co-sponsor of this bill, told me that she is concerned that it could be a distraction to their larger efforts to reform the police.
So that is something they're trying to steer clear away from, that language, as they push this bill through the House, but Republican resistance is already forming to this bill -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.
As the former officer now charged with murder appears before a judge, I'm going to talk to the prosecutor from Baltimore's Freddie Gray case about the difficulty of prosecuting police officers.
Plus, coming up: the coronavirus pandemic hitting a new and frightening record, the most new infections recorded in a single day.
That's ahead as well. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Police reform advocates say that a major hurdle in bringing about the change being discussed is the influence and power of police unions often accused of protecting bad cops and fostering a culture of silence.
As CNN's Sara Murray reports, union supporters say police on the front lines are under siege and being targeted and need protection.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As protests across the country grow in the wake of George Floyd's death, elected officials under pressure to overhaul police tactics are pointing to a critical hurdle to reform -- police unions.
MAYOR JACOB FREY (D), MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Let me be very clear. We're going after the police union. We need to be able to have the culture shift.
MURRAY: In Minneapolis, where four officers were fired and charged in Floyd's death, the head of the police union is a vocal supporter of President Trump.
LT. BOB KROLL, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE UNION PRESIDENT: The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable.
MURRAY: Lieutenant Bob Kroll called protesters a terrorist movement and vowed to fight for the officer's jobs in a letter shared by the former Minneapolis police chief.
In Buffalo, New York, the mayor says the police union pressured 57 officers to quit a special emergency response team after two of their colleagues were suspended for pushing a 75-year-old protester.
MAYOR BYRON BROWN (D), BUFFALO, NY: The Buffalo Police Union is on the wrong side of history. They are wrong in this situation. They have been a barrier to further police reform.
MURRAY: Government officials and labor experts say contract provisions make it tough to remove bad cops and police departments nationwide. Contracts can limit officer interrogations and misconduct allegations, require the destruction of officer's disciplinary records and prevent superiors from considering those records in promotion or removal decisions.
JONATHAN SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS: The chief will say, you know, I was forced to promote this guy, and I know that the officer is problematic because three years ago, and falling right outside of the period protected in the contract, there were five incidents that really caused me heartburn. And that -- that is troubling given the awesome authority that police have over people's lives.
MURRAY: Officer discipline is often handled through arbitration where outside arbiters can overrule the police chief often in technicalities buried in the contracts, experts say.
KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need reform in the area of the police union to make sure that the chief can actually have disciplinary control over the force.
MURRAY: Police unions say they work to secure better pay and benefits for their officers and that they have a duty to defend their members. They're also politically powerful, using a war chest of membership dues to fund litigation, back political candidates and lobby against legislation that could put limits on policing.
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHINGTON D.C. POLICE CHIEF: They form political action committees. They donate to district attorney's race or state's attorney's race, state senators and representatives and so forth, and then we wonder why you can't get anything done?
(END VIDEOTAPE) MURRAY: Now, Jake, today, Jim Pasco, who's the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, which is the largest police union in the country, said they want to be a constructive part of this process. Pasco says we're talking with the White House, we're talking with Democrats, we're talking with Republicans, we're talking with activists. We'll talk to anybody that we feel is truly interested in making a difference.
Back to you.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray in Washington, thank you.
Joining us now, Marilyn Mosby. She is the state's attorney for the city of Baltimore. She prosecuted the six officers in the Freddie Gray case back in 2015. They were not ultimately convicted. They went back to the department.
Ms. Mosby, thanks so much for joining us.
First of all, I mean, we -- I just -- so people understand, you work with police. You rely on them more than you prosecute them, right? So you probably have a somewhat nuanced view of police and the role they play.
MARILYN MOSBY, PROSECUTED OFFICERS IN FREDDIE GRAY CASE: So, yes, you work hand in hand with the police department as a prosecutor. You know, we prosecute approximately 40,000 to 50,000 cases a year in Baltimore City. So that goes hand in hand.
However, your job as a prosecutor is to seek justice and it has to be one standard of justice for all regardless of your race, your sex, your religion or your occupation.
That's what happened in 2015 when an innocent 25-year-old black man by the name of Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. made eye contact with police, he was unconstitutionally arrested, placed in a metal wagon, head first, feet shackled, handcuffed, his spine partially severed in the back of that wagon and his pleas for medical attention were ignored. I followed the facts with the law and I applied one standard of justice to the police department.
TAPPER: And why is it so difficult to convict policemen for crimes that if I did them I would go to jail?
MOSBY: So I think it's incredibly difficult to hold police officers accountable. As was just suggested, you have a very powerful labor union that goes against you. You saw my colleague in Minneapolis that tried to deflect from his inaction and bring me into it and showcase the Freddie Gray convictions or lack thereof.
It comes with a level of intimidation. You know, you're harassed, you're intimidated, you're sued -- I was sued. You know, there's a number of issues that come along with the prosecuting police. But there are also a great deal of tangible reforms that can come about by doing your job and merely applying that one standard of justice.
A week after I charged those officers, the Department of Justice came in, exposed the discriminatory policing practices of the eighth largest police department of the country. That exposure ultimately led to reform. We now have a federally enforceable consent decree that even despite Trump, they tried to forestall, it's still on record.
But understand and recognize, with the tangible reforms, the use of force policies that emphasized the de-escalation and the sanctity of life, the affirmative of duty for officers to intervene --
TAPPER: I think we've lost her. We've lost. We're going to bring her back and finish this conversation when we can.
Our apologies to Marilyn Mosby. This is the risks of doing the show in the age of coronavirus.
President Trump is already slamming Democrats' new efforts to tackle police reform. Will any Republican support the legislation? I'm going to talk to one House Democrat next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We are watching protests right now under way in New York and Los Angeles, now two weeks to the day after the killing of George Floyd. Many protesters are calling for more accountability for law enforcement.
President Trump today leading the charge against the sweeping police reform measures introduced by Democrats today, tweeting, quote: Law and order, not defund and abolish the police. The radical left Democrats have gone crazy, unquote.
That, of course, is not descriptive at all of what House and Senate Democrats unveiled today. They are pushing policy proposals that do not defund or abolish police. They proposed a ban on chokeholds, training for police officers on racial bias, making it easier for citizens to sue police officers who they believe violated their constitutional rights and more.
Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.
Congresswoman, a pleasure to have you back.
More than 100 of your Democratic colleagues are co-sponsors of this bill. You are not, at least not yet. You have not said if you will support it. Is there anything in the bill that you're concerned about?
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): I mean, look, we got the bill this morning. It's over 100 pages, so I just have a rule they read everything before I support things. I have no reason to believe that I'm going to have a problem supporting it, but I do read, and that hopefully gives my constituents some comfort.
But, listen, I think -- I think we need to listen to what people are telling us in the way that they're marching on the streets, in the way that the leaders in the communities are coming forward and talking about this systemic issue.
So, I just -- I think it's like just about the perfect timing to be talking about something substantial that we're going to vote on this month.
TAPPER: OK. One of the big issues that a lot of critics of House Democrats have is that, obviously, you have the majority in the House. You can pass whatever you want, but Republicans control the Senate, and very often, Democrats in the House don't seem to communicate at all with Senate Republicans so that the legislation can actually head to the president's desk, getting through the Senate first.
Have you spoken to any of your Republican colleagues in the House or Senate about this legislation or legislation in general to approach this -- approach this issue of police reform?
SLOTKIN: Yeah. I actually have. I'm part of something called the Problem Solver's Caucus, so it's equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the House. And the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Karen Bass, came to one of our meetings and briefs us all on some of the ideas that are now contained in this piece of legislation, and I was really heartened to hear some of my Republican colleagues say, hey, we want to be on this bill. Can you include us in the conversation? We want to be able to vote on something.
That is how you know that things are really different and people are --