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Protesters Marching To White House Over George Floyd's Death; County Prosecutor: "I Anticipate Charges" For Other Officers; Republicans Abandoning Trump?; Growing Calls For Action Against Police. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 8, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can always tweet @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, as outrage grows over George Floyd's death and policing tactics across the U.S., more cities are taking extreme measures. Is disbanding the police an answer?

Plus, contradicting Trump. The Attorney General on why the President was in a bunker as protests intensified outside the White House and the truth was that it wasn't to inspect the bunker as Trump has claimed.

And are Republicans abandoning Trump? One Republican says the President is on 'thin ice'. He's my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, dividing a nation as protesters take to the streets for a 14th straight day. There now growing calls for action against police. Calls to defund or completely disband police departments across the country. The most extreme example Minneapolis, the epicenter of the outrage, of course, over the death of George Floyd two weeks ago today.

The city council now announcing veto proof plans to dismantle, that's the word, the formal word, its police force. And other major cities are taking action, Los Angeles' Mayor wants to shift $150 million from police budget to disenfranchised communities. New York is pledging to cut funds from the NYPD and give them to social programs instead. And tonight, the President seizing on these calls and trying to turn it into an election year issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There won't be defunding. There won't dismantling of our police and there are not going to be any disbanding of our police.


BURNETT: All of this tension leading to more protests on the streets tonight. Shimon Prokupecz is OUTFRONT live in New York City as we see there amidst the protesters. Shimon, what's happening. Who's there? What's going on?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: And, of course, Erin, the chance of defund the police can be heard throughout this crowd several times here tonight. We're now on the east side of Manhattan 48th Street and 3rd Avenue. This March set off from Washington Square Park, where several of the organizers of this march spoke about how there is momentum, how they need to keep going and that momentum is on their side that the world is watching.

There are about 2,000 people here marching now. The destination according to the organizers is Gracie Mansion. The Mayor's home. Several times, the marchers here, the protesters have sat down, taking a moment of silence. They have read the names of the people who have died at the hands of police. Of course, Erin, as you know there is no curfew any longer in New York City.

So this can go on, I want to note that it's pretty remarkable, the police have allowed the protesters to just march. There are no police around them. There are no police ahead of them. There are no police behind them. A very different stance from what we have seen from the NYPD and the marcher say they continue and they intend to keep on going basically through the night, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Shimon. So we watched that and as you've heard that chant, he said, defund the police.

Tonight, thousands have been paying their respects to George Floyd. There was a public viewing at a church in Floyd's hometown of Houston. Today was two weeks. Mark two weeks since Floyd's death, as Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice over): As George Floyd's body arrives at the fountain of praise church in his hometown of Houston, Texas, it was the public's last chance to say goodbye. Former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden visited with the Floyd family privately for over an hour according to the family attorney.

It was two weeks ago to the day, this single cell phone video led to protests around the country and the world over more than just Floyd's death.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R) TEXAS: This is the most horrific tragedy I've ever personally observed that George Floyd is going to change the arc of the future of the United States. George Floyd has not died in vain.

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE: It's not about whether he was perfect soul not, it's about how he died and he died unjustly. And God uses us in ways we could have never imagined at birth I think he's going to use him to change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JIMENEZ (voice over): In Minneapolis, a majority and the city council

is committing to defunding and dismantling the city's police in favor of more community based public safety. A pledge that City Council President Lisa bender says means acknowledging the current system isn't working.


LISA BENDER, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: What it would feel like to already live in that reality, where calling the police may mean more harms done.


JIMENEZ (voice over): But not everyone is entirely on board, including the Mayor.



MAYOR JACOB FREY (D) MINNEAPOLIS: We need a full on cultural shift in our Minneapolis police department and departments throughout the country function. Am I for entirely abolishing the police department? No, I'm not. It's a debate now playing out in places across the country, including in New York City where Mayor Bill de Blasio now says they will be shifting some funding from the NYPD to youth and social services.

Back in Houston, a family and those that knew Floyd best continue to mourn.


JIMENEZ: Now, we're supposed to be at the end of the public viewing period today, but people are still lining up as they have in some cases by the busload throughout the entire day. Now, tomorrow is when we are going to see the actual funeral for Floyd and whether you speak to protesters, family or even more - they don't look at the burial as the end of Floyd instead, they look at it as almost the beginning of a legacy we are now seeing play out and the pushes for long term change. Floyd is set to be buried next to his mother, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Omar, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Minneapolis City Councilman, Steve Fletcher, who is at the forefront of the push to dismantle the police department. So Councilman Fletcher now the whole country wants to know exactly, we hear the disband the police chants right here in New York City with protesters tonight. So when you say dismantling the police department, what exactly do you mean?

STEVE FLETCHER, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER, WARD 3: We mean ending this department as it currently exists. We don't think that this department is reformable and it's time to make a real change. BURNETT: So I know you've talked a little bit about what you want to

do, that mental health professionals, for example, would be taking mental health calls, EMTs would respond to opioid overdose calls as opposed to police. Cameras could be used for much of your traffic enforcement.

Today, the Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo was asked about your idea. He told CNN that disbanding a police department in his words invitation to chaos. What do you say to him and to others who may share that view?

FLETCHER: So first of all, that starts from the assumption that we're in a state of safety and stability today and that is not our experience of the Minneapolis police department. And Omar Jimenez, obviously, saw that firsthand and I hope that he'll not form a permanent impression of our city based on the way he was treated, because I think that we have not put our best foot forward in the last couple of weeks and a lot of people have come around to really viewing safety as something different from police.

It used to be that when people wanted safety, they would ask for more police. And more and more, those concepts are separating in my constituents' minds.

BURNETT: So today, the House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, he urged Democrats on a private caucus call to steer clear of talking about defunding the police and he warned it, and this is his word, hijack. He said it could hijack their efforts on police reform. Are you concerned you could handing a victory to President Trump and Republicans?

FLETCHER: I think that the only way people really decide how they want to vote and how they want to exercise their rights in a democracy is by looking at people behaving with conviction, behaving passionately and doing what's right. And what we know at the local level is what's right for us at the local level.

The politics that I am concerned about is the safety of the people of Minneapolis and then if that turns out to not be politically convenient, that is how this is going to work. But it is our job to act courageously. It is our job to act decisively and to make a safer city for Minneapolis.

BURNETT: So Steve, what would happen in the case of domestic abuse or child abuse, I mean, is there any role for police, whether you're any of the ones who currently work for the department or you get rid of all of them and rehire them. I mean, is there any role for someone who can come in use force on occasion or have a weapon in your vision here?

FLETCHER: So much less often than what we do now? I think we need to have a conversation, which is something we've never been able to do. In my lifetime, it's always been taken for granted that police officers with guns and with the threat of force are going to be used to solve any number of problems and we get the chance to step back and ask our community, what really makes you feel safe, what actually is going to increase your sense of safety.

And what we know is, for example, in domestic violence, most of those situations could be resolved peacefully and could be resolved by someone with conflict resolution and outreach skills that would be actually de escalatory instead of when an officer comes in and the threat of arrest is on the table and everybody's worrying about the stakes of what will happen if my partner who I'm going to fight with gets arrested, you start to see not very effective resolutions.

So We're not starting from a place of a system that works well and trying to replace it. We're starting from a place where we think we can do a lot better than the current system.


So I want to ask you, someone in your community, Chris Montana (ph). He owns a distillery in Minneapolis. It was set on fire damaged in the riots. And we reached out back to him today, we asked what he thought about this. He said, "I just hope it's being done in a thoughtful way that by defunding the police, we don't create a vacuum where the rioting can happen again. The police let our city burn once, we don't need to remove them entirely so it can happen again."

What do you say to that? That sense that he's not trying to excuse them, right? I mean, he fully acknowledging what happened, but also seeing them as providing safety for personal property.

FLETCHER: Yes. I think that we have to make sure that we're taking responsibility for everyone's safety and I think that that takes a lot of different forms. And we are not going to proceed without having an answer to the question who's answering your 911 call on this date.

The thing that's been scary is that when MPD really abandoned the community, as you heard Chris say, during these very challenging times, that was the first time that I've ever felt like people really can't get through the 911.

People were calling me all night long several nights in a row asking if I could help get them through to help. And I should definitely not be the 911 responder. We actually do have to have answers to how are we responding to these calls. I just think we can respond to them very differently and with much better and more compassionate resources than what we currently do.

BURNETT: All right. Steve Fletcher, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

FLETCHER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And I want to go now to the former Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and it's always good to see you, Mayor. So what do you think? I mean, Steve's laying that out for Minneapolis, but these are growing calls across the country. In New York at this moment, people are out protesting, chanting defund the police, other saying dismantle, what do you say to all of this? STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: So I certainly am

not going to substitute my judgment for Steve's. He clearly knows his constituents and knows his city and in his police department. It has not been my experience in communities across Baltimore and I served as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I've talked to mayors all across the country.

People aren't asking for less police. They're asking for better police. And the notion that he said it's about listening and trying to figure out a better way to respond or create safe communities, that is a worthwhile conversation. I think making this litmus test of whether you defund or dismantle the police or not. I think that is a little dangerous.

And, of course, there's the risk that it becomes just that. I mean, I know you support Joe Biden, Mayor. He said today he does not support defunding police departments. But, of course, President Trump is already seizing on it. He posted a whole flurry of tweets as he is off to do and he said this today.


TRUMP: There won't be defunding. There won't be dismantling of our police and they're not going to be any disbanding of our police. Our police have been letting us live in peace.


BURNETT: Are you concerned about this as an issue for Joe Biden where it gets put in a corner where it's sort of you're for the protesters or you're for police, that this gets shaped in such a way that it becomes very difficult for him?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I'm very concerned that the - I understand the anger, the frustration, the rage, that many of the protesters even the peaceful protesters have, but in these heightened emotional times, I certainly am not willing to cede any room to our current president who needs to be removed from office or, I mean, not reelected in order for us to have a more perfect union since he is certainly not interested in any unification at all.

So I'm saying that to say by continuing to say defund dismantle, we are giving Trump talking points. We are feeding his base. We all know that we can do better when it comes to policing and I think that it's a missed opportunity not to figure out what better looks like together and a path forward rather than to, again, have this litmus test of you're either for us or against us when it comes to dismantling the police departments across the country.

BURNETT: All right. Mayor Rawlings-Blake, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.


BURNETT: And next, the police officer who had his knee on George Floyd's neck makes his first court appearance. As a defense attorney for one of the other three officers charged reveals a strategy.


EARL GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR THOMAS LANE: He did not stand by. He says to Chauvin, "Well, shall we roll him over because he says he can't breathe." Chauvin says, "No."


BURNETT: Plus, the White House says the President has no regrets using tear gas and rubber bullets to remove peaceful protesters.

Plus, as more Americans head outdoors, 22 States now seeing a jump in coronavirus cases. Where are the biggest spikes?



BURNETT: Breaking news, this is Los Angeles and these are the live pictures of the protests there. It comes as Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd, made his first court appearance. Now, it was via video conference.

Chauvin was the officer seen kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes and Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT. So Miguel, obviously, given the pandemic, this was remote. Tell us everything about it.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a very brief hearing, 10 minutes long, the only thing Chauvin said the entire time was yes and no when the judge asked him if he waived his right to a video hearing. The bail was set as $1.25 million, it can be lowered to $1 million if Officer Chauvin agrees to certain stipulations, that is to give up all of his weapons and not contact the victims, those sorts of conditions on bail.

His defense did not react to that. There is no real indication of how this will play out. His next hearing is later this month. Perhaps there will be more there, but we know that some of the other officers, Officer Lane for instance, his lawyer saying that his client, Officer Lane, was holding the feet of Mr. Floyd that day when Mr. Floyd was saying he couldn't breathe. He asked turned and turned it off to Chauvin who had much more experience and said, "Should we turn him." And Chauvin said, "No."


So both Kueng and Lane seem to be pointing in that direction, but very, very difficult right now to tell how and what Officer Chauvin will do in court, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you very much. And I want to go now to Joey Jackson, Criminal Defense Attorney, our Legal Analyst.

So Joey, what do you think his defense strategy is going to be here? I mean, again, just to remind everybody, this is somebody who had his knee on someone's neck, and then was told there was no pulse, first he said he couldn't breathe and continue to keep the knee on the neck for another few minutes.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Erin, good to be with you. I think the defense strategy is highly problematic. Let's be clear, because any strategy starts with the law. We're not speaking to the issue of an intentional killing here. We're talking about a non- intentional, unintentional killing. That was based upon an assault.

And so the only way for him to go were to be - were to suggest, excuse me, Erin, that he was actually constraining him or restraining him in a way that was lawful, proper and appropriate. If you look at the tape, it does not appear that that strength that he was using was such, right?

So the question then becomes if you were restraining him, were you doing it for a prolonged period of time. I think everyone can see that he was and so even if you go with the fact that you were straining him not assaulting him, when does a restraint become an assault and I think reasonable minds could conclude that after nine minutes they do.

So I think they're really boxed in. Final point on this issue, Erin, and that's this, even if you don't get through that, you have the additional issue of criminal negligence. That means he was careless, he was not careful with respect to what he was doing and as a result of that, that still gets you manslaughter.

So I think the defense, it's highly problematic as it relates to his defense in this case.

BURNETT: And the prosecutors, I would imagine, are going to be doing everything they can to get to the bottom of the relationship between the two men prior to this. Some people watching may know but everyone may not be fully aware that Chauvin and Floyd had both work security at a club and there's very possible that they knew each other, that they certainly had crossed paths before and that they may have known each other.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Floyd family does say that he believe Chauvin knew Floyd. So how could that change things? Is that something prosecutors will be pushing to try to, I guess, establish some more of a motive?

JACKSON: So when you go into any case, you're going to do an exhaustive investigation and we don't know other than them knowing each other what was the nature of that relationship. Was it friendly? Was it cordial? Did they speak to each other? Did they not? Was there animus there? Was there a prior conflict that that they had? Was there no prior conflict at all?

And so I think that's going to be important. It would be more important on the issue of motive, Erin, if we were talking about something that had to be intentionally done. But it could play into the underlying assault, because prosecutors have to establish that there was an assault that took place right. We see the assault with regard to the restraint, the knee on the neck, that is assault. And so therefore, it could have been motivated by some conduct that

the two engaging in the past, I think it could play in that way if it plays in at all. And remember, as long as you establish the assault, if the death is unintentional as a result of the assault that gets you a conviction of second degree murder, that gets you statutorily, 40 years. Of course, there are guidelines that bring it down, he would be in a world of hurt.

BURNETT: So the defense attorney for Thomas Lane, who is not a name we know as well, but he is one of the other three former officers who were charged. He said his client only been on the force for four days when this happened, right, setting up what was he supposed to do. Here's what his attorney said an interview this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is it possible that your client stood by and watched for nearly nine minutes?

GRAY: He did not stand by and watch. He was holding the legs because the guy was resisting at first. Now, when he's holding his legs, he says to Chauvin, "Well should we roll him over? Because he says he can't breathe." Chauvin says, "No."


BURNETT: So he's clearly trying to say look, my guy was on the first four days. He tried. He did the best he could. Chauvin was the guy to blame. Do you that strategy could be successful?

JACKSON: So parsing it out, the four day issue was not successful. The fact is that you're an officer, you receive adequate and appropriate training, you had an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to do your job. Where he could get some mileage in the case is saying, look, what my client did was at the point where George Floyd was not perhaps compliant, he at that point was participating there, after he was a non-participant.

And not being a participant there, he did not really engage in the assault will be the argument. And in addition to that, he said, hey, should we turn them over, should we stop. So then the question becomes, yes, he did.

But was that enough? If you're witnessing someone saying, I can't breathe, if you're witnessing someone saying, I'm going to die, you're going to kill me, I want my mom, should you have not have done more and even though you're on the force for four days, certainly you could have and that's going to be the argument.


BURNETT: All right. Joey, thank you very much. And next, just in, Attorney General Bill Barr just now contradicting Trump's claim about the bunker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I was there for a tiny, little, short period of time. It was

much more for an inspection. There was a problem during the day.


BURNETT: So it wasn't an inspection. Plus, the head of one powerful police union is called the protest, a terrorist movement. What do we know about the unions who are fiercely resisting change to policing?



BURNETT: Tonight the White House standing by its decision to forcefully remove protesters from the front of a church near the White House shortly before the President's photo op.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any regret on the part of the President or anyone here about how people were treated, people who are peacefully protesting and how they were rushed out so violent?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, there's no regrets on the part of this White House.


BURNETT: No regrets for that scene. Police then fired rubber bullets, chemical agents similar to tear gas at the peaceful protesters. You can see it all going down here. That was also the President could walk across for that photo op with the Bible in front of the church.


Obviously, he didn't go into the church. Here's another reason why the President probably may regret this, a new CNN poll out today shows 65 percent of Americans say the president's response to the protests have been harmful, 84 percent of all Americans think peaceful protests of police violence against African-Americans are justified.

Eighty-four percent, that's a pretty stunning number, and one the president no doubt is paying attention to if they were honest.

OUTFRONT now, Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, also president-elect of People for the American Way, and the Democratic Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County, Florida, also the former police chief of Orlando.

So, I appreciate both of your time.

So, Ben, no regrets from the White House, you heard Kayleigh McEnany say, even with those polling numbers which we will know are something the president follows, incredibly, with great detail. Are you surprised? BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Not at all. I mean,

Donald Trump has put himself in the same category that George Wallace lived most of his life in. The only thing to get him out is him doing what George Wallace did and finally having a change of heart and digging down deep.

And I think we're a long way from that day, because it's been almost two decades since the Central Park Five were let out of prison and fully, you know, in the case against them tossed out, because DNA said they were absolutely innocent. And for 18 years, he has insisted that they are still guilty.

This is a man with issues tinged by race who has never ever admitted that he was wrong and I don't see that changing any time soon.

BURNETT: So, Mayor Demings, members of the Trump administration all had talking points this weekend. And one of the talking points is that there is no systemic racism in law enforcement, very specific. No such thing exists. Here they are, sir.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think there is racism in the United States, still, but I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist.

CHAD WOLF, ACTING HOMELAD SECURITY SECRETARY: I do not think we have a systemic racism problem with law enforcement officers across this country.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think systemic racism is a problem in law enforcement agencies in the United States?

BEN CARSON, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Let's say this -- I grew up in a time when there was real systemic racism.


BURNETT: Interesting, Mayor, that Secretary Carson as the African- American man asked that question did not directly answer it in the way the other two did. But here is the bottom line. You're a mayor, you were a police chief. Is systemic racism in law enforcement still a problem?

MAYOR JERRY DEMINGS (D), ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Let me begin by saying, absolutely America has a problem with racism. I spent nearly four decades as a law enforcement officer immediately prior to being the mayor here in Metropolitan Orlando area and Orange County. I was Orange County sheriff, I was an elected sheriff and then prior to that, I served as chief of police in Orlando as well.

So I know a little bit about law enforcement is what I'm saying. And there is no question that here in the American institution of law enforcement, there are systemic issues that we have to address. Until we're honest about it, until we address those issues, the reason why we sometimes see law enforcement disproportionately assigned to minority areas is because, I will say in some cases, it demands that, but it demands that because of the economic disparities that have existed in communities of color for hundreds of years now.

And so, we have to get about addressing the disparities with access to -- in terms of access to capital, in terms of access to quality education, quality housing, and getting decent jobs. And so, as a law enforcement officer, I was forced to deal with the hand that I was dealt with.

But I do believe that the time is now for us to take a look at our law enforcement agencies and look for those opportunities to reform our agencies, to ensure that they are both transparent and they have the appropriate accountability measures in place.

BURNETT: So, Ben, President Trump's attorney general, you know, we just saw him briefly there, he contradicted the president today about why the president was taken to the White House bunker last week. So, here's what the president said originally about why he went to the bunker and here is what Attorney General Bill Barr said tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I went down during the day and I was there for a tiny, little, short period of time. It was much more for an inspection. There was no problem during the day.

BARR: Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker. We can't have that in our country.


BURNETT: OK. So he said he went down to inspect it, tiny, tiny, short period of time. Bill Barr, things were so bad the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker.

Why -- why would the president have lied about that? I mean, clearly he did.


But why?

JEALOUS: This president likes to play a tough guy on TV. And, of course, we saw that when he marched across that park with his bible upside down and backwards in front of the church and fired rubber bullets and tear gas in order to get there. And the sad part is that in both instances, they completely misjudged the spirit of the protesters.

Sure, we've had a problem with a small number of so-called anarchists, you know, infiltrating, stirring things up. The overwhelming majority of people who have been gathering in Washington, D.C. have been peaceful especially down in front of the White House.

BURNETT: Yes. JEALOUS: And for them to just keep mistaking peaceful protesters for a threat really speaks to the problem of mindset right at the top of our country right now, both with the attorney general and with the president. They should spend time actually talking to people, listening to people, invite them into the White House. Have a conversation.

BURNETT: So, Mayor Demings, Joe Biden today met with the family of George Floyd. It was an hour that was over -- it was a meeting, I'm sorry, that was over an hour behind closed doors. They did release the photo that you see here. Biden also met with George Floyd's daughter, a 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, and her mother.

Your wife, Congresswoman Val Demings, has been mentioned many times as a possible running mate for Biden. So, Mayor, do you think she would be the right pick?

DEMINGS: There's no question I think she would be the right pick. I can tell you that she is a person that has had the opportunity to serve at multiple levels of government. She's been serving for the last nearly four years in Congress. We're proud of that. She was chief of police as well in Orlando and then she started her career as a social worker.

So, as a mother, with three sons, I believe she gets it. She is a daughter of the South, she grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, to parents who were just average, blue collar workers, but she's had this opportunity now to experience the American dream. I think America had the opportunity to see her on front street when she was one of the seven impeachment managers not long ago.

So I believe that she's perfectly prepared to be a good running mate with Joe Biden if he selects her.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Mayor Demings, Ben, thank you both so very much.

JEALOUS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, they have become enemy number one for officials who want to reform their police departments.


MAYOR JACOB FREY (D), MINNEAPOLIS: Let me be very clear. We're going after the police union.


BURNETT: Plus, Mitt Romney pressed on whether he'll back President Trump for re-election. He is answering. We'll tell you what he said.


[19:41:37] BURNETT: The head of the Minneapolis Police Union calls the protests across the country a terrorist movement. This as some officials say unions are becoming the most powerful road blocks to changes in policing.

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.


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: 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 this 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.

JOE GAMALDI, NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: I think what we need to do is slow down a bit and understand that nobody hates a bad officer more than a good officer because it makes us all look bad.

MURRAY: 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?


MURRAY: Now today, Jim Pasco, the executive director for the National Fraternal Order of Police told CNN that they want to be a constructive part of this process and they are willing to talk to anyone, Republicans, Democrats, activists, and the White House in order to make some progress -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much.

And next, are more Republicans about to turn on Trump? I'm going to talk to a former Republican governor, he says Trump is on thin ice. What is he hearing now from his fellow Republicans?

And could Trump turn a coronavirus vaccine into a campaign benefit?


A warning tonight from two prominent professors of the risk of just that.


BURNETT: New tonight, Mitt Romney not committing to voting for President Trump but telling CNN moments ago he likely won't stay quiet about who he'll support. That comes after the president mocked Romney earlier today for marching with the protesters. Trump saying in part: Tremendous sincerity, what a guy.

It comes as some Republicans are questioning whether they can support Trump in November. Interesting he said: Hard to believe this kind of political talent that his numbers would tank so badly in Utah.

OUTFRONT now, former congressman and governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. Governor Sanford, it is good to talk to you again, sir.

You know, when you challenged the president in the primary last year and we obviously talked several times through that process, you did say that you would support him if he was the nominee. Now, though, you say he is, quote, treading on very thin ice. You're not sure if you'll support him. Why?

MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that, you know, Napoleon had his Waterloo moment and at times leaders go too far and they get to the breaking point. And I think that Lafayette Square represented that for a lot of conservatives, a lot of folks in the military who said, wait a minute.

The First Amendment is sacrosanct amendment based on what the Founding Fathers set up and intended and to go clear the square as the president did so he could do a photo-op I think is a bridge too far.


So, I think it's given me pause. I think it's given a host of others pause.

BURNETT: Lisa Murkowski was among them. She said she's struggling with whether to support the president. Colin Powell did not support Trump in 2016. He's now gone public with his support for Joe Biden.

You've been talking to a lot of Republicans about this very issue. I mean, what are you hearing from them? And I guess what I'm saying and, Governor, I know you're going to make your final decision, but are we going to hear from them? Are they going to speak out?

SANFORD: Well, I think that's what is interesting about General Mattis did in writing that piece for "The Atlantic", and I think it was supported with what General Kelly did, it was supported with what Admiral Mike Mullen has done, it was supported with what Admiral McRaven has done.

I mean, I think people are beginning to speak out at levels you've not seen before. The fact that Mitt Romney would say what he's saying and beginning to step out as an elected official, the fact that Lisa would do what she's doing. I think that we have gotten to a breaking point.

All along, there's been a lot of chaos with the Trump presidency which has been disconcerting and weird and strange and all these different things, but the degree to which there has been challenge to a constitutionally enshrined amendment in a way that I've never seen in my life and I think that the same is true for General Mattis based on what he wrote -- again, people, I think, will speak out and I think they're beginning to do so right now.

BURNETT: So, you know, as we mentioned, you know, Mitt Romney, right? The president mocking him for marching with protesters this weekend. Mitt Romney was saying Black Lives Matter.

You know, he went out, he was proud to be there and, again, the president did mock him for doing so. What was your reaction to that just on a personal level?

SANFORD: I think it's entirely appropriate. Again, the idea of peaceful demonstration being a controversial thing in the United States of America should give every one of us pause. So, you've seen that in some of the coverage --


BURNETT: Right, so Mitt Romney was appropriate? Just to be clear.

SANFORD: Absolutely.

BURNETT: And your -- and your response to the president mocking him is just you're not surprised?

SANFORD: It's more of the same. I mean, I think, you know, I -- the president is a master of the put-down and he's the master of division.

But I would argue that division will carry you about so far in the world of politics, and I would argue -- again, whether it's Lafayette Square or some of the events here of late, this may be the high watermark for the Trump presidency because while division did carry him a long way, and a lot of promises that were unfulfilled. He's the guy who said, if you elect me, I'll eliminate the debt over the eight years that I will be in or might be in office --


SANFORD: -- and in fact, debts have spiraled.

So, a combination of a lot of promises by a good promoter with a fair amount of division will get you a ways, it's gotten him a ways, but I think we're beginning to see a real chink in the armor and a crumbling based on the conversations I've had with other Republicans who I think you will be hearing from.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Governor Sanford, I appreciate your time and I will always appreciate it.

SANFORD: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, more states seeing a surge in coronavirus cases as New York once the epicenter of the virus in the United States today really, it was reopening here. We'll be right back.



BURNETT: Tonight, New York City exiting coronavirus lockdown after 78 days and a death toll larger in all but six countries. This as cases are trending up now in 22 states across this country.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred days since New York state's first case, the Big Apple is back. Well, they're now allowing more retail, manufacturing and construction with some strict parameters.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: It is the day that we start to liberate ourselves from this disease. The day we move forward, phase one of the restart begins today in New York City.

WATT: Let's not forget the terrible toll on the city -- nearly 22,000 deaths so far and Black and Latinx New Yorkers dying at twice the rate of white residents.

And it's not over.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're not out of the woods, but we are on the other side certainly.

WATT: The governor rode the subway to his daily briefing this morning. The message, it's safe.

CUOMO: We are continuing our decline, the rest of the country is still spiking.

WATT: Florida has added more than 1,000 new cases a day for five straight days. Texas, another early reopener, now adding an average of over 1,500 cases a day. That's up 50 percent.

Bucks County, PA, announced 33 new cases Saturday, 11 of them tied to one person who they say has been partying down at the Jersey Shore.

DR. LAMAR HASROUCK, FORMER CDC EPIDEMIOLOGIST: It is kind of coming together of a perfect storm if you will. We have the Memorial Day weekend, a lot of folks were being relax about precautions and having a bad drop of states reopening, plus all the protesters in these mass gatherings.

WATT: The protests sparked by George Floyd's death might be spreading this virus around the country.

JOSHUA MUSALIA, ATTENDED VIGIL: I don't want to catch it. I don't think anyone wants to catch it. But whether it comes to issues of social justice, that takes precedent, I feel like. COVID-19 is going to be here for a little bit. Hopefully, we'll get a vaccine.

WATT: The White House has a vaccine program.

TRUMP: It's called Operation Warp Speed.

WATT: But today, two prominent professors say they are scared it might move too fast.

Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not farfetched, they wrote, in a "New York Times" op-ed. In a desperate search for a political boost, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective.


BURNETT: And that was Nick Watt reporting from Los Angeles for us tonight.

Thank you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.

"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.


Good evening.

Tonight, two weeks since the killing of George Floyd, protesters continue to fill the street, peacefully demanding changes in the way the policing works in this country.