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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Police Reform; World Health Organization's Confusing Statements on Coronavirus Spread; President Trump's Latest Conspiracy Theory; Remembering George Floyd. Aired 4:25-5p ET

Aired June 9, 2020 - 16:25   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 you have been watching family and friends saying a final good-bye to George Floyd in Houston, Texas, at the Fountain of Praise Church. A homegoing celebration, it was called, remembering Floyd and the legacy he leaves -- a friend, a mentor, a father, a death, his family says, a death that will not be in vain.

[16:25:07]

The funeral for Floyd today including a call for justice and reform of both the police and the United States of America. As Floyd's brother put it, George Floyd will change the world. It certainly seems a possibility.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, also the author of the new book "My Vanishing Country: A Memoir."

And, Bakari, we heard from many of George Floyd's friends and family, but also from people like former Vice President Joe Biden. We had a eulogy from the Reverend Al Sharpton.

What is going to stand out to you most when you remember this day?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, my prayers go out to the family, and I think one of the things that stood out most about this ceremony is that it wasn't just one family that had been affected by this type of racial violence. But you had a collection of families. You had the family of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

And so, just those families coming together, and it's a really, really awful club that we have in this country. I mean, when you have to reach out and surround yourself with others whose young people have been killed by racial violence, just think about that state that we're in, in this country.

But let me just tell you, Jake, that was the best introductory music you've ever had unto your show, to THE LEAD. I mean, that type of worship music, that praise music, this was a homegoing celebration. You know, I always like listening to "Going Up Yonder" and some Marvin Sapp and all of those things. That's what you got from this because, as George's daughter stated, her father is going to change the world. It was a lot of pain but it was also a call to action. And I think

that's what people need to understand. Just the symbolic nature of the knee on George's neck, what that means.

And even something else that Reverend Sharpton stated which stood out to me, which is when people want to lambast me and others for talking about race and how much race affects this country, and how pervasive it is, just think about the power of the name. You know, even when I sign my name in a celebratory fashion on a book, on a note part, I recognize that even in exuberance, even in my celebration, that name is not mine. That name is a slave owner's name given to my family.

And so, just think about that in the context of race and everything that we've experienced in this moment. And then juxtapose that with the fact that we are on this mission for justice, equality, truth, and peace. But yet you look at the images coming out of Georgia and people in black communities are waiting three and four hours in line just to cast a ballot in a primary election.

And so, it's not just a knee on George Floyd's neck per se, but it's also the knee on our neck when we try to get clean water, when we try to send our kids to better schools, when we try to vote in primary election. So I thought (AUDIO GAP), everyone who spoke that truth today actually hit on that note. But if we learned anything from the juxtaposition of us in Georgia trying to vote and us laying George Floyd to rest with his family surrounded by all of those other families for racial violence, by God, Jake, we got so far to go in this country. So we got to get to work today.

TAPPER: And it was interesting the Reverend Sharpton talking about a lot of these issues that you're talking about as well, but also invoking how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized in a video clip released Friday, and Sharpton saying we don't want an apology, we want Colin Kaepernick to get his job back. Another illustration of a different kind of racial injustice.

SELLERS: It's restorative justice is what he was asking for. You can't strip a man of absolutely everything. I mean, the same thing happened to Muhammad Ali when he refused to go to Vietnam.

It's very difficult when this country, it literally, that league, it stripped Colin Kaepernick of absolutely everything and then four years later acknowledged that he was right. So, it's one thing to apologize but at least have the fortitude to come out and say his name.

And I'm happy right now. I'm not going to be overly critical of the NFL. I'm not going to are overly critical of these companies who are now finding out that it's more than just words, diversity and inclusion that they need to uplift black folk in their businesses and make sure they have black representation in their C suite. I'm not going to condemn them or be petty about this moment.

But what I am going to do is watch with a lens -- a magnifying lens on the work they do from this point forward. Like, is everything that they're saying, is everything that the league saying, is this performative justice? I think I just made up a word here, but is it performative justice?

I mean, are we just out here doing this for show because Pat Mahomes called you out? Because Carson Wentz called you out?

[16:30:01]

Or are you actually going to make sure you have more than two or three black G.M.s, you have more than two or three black head coaches? That's what we're talking about. We're talking about changing the systems that we have in this country that, for 401 years, going back to when the settlers came here from the west coast of Africa to get a new name off the coast of South Carolina given to them by people who literally owned them, that I still sign that same name today, making sure people make sure that justice is a verb in this country, not just a noun.

TAPPER: All right, Bakari Sellers, thank you so much for the thoughtful words there. We appreciate it.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is outside the church in Houston.

Omar, tell us what you're seeing, what the reaction is there from the crowd.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the funeral service finished a few moments ago. And what we're seeing is the casket has now been loaded back into the hearse as well, with crowds gathering around just to try and get a glimpse of that golden casket.

We expect it now to be transported and escorted by Houston Police Department over to Pearland, Texas, which is where his final resting place will be, as a family finds itself at the intersection and trying to process at the intersection of human pain of losing a loved one and a legacy that is now spreading to all parts of the world, Jake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMENEZ (voice-over): A plea for humanity in Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No more hate crimes, please. Someone said, make America great again. But when has America ever been great?

JIMENEZ: As the family of George Floyd laid their loved one to rest...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you. And I thank God for giving me my own personal Superman.

JIMENEZ: But not their cause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will fight. I will fight, because I have been fighting for them and I will keep on fighting for him.

JIMENEZ: Floyd, who died after calling out for his mother from under a policeman's knee...

GEORGE FLOYD, DIED IN POLICE CUSTODY: Mama.

JIMENEZ: ... will now be buried next to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She got her hands wide open. Come here, baby. Every mama felt.

LATONYA FLOYD, SIBLING OF GEORGE FLOYD: Floyd, he said, "I can't breathe" and called his mother. He was calling for all of us mothers, all of us!

JIMENEZ: The families of Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery and Michael Brown in Houston to show their support, and former Vice President Joe Biden sent a video message.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away from racism. It stings at our very soul.

JIMENEZ: After 15 days of some of the largest national protests in recent history, changes are under way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this city, we will ban choke holds and strangle holds.

JIMENEZ: In Minneapolis, a majority of City Council members moved to disband the police department.

ALONDRA CANO, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: The Minneapolis Police Department cannot be reformed.

JIMENEZ: In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed cutting up to $150 million from the proposed police budget as the LAPD bans the use of so-called choke holds.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will redistribute some of the nearly $6 billion police budget towards social services.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will now kneel for our moment of silence.

JIMENEZ: In D.C. Monday, some congressional Democrats took a knee and introduced a sweeping national police reform bill.

And some monumental movement in the Deep South, this Confederate statue hauled away in Jacksonville, Florida, but in the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, this 12-ton statue of General Robert E. Lee is proving harder to move.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): When it's the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value the most. But that's just not true anymore.

JIMENEZ: A judge has blocked the governor's request for removal, at least temporarily.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JIMENEZ: And we are seeing the flowers loaded into the hearse here of George Floyd. The golden casket was loaded in a few moments ago right now.

And we are seeing the beginning and the preparations for what will be a procession escorted by the Houston Police Department over to Pearland, Texas, where George Floyd will see his final resting place.

And it is worth noting that over the course of yesterday, it was this church where thousands of people in the public showed up to pay their final respects. It was supposed to be just a six-hour period from noon until 6:00 p.m. local time. Well, even at 6:00 p.m., people were still pulling up and lining up just to have a chance to pay their final respects in person.

And even as this procession makes its way towards, again, George Floyd's final burial place, the last mile of the procession will be carried out by horse-drawn carriage, where people will be lining the streets to again give George Floyd that final send-off, someone that has become the center of a message and push for long-term change and reform within police departments.

[16:35:09]

And then maybe the most pivotal of it all, as we see George Floyd being laid to rest finally later this afternoon, he will be laid to rest next to his mother, the very same mother he cried out for in his final moments under the knee of a police officer a little over two weeks ago today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Omar Jimenez, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Now let's talk about the legacy of George Floyd. There are calls to reform police. Those calls are growing louder nationwide, and many people are discussing Camden, New Jersey.

Now, that's a city right across the bridge from Philadelphia that dissolved its police department in 2012 and replaced it with an entirely new one, after corruption was apparently so rampant that the original force was considered by officials to be unfixable.

So let's talk now to Louis Cappelli. He's a Camden County freeholder director. That's a kind of public official in New Jersey. And he's architect of the new Camden County Police Department.

Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

First of all, why was the original force considered unfixable?

LOUIS CAPPELLI JR., FREEHOLDER DIRECTOR, CAMDEN COUNTY, NJ: Well, there were two reasons, Jake.

Number one, Camden was in the middle of a fiscal crisis coming out of the recession. And, two, we had a public safety crisis as well. And under the terms of the then union contract and rules and regulations, it was impossible to police the streets of Camden at that time. So a change had to occur. Working together with then Governor Christie, Senate President Sweeney, Senator Norcross, and then Mayor Dana Redd, we came up with a plan to dissolve the existing state police department and create a new department, a county department, that would incorporate community policing, led by the chief, Scott Thomson.

TAPPER: So, yes, let's talk more about what replaced the Camden Police Department.

So it's a county police department that has community policing in the city of Camden?

CAPPELLI: That is correct. It's a tremendous model of community policing.

Our police officers are trained in de-escalation. They're trained in community relations. And the day they hit the streets, the first thing they hit the streets of Camden, they go door to door, introduce themselves to residents, give residents their cards and say, hey, if you have a problem, give me a call.

So it's about building trust in the residents of the city. And that's something we have been working on for seven years, quite successfully. Your residents have to trust your police department. And your police department has to be completely unbiased as it does its job day to day.

TAPPER: So, 10 years ago, Camden was regularly described as one of the most violent cities in the entire country. The crime rate since then has dropped by almost half. Why? What's responsible for the drop in the crime rate?

CAPPELLI: Well, a couple of things.

Number one, I think the relationship between our residents and our police department is very good. It's a true partnership in preventing and fighting crime. And, today, residents of the city are not afraid to talk to police, to give information that helps to solve or prevent a crime.

And, secondly, our officers and our leadership in the department are outstanding. They have been trained, trained as well as any other police officer in the nation. They take their job very seriously. They know there's little margin for error. And they know that, in the words of Chief Thomson, to act as guardians and not warriors in the streets of Camden.

TAPPER: So, right across the river, in my home city of Philadelphia, right now, there is an inspector who has been charged with a crime by the district attorney for beating a protester across his head.

And we see images of that inspector, that police inspector being applauded and cheered on and supported by the police union. Is that something that you see could happen in Camden? Or is the dynamic so different and the police union not as much of an issue in that way? CAPPELLI: Well, I think we have a different dynamic in Camden,

because the police union is working in partnership with the government to make things better in Camden City.

The union is quite proud of its officers. Our complaints of excessive force since we started this department have decreased by 95 percent. So our officers, our union representatives are all quite proud of the work being done in Camden.

TAPPER: Camden is 17 percent of the size of just the city of Minneapolis, which has a population of about 425,000, compared to Camden's 73,000.

Can the model of Camden be applied to a large your city, or does it need to be a smaller city, under 100,000, to work effectively the way it seems to have in Camden?

[16:40:07]

CAPPELLI: I think, if you take the pillars of our model, which is respect for your residents and gaining the trust of your residents, and mold it in such a fashion that -- to address a larger city, I think it definitely can work.

It really comes down to respect. It comes down to officers understanding their job, understanding that they are there to protect and to assist residents, and that residents need to look up the officers.

There was a -- before we started this department, the residents of Camden City were afraid to police officers. They would never approach a police officer. That has all changed.

Now our residents approach officers, talk to them. There's pop-up block parties. There's reading in all the classrooms by police officers. These are the type of things that can be done on a daily basis to build the trust of residents.

TAPPER: And, lastly, sir, and, quickly, if you could, what has it been like in Camden since George Floyd was killed? We have seen images of violence all over the country, from Philadelphia to Seattle.

What has it been like in Camden?

CAPPELLI: Our police chief, Joe Wysocki, and members of his force have walked hand in hand with protesters. It's really been unbelievable. And that just shows a strong relationship between our residents and our police force.

TAPPER: All right, Lou Cappelli, Camden, New Jersey, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

We're continuing to watch the burial procession for George Floyd. He's about to be laid to rest in Houston, Texas, in the wake of Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer. More videos are now emerging showing other deadly police encounters in Austin, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Two men were killed after police used choke holds. In New Jersey, new video shows a state trooper's scuffle that ended when he shot and killed a black man.

CNN's Martin Savidge brings us these images and audio.

And a warning: What you will see and hear may be disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is all too horribly familiar. Even the dying words of the victim sound the same. But if you think these cases, you probably don't.

March 28, 2019, Austin, Texas, sheriff's deputies pursuing 40-year-old Javier Ambler. Police say Ambler had not dimmed his headlights as he drove past a deputy. And then Ambler led them on a 22-minute chase when they tried to pull him over. Body camera footage captures what happens during his arrest.

Documents obtained by CNN reveal Ambler exited his car with his hands up. He was not intoxicated or arm, according to the incident report. Officer say Ambler resisted police attempts to restrain him and refused their commands. Ambler can be heard telling deputies he has a heart condition.

JAVIER AMBLER, KILLED IN POLICE CUSTODY: Sir, sir, I have a congestive...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see your hands, or I'm going to Tase you again.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you need help?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to Tase you again.

SAVIDGE: The officers Tase Amber multiple times. But the body camera video shows him going into distress. He's heard saying, "I can't breathe" in the video.

AMBLER: I can't breathe.

SAVIDGE: Shortly afterwards, officers realize Ambler is no longer responsive. They remove his handcuffs and administer CPR. Javier Ambler is pronounced dead less than an hour later.

A district attorney investigation into the incident is ongoing. The Office of Professional Standards in the sheriff's office says the officers acted in accordance with department guidelines.

February 29 of this year, Las Cruces, New Mexico, it begins as a traffic stop. Police say they learned after they stopped him that Antonio Valenzuela has an open warrant for parole violation. According to the local district attorney's office, which is investigating, Valenzuela runs away. Officers Tase him twice.

And according to the district attorney, on the ground, Valenzuela continues to struggle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) choke you out, bro.

SAVIDGE: One of the officers applies a choke hold, referred to as a vascular neck restraint, or VNR. EMS is called to the scene and begin lifesaving measures, but are unsuccessful.

The officer who used the neck restraint has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. His lawyer did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

May 23, Garden State Parkway, New Jersey, 28-year-old Maurice Gordon is pulled over for speeding, according to the state attorney general's office, which just released this video.

When Gordon's car won't restart, State Trooper Sergeant Randall Wetzel tells him to sit in the police cruiser to stay out of traffic. The officer offers Gordon a mask. And the dash-cam footage seems routine.

Then Gordon unfastened his seat belt and appears to attempt to get out of the car. The officer orders him back, and a struggle begins.

[16:45:06]

According to the New Jersey attorney general's office, which is reviewing the case, Gordon twice tried to get into the driver's seat of Trooper Wetzel's cruiser. The first time, the officer uses pepper spray on Gordon. Then, after a second attempt, another struggle, and eventually six gunshots.

Gordon collapses to the road and dies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: We reached out to Trooper Wetzel. We have yet to hear back from him.

Meanwhile, the governor of New Jersey says that the case will be taken to a grand jury for possible consideration of charges against the trooper.

We will continue to follow this case and the many others like it -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

As we follow this, the final goodbye for George Floyd's family and friends, a man whose killing, alleged murder, sparked a national movement for police reform, I want to bring in two former police officers.

Redditt Hudson was a beat patrolman and recruiter with the Saint Louis, Missouri, Police Department. Joe Ested was a lead investigator for street enforcement with the Richmond Police Department in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Joe, I will start with you.

From New Mexico to New Jersey to Texas, even the George Floyd case, do you think we would be talking about problems in policing if cameras, whether cell phone cameras or dash cameras, did not capture these incidents?

JOE ESTED, FORMER RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, POLICE OFFICER: We would be talking about that, Jake, in my community, the black community, because it was very common.

The rest of the world is now seeing exactly what the black community had been going through for a long time. So, if cameras what didn't exist, then, no, we would not be talking about it as we are now.

TAPPER: Redditt, today, the Houston police chief called for national laws and standards for policing in the U.S. Take a listen.

OK, something's gone wrong with the SOT, but in any case -- OK, here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: Doing business and 18,000 sets of policies...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: All right, I don't -- we're having some sort of technical problems.

But what he said, Redditt, is that we have 18,000 police departments with 18,000 -- yes, 18,000 police departments with 18,000 ways of doing business and 18,000 sets of policies.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And the chief said Congress needs to pass policy and training requirements for police nationwide.

Do you agree with that?

REDDITT HUDSON, FORMER ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICER: I do agree with that.

And I think we saw that reflected in the bill that came out yesterday relative to a national uniform code for use of force, a national database that will allow us to track problem officers, expanding the Department of Justice's pattern and practice ability to look into departments that show a propensity to violate the rights of the people they are sworn to serve, and independent investigations of police misconduct, which should be absolutely mandatory at this point.

The police can't investigate themselves, man. And what I want to say real quickly is this. We know where we're headed. I'm sure that the other gentleman that is with me knows where we're headed. We're headed to a fight with police unions, relative to all of the transformative suggestions that we have seen put on the table or even the basic reforms that we have seen put on the table.

Police unions in New York, Minneapolis, Saint Louis, who often, through their leadership, just show an incendiary disregard for black life, are going to fight these things tooth and nail.

So, to all the organizers around the country and all the legislators around the country now is a time to become aggressive and staunch in your stance that we can't go back to what we have always had, which is zero accountability for police when they violate our rights.

TAPPER: Joe, you called the legislation from Democrats on police reform introduced yesterday, you called it smoke and mirrors.

The bill calls for a ban on choke holds, a national police misconduct registry, more training to weed out racial bias. Why did you call the bill smoke and mirrors?

ESTED: Because, Jake, I wrote about, "Police Brutality Matters," and I listed the recommendations why -- how to prevent police brutality.

And if you look at this bill, it's a federal bill. The wording in it has prohibited federal police officers. All through the bill, I read about 13 elements. Eight of those elements does not reflect -- or does not affect the local police officer, only if that the police department accepts federal money.

So, it's a real good bill. It sounds like a good bill. But when it's all said and done, it's a federal bill. We need state legislation bills, not a federal bill, because there's a difference between federal policing and your local police officer.

TAPPER: And tell me, Joe, I'd love to get your thoughts on what Redditt just said about police unions. Do you think that police unions are more impediment to progress and to -- I mean, if you heard the Camden, New Jersey, official that I interviewed just a few minutes ago -- and progress for police forces themselves?

[16:50:05]

Do you see police unions that way?

ESTED: Yes, I totally agree with the officer. And he is exactly right.

Myself, I was vice president of a union. You're taught, right, as a union official, accountability is not in our favor. It's hard to fight accountability. We and the union will take the position as a defense attorney, not a labor fighter, but a defense attorney. We would protect police at all times, even when they're wrong. So,

yes, it's going to be an extremely hard fight when it comes down to these police unions. They spend a lot of money to these candidates to help them with their -- with their powers as police unions to have a say whether an officer is held accountable or not.

TAPPER: Redditt, critics call for more de-escalation techniques, but take the New Mexico incident.

The body cam video showed that the suspect ran from police. Then he tried to fight officers on the ground. Somebody in police might say, look, we can't de-escalate when the suspect is reacting like that. How would you respond?

HUDSON: I would grant that there are situations where de-escalation is unsuccessful. That's one of the realities of police work.

What we're talking about is situations like what we saw with George Floyd, where he was absolutely under the control of the officers. There were three of them holding him down. He was handcuffed and being choked to death in the process.

Those are the kinds of things we want to see addressed. And training isn't going to do it. The best kind of training that you can get for police officers who are going to violate our rights that way is accountability.

Accountability is the best training. Derek Chauvin in prison for a good part of the remainder of his life will train remaining offices in Minneapolis that that's not something that is acceptable by the community.

Same thing in New York City with Eric Garner. If Pantaleo had been arrested, charged, convicted and sent to prison, that would have been an excellent training tool for the NYPD.

And I saw something, Jake, today. I think, if you have seen Michael O'Meara, the NYPD -- I guess he's a police union member who had the press conference talking about how the press has turned on them, and legislators have turned on them, and how they have been vilified, where was that energy when Eric Garner got killed?

Where was his voice when Abner Louima was violated with a broomstick? Where was his energy then?

TAPPER: Redditt Hudson and Joe Ested, thank you both. Really appreciate your time.

Turning now to our politics lead, President Trump today took to Twitter to push forward an unhinged conspiracy theory, this one about Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old peace activist and volunteer in the nonviolent Catholic Worker movement.

You know Gugino from this infamous video. He is just out of the intensive care unit, we're told, after the head injury that came after he was pushed to the ground by Buffalo police officers. The two officers have since been charged by the local prosecutor with felony assault.

With no evidence and using sources so unreliable, one even hesitates to call them sources, President Trump accused this elderly victim of alleged assault of being an Antifa provocateur, who fell harder than he was pushed, the president musing that perhaps it was a setup.

For the most part, Republicans on Capitol Hill could not walk away fast enough from reporters who asked what they thought of these wild lies from the most powerful person on the planet.

Indecent and untethered, the whole thing, and part of a long pattern of libelous accusations and conspiracy theories. But, believe it or not, this incident might even be more troubling than the president's normal delusional smears.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins takes a closer look now at how falsehoods pushed by a Russian journalist and a fringe far right-wing site made their way into an official presidential statement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As 75- year-old Martin Gugino remains in the hospital after being shoved to the ground by a Buffalo police officer, President Trump promoted a conspiracy theory about him today.

He tweeted that Gugino could be Antifa provocateur and "was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out equipment. I watched. He fell harder than he was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a setup?"

The president had been watching a segment on One American News, a far right pro-Trump network. He included zero evidence to back up his claim that the elderly man could be a member of the far left activist group, nor did he provide any for his claim that Gugino was trying to interfere with police communications by holding up a cell phone.

[16:55:00]

Five days ago, video shows Gugino being pushed and staggering backward before landing on the pavement, where blood pooled around his head. Two officers have since been charged with second-degree assault.

Gugino's attorneys responded to the president by saying he's always been a peaceful protester. "No one from law enforcement has even suggested otherwise. We are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such a dark, dangerous and untrue accusation."

The White House refused to comment. The president stayed behind closed doors today, and most Republicans ignored or dodged questions about his tweet.

QUESTION: What about the president's tweet, though? Was that appropriate, sir? SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As I said, we are discussing in the Senate Republican Conference what response we think is appropriate to the events of the last two weeks.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): I just saw the tweet. And I know nothing of the episode. So, I don't know. I'm not as fixated, I guess, as some people.

COLLINS: At least one Republican senator, Mitt Romney, criticized it.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Yes, I saw the tweet. It was a shocking thing to say. And I won't dignify it with any further comment.

COLLINS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the president to apologize.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You think the blood coming out of his head was staged? Is that what you're saying? You saw his head hit the pavement. You see blood on the pavement. How reckless. How irresponsible. How mean. How crude.

I mean, if there was ever a reprehensible, dumb comment, and from the president of United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, I just got off the phone with a friend of Gugino's.

He said this is a surreal experience because of the president's tweets. And he wants people to know this is not just some faceless figure, but a real person with a real name that the president is spreading this conspiracy about.

TAPPER: Just lies and indecency as far as the eye can see from that White House.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

The final journey for George Floyd right now is under way. He will be buried next to his mother. We are continuing to follow this moment, as family and friends remember Floyd as a man who will change the world.

But now we're going to take a turn to our health lead. The U.S. death toll from coronavirus continues to climb, now approaching 112,000 dead in the U.S. Confirmed cases in the U.S. stand just shy of two million.

This comes as the World Health Organization is trying to clean up some stunning, confusing comments about how the virus spreads, which caused serious confusion worldwide.

CNN's Nick Watt explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York City is coming back to life, but the mayor is cautious.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, NY: I don't want people to have undue expectations. We're trying to do something so difficult in these next few weeks, bring back hundreds of thousands of workers.

WATT: And months into this pandemic, there is still a lot of confusion around how it spreads.

Yesterday, a WHO official said this:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.

WATT: Raised some eyebrows. Today, she clarified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I was referring to yesterday in the press conference were a very few studies. We do know that some people who are asymptomatic or some people who don't have symptoms can transmit the virus on.

WATT: There's even more we still don't know.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: What about people who recover? What are they going to be like six months from now? We don't know that.

WATT: And, nationwide, we are still averaging over 20,000 new cases every day. In 24 states, the new daily case counts are going down, but climbing in 19.

In Vermont, bars and restaurants reopen Monday, while officials investigate 62 cases possibly tied to one social network of families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an outbreak.

WATT: In Florida, cases also climbing. Still, Miami-Dade will reopen beaches tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm concerned that there is such a lack of respect in regards to social distancing.

WATT: Now, U.S. officials first learned of the virus spreading in China in January, but it might have started spreading as early as last August, according to researchers, who say satellite images of Wuhan show a sharp increase in the number of cars in hospital parking lots, as well as an uptick in online searches of symptoms.

Human trials just began in China of one possible antibody therapy. The hope? Such drugs might prevent infection and treat the disease. And the vaccine?

FAUCI: There's going to be more than one. I will guarantee it. There's going to be more than one winner in the vaccine field, because we're going to need vaccines for the entire world, billions and billions of doses.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, have those protests sparked by George Floyd's death spread the virus? It's too early to get a full picture.

But, today, the National Guard in Washington, D.C., confirmed that some of its members have now tested positive. And, here in Los Angeles, anybody who attended a protest is now being encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days -- Jake.

TAPPER: The pandemic continues to rage.

Nick Watt, thank you so much.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

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