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Trump Questions the Shoving of a Buffalo Protester; Concern over Rush to Vaccine; DOJ Focuses on Protest Violence; Mother of Shooting Victim Speaks Out. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 9, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the president is making, frankly, an outrageous, unfounded claim that is contradicted by the clear facts and video. This about a man in Buffalo, New York, 75-year- old man, who was shoved to the ground by police officers. Again, you can see it in the video. It's disturbing, but let's see it again because it contradicts the president's outrageous statement. As you can see, you see a line of officers moving forward. There's the protester there, pushed to the ground. Later video will show him there, as you see, on the ground, bleeding from his ear.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to our White House correspondent John Harwood with the president's unfounded claim this morning.

Good morning, John.


This is one of the more alarming tweets we have ever seen from President Trump for a couple of reasons. First of all, it appears to be based on a news clip from the One America News Network, which is a network for conspiracy theory kooks.

The claim in the clip is that this 75-year-old man deliberately fell back and cracked his head on the sidewalk because he was an ANTIFA provocateur looking to make the police and by extension President Trump look bad. Now, keep in mind, this 75-year-old remains in the hospital in serious condition. Buffalo police have charged two police officers with assaulting him and fired those officers.

But in addition to that, obviously the claim is disconnected from reality, disconnected from common sense, disconnected from humanity, but it's also the reporter in that clip is a Russian who has produced content for Russian disinformation network Sputnik.

So we know from Robert Mueller that this 2016 the Trump campaign welcomed assistance from Russia. Russia's aim is to promote discord within the United States as a national security objective. The president appears to be going down precisely that road again today in a way that again is so shocking because you can see the video of that elderly man who's been involved in the peace movement, in affordable housing issues in Buffalo.

Yes, he is a liberal, or you call him a left wing protester, but nobody smacks their head on the sidewalk to make themselves bleed from the ear and go to the hospital in order to make the police look bad. It's ridiculous.

HARLOW: It's ridiculous as this man fought for his life in the hospital.


HARLOW: And as the first response from the police, John, you'll remember was to lie about it and say that he tripped until obviously it was all shown on video.

HARWOOD: That's right.

HARLOW: John, thank you for that reporting.

A retired Army commander and researcher is warning against the possible rushed release of a Covid-19 vaccine and warning against any political pressure to do it too quickly.

SCIUTTO: President Trump announced last month the goal of what the White House has called Operation Warp Speed to have millions of doses of the vaccine by November.


Some have warned the timeline is not realistic, although Dr. Anthony Fauci has noted that things are moving forward remarkably quickly here. He also has hopes of a vaccine before the end of the year.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, it's up to the FDA to make the final decision on which vaccines are safe to go to market and be used by people like you and me and our families. What is the concern here about political pressure on this time line?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, every day, more and more I am hearing concerns from scientists saying, we are worried that the FDA is going to cave to political pressure from President Trump. Look, wouldn't it make Trump look great if in October he could say, guess what, we have a vaccine, we have our path out of the pandemic. But October is just too soon according to every scientist who I've talked to and they fear that he is going to push it.

One of those scientists who was worried about political pressure is Major General Dr. Phil Russell. He used to head up the vaccine efforts for the military for decades. And he doesn't -- he's not saying Trump will, but he's saying if there is political pressure, that could be terrible and he says Trump is not a very good scientist.

And that is the basis of this concern. We know that Trump doesn't care about science. So in October, when his scientific advisers say, look, this vaccine is not ready for primetime, it is not ready to come out, is he going to care or is he going to say, let's put it out anyhow because it could help me get votes.


Elizabeth, on another really important front, the World Health Organization this morning saying that it's very rare for someone who is asymptomatic, with no symptoms, to spread Covid-19, but that is the opposite of what the CDC has been saying for months. So who do we believe?

COHEN: All the experts I'm talking to are saying, do not believe the WHO on this because they think the WHO is getting stuck on nomenclature, on labels. Is it asymptomatic transmission? Is it pre- symptomatic? Is it symptomatic by -- is it transmission by people who are mildly symptomatic? That they're getting stung on the language here and that this is, according to one doctor I talked to, unfortunate. Very unfortunate, he said, the WHO is being prissy, that's the word that he used, and that it's really unfortunate that they are giving this false impression.

The bottom line is that the CDC says that 40 percent of transmission may be happening by people before they're showing symptoms. So, in other words, you could run into your old friend Bob. Bob looks totally fine. You give him a hug. Well, he could have Covid and you wouldn't know it because he doesn't look sick. It is because he hasn't yet shown symptoms?


COHEN: Is it because he's infected but will never had symptoms? Is it because he has mild symptoms? Who knows? The point is, asymptomatic infection is real.

HARLOW: Thank you. Yes.

SCIUTTO: You know, I asked Dr. Fauci about this very issue yesterday and he said it is clear, the data is clear, asymptomatic transmission has been confirmed. They've traced cases. He does say it's not the driver of the outbreak, but that's very different from saying asymptomatic cases cannot lead to other infections. It's an important distinction.

COHEN: That's right.

HARLOW: Thank you, Elizabeth.

George Floyd's death renewing pain and devastating memories for families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police. The mother of one of those young men will join us, next.


[09:42:45] HARLOW: Well, the attorney general, Bill Barr, saying in a new interview the Justice Department has, quote, focused investigations on some of the violence that we've seen during some of the protests, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So Barr and the White House have repeatedly placed the blame only on left wing activists and groups, including most notably ANTIFA. The question is, is that where the evidence -- are those the only prosecutions, are those the only agitators who have been tempted to take advantage of the protest to cause violence?

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez has been following this story.

And, Evan, we know, for instance there's a case in Virginia of some -- of other prosecutions that were not left-wing groups. I'm just curious, where is the data at this point? Where are the investigations? And can the president and the attorney general credibly say it is only left-wing bad actors through all this?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jim, we see this repeatedly with this administration. You see the president go out and say something, sometimes false, and then it's up to the administration, the agencies, to try to make it come true. And so that's what we're seeing a little bit here.

The picture is a little more complicated than what the attorney general and what the president are laying out. They're saying it's only left-wing groups. They're saying it's ANTIFA and groups on that side.

What we're hearing from law enforcement, including some of the -- some of the federal law enforcement agencies that report to Bill Barr is that it's a more mixed bag. They're seeing some leftist extremists. They're also seeing some right-wing extremists. In fact, the only case that we've seen so far that seems to go to some of this is a case out of Las Vegas where there's a member of the Bubolo (ph) Boys who was trying to instigate and try to carry out attacks with Molotov cocktails to try to instigate an action between protesters and the police.

Now, this is a group that's on the right that is trying to essentially set off a race war. And so that's the evidence that we've seen.

Now, we may see, and we keep being told that there is some indication that ANTIFA has been involved in fomenting some of this violence. We've yet to see it in more than 20 cases that have been brought so far, Jim.


SCIUTTO: Evan, good to have you on this story. Let's follow the facts, as we always do. We know you'll stay on top of it.

And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARLOW: You are looking at this video from moments ago. George Floyd's hearse arriving for his funeral in Houston today. He leaves behind so many who loved him, including his six-year-old daughter. You'll remember her words to the world, my daddy changed the world she said last week.

More than 11 years ago, Wanda Johnson lost her son Oscar Grant when he was shot and killed by police at a Bay area transit station on New Year's Day.


Grant left behind a four-year-old daughter Tatiana. And, sadly, he has not been able to watch her grow into the beautiful young woman that she has become.

This is an image of the moments right before Oscar Grant was killed. His death was captured on cell phone video and it sparked outrage and protests. You can see an officer here with their knee on Grant's neck. The officer who shot him was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He was found not guilty on murder charges.

Grant's story became famous in the award-winning 2013 film "Fruitvale Station" and the last time that Wanda Johnson saw her beloved son was the day after her birthday when she held his hand as he lay bleeding at an Oakland hospital. And she is with us this morning.

Good morning to you.

Oscar would have been 34 years old as we sit here today. And you've said, I will be talking about Oscar until the day I am gone.

What would Oscar think about this moment in this country?

WANDA JOHNSON, OSCAR GRANT'S MOTHER: Oscar's personality was a personality where he loved all people. He didn't care what nationality the person was. And he would be just as hurt as I am because of the fact that he loves so much and because of the fact that George was killed unjustly just lying there and begging for his life by those who are hired to protect and serve. So it would have greatly affected Oscar because he would not have been able to understand the people around him while he -- George was begging for his life and yet no one came to his aid to help him.

HARLOW: We showed the picture of Tatiana, who has grown into just a beautiful young woman. And I -- you know, with you right there. I wonder what your message is to George Floyd's children who had their father ripped away from them, including his little six-year-old girl.

JOHNSON: You know, this is very hard to kind of even articulate in the right words because Tatiana still feels the loss of her dad. It still affects her as she's 16 now. It still affects her today that he's not here. And so I would say to the family, first, my condolences to each and every one of them. And I would say to the family, just to wrap your arms around his daughter and be there for her. Those who have been a part of her life that are male figures, continue to support her, to be there for her at her main events, even at the events that are not considered main, her graduations and those things, be there, but be there when she needs you.

And that's going to be all the time because a young daughter yearns for her father. They want their father to be present with them. And it's devastating to see even Tatiana grow up without her father.

HARLOW: Of course it is.

You know something as a black mother that I will never know as a white mother. And you know something that far too many black mothers have had to know and live, and that is to have their black sons ripped away from them at the hands of police. And I wonder what that's like because my children enjoy a privilege that -- that yours never did and it persists again and again and again in America.

JOHNSON: It's very difficult to even have to have a chat with your child about what you do when you encounter the police. And the very night that Oscar encountered the police, he was telling his friends that, you know, hey, be quiet. Follow their directions. We're going to go home. And yet Oscar, you know, lost his life. And so it's very difficult to see the disparities in America, the land that's supposed to be the home of free and opportunity. The coins that we have, in God we trust, and yet there's so much discriminatory practices going on in our society. And because of George's death, the nation has seen such a horrific, unnecessary loss of life. And accountability should be one of the things that come and take place throughout our judicial system.


JOHNSON: And so --

HARLOW: Well, let's -- let's talk about that accountability because you have used the words unacceptable justice.


And for anyone who doesn't know, the officer who shot and killed your son served only 11 months in prison. Now we look at murder charges against the officers in Minneapolis. What is true justice after this?

JOHNSON: So, when Oscar's -- when Mehserle, the officer who killed Oscar, was convicted, he served 11 months in county jail. He never had the -- he never had to go to prison. And so justice would have been that our sons are alive today. That would have been justice. And because we faced an injustice, as Martin Luther King says, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Because we faced the injustice of losing our sons, we now have to deal with trying to fight the system to get the charge which is another unacceptable thing that we have to go through because wrong is wrong. And for how George lost his life and how Oscar lost his life, it was just wrong. They should not have been killed, and yet they were killed. And now you have to go through the court systems and try to get some kind of justice by having the officer be convicted and go to jail for the rest of his life. Not a portion of it, but the rest of his life because he took a life unnecessarily.

HARLOW: Wanda Johnson, I cannot know your pain. I'm so sorry. Thank you for being here, especially today.

JOHNSON: Thank you for inviting me.

HARLOW: Of course.

We'll be right back.