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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Cincinnati, Ohio, Mayor, John Cranley; Brother of George Floyd Testifies on Capitol Hill; White Officials: Trump Weighing Executive Action on Police Reform; Trump: Won't Remove Confederate Leader Names from Military Bases; George Floyd's Brother Makes Emotional Plea to Lawmakers: "Make Sure His Death is Not in Vain". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 10, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with the national lead: "We have to do better." That's the message today from the Minneapolis police chief in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, the chief today acknowledging that parts of his own police department are indeed broken.

He promised he will support policing reform, reform not just happening in Minneapolis, of course, where Floyd was killed, but in cities nationwide. And, today, George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd called for action, testifying on Capitol Hill, asking lawmakers there on the House Judiciary Committee for help to stop the pain that he and many in this country are feeling right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: George called for help, and he was ignored. Please listen to the calls I'm making to you now, to the calls of our family and to the calls ringing out the streets across the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The Minneapolis police chief said today he will withdraw from negotiations with that city's police union to conduct -- quote -- "a thorough review" of the contract with the police, as CNN's Sara Sidner now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, POLICE CHIEF: History is being written now. And I'm determined to make sure that we are on the right side of history. SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Minneapolis

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo laying out a plan for his tarnished police department to move forward following the death of George Floyd at the hands of now four former Minneapolis officers.

ARRADONDO: People are tired. They want action.

SIDNER: Without ever mentioning the four officers involved by name, the chief revealing two key measures of his plan to change the department, one, the immediate withdrawal of contract negotiations with the Minneapolis police union until a thorough review of how the contract can be restructured to provide more community transparency and flexibility for reform, and the other, to implement the use of an early warning system to identify misconduct.

ARRADONDO: What our city needs now more than ever is a pathway and a plan that provides hope, reassurance, and actionable measures of reform.

SIDNER: But the chief acknowledged, none of this will happen overnight.

ARRADONDO: It's a process. This is not a sprint. But we have to do it right. I have to do it right.

SIDNER: The chief acknowledged, none of this will be accomplished overnight. Arradondo's plan has the backing of the city's mayor.

JACOB FREY (D), MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: We don't just need a new contract with the police. We need a new compact with the police, one that centers around compassion and accountability.

SIDNER: Last month, I asked the chief what he thought of the three other officers who didn't stop Derek Chauvin from pressing his knee down on Floyd's neck.

ARRADONDO: Being silent or not intervening, to me, you're complicit. So I don't see a level of distinction any different.

SIDNER: Today, he was asked if he stood by that belief.

ARRADONDO: I don't put policies out to say that you should only react or respond if you're a two-year member or a five-year member or a 10- year member. And if policies or subculture get in the way, then I expect and I demand one's humanity to rise above that.

SIDNER: Meanwhile, Minneapolis TV station KMSP is now reporting that Chauvin was in talks to plead guilty before his arrest, which the state attorney general denied last week.

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I really don't have any idea of what the negotiations or anything like that. It's simply way too early to begin that conversation. At this point, we are preparing to try this case.

SIDNER: Across the U.S., at least 12 cities and municipalities have started their own police reforms, like working to ban police from using choke holds.

California Governor Gavin Newsom directing police in the state to stop training officers to use that tactic, while Washington State Governor Jay Inslee calls to restrict the use of choke holds in his state.

The Black Lives Matter movement also taking center stage in many arenas, including tonight's NASCAR race in Virginia. Driver Bubba Wallace unveiling his newly painted all-black race car with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter written across the side, on the hood, two hands, one black, one white, intertwined, with the words "compassion, love, understanding" written beneath them.

Wallace is calling for NASCAR to ban the use of the Confederate Flag at races.

BUBBA WALLACE, NASCAR DRIVER: No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Speaking of compassion, love, and understanding, I just had a chance just seconds ago to sit down with police chief Arradondo one- on-one.

[16:05:00]

And he told me that he did have a chance to meet with the family, that he apologized to their face, and that they responded by hugging him. And he said it was a very powerful moment.

I also asked him about police unions and if they have a role in not allowing officers who should not be on the streets to stay at departments. And he said this. And I thought it was remarkable, because he is now saying he is not going to work with the police unions if change doesn't happen.

He said: "If they are not listening to the voices that are screaming out, they will ultimately be contributing to the harm of our society, not the good" -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

Joining us now, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.

Thanks, gentlemen, for being here.

You are both part of a police reform and racial justice working group that the U.S. Conference of Mayors launched earlier this week. Part of the group's initiative is to come up with alternatives to dismantling police departments.

Mayor Cranley, let's start with you.

What changes is your group considering?

JOHN CRANLEY (D), CINCINNATI, OHIO, MAYOR: Well, here in Cincinnati, we went through a court-imposed process back in 2002.

I was a city councilman at the time and helped negotiate that agreement. And it is widely considered a role model across the country. And I like to describe it as having three major components, first, change in use of force, banning choke holds, using the baton less, changing from escalation to de-escalation.

Second is transparency and accountability. Body cameras provide enormous transparency. We have them outfitted on our officers. And having a citizen complaint authority to look into specific allegations of misconduct.

And lastly, and not least importantly, is changing our model to focusing on repeat violent offenders, rather than focusing on mass arrests. And what we have found over the last 10 years is that we can both reduce arrests and reduce crime at the same time.

And those are the -- from my point of view and from Cincinnati's experience, will be some of the values that underpin what the police commissioner and I and the other members of the group will be working on.

TAPPER: Commissioner Harrison, a lot of critics say that part of the reason it's so difficult to take quick action against a -- quote -- "bad cop" is because of police union contracts.

The working group you belong to has mayors and police chiefs or commissioners from six major cities, no leadership from any police unions. Are police unions on board with the reformed measures that you're discussing?

MICHAEL HARRISON, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, we are working with the mayors.

And we have subject matter experts in the likes of former police commissioners and police chiefs and other experts working with us to look at President Obama's 21st Century Task Force report and other reports (AUDIO GAP) and even the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to look at what we could add to or take away from or modify, to look at recommendations going forward.

Here in Baltimore, we are in the third year of our consent decree, which is the most expansive, the most (AUDIO GAP) in the history of the country.

We are in year three. Much of what people are marching for and protesting for and begging for and demanding, we are already doing here in this city and other cities that are under way with consent decrees and in reform initiatives that I like to call transformation.

People are asking for reform. What we are looking for is transformation. And what people want in America is a different kind of policing and police services that treats people with dignity and respect, but still provides public safety to keep people safe.

We can do both at the same time, provide public safety and transform our departments.

TAPPER: Mr. Mayor, let me ask you.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for reforms. But most of the cities where these troubling incidents of police brutality have happened are cities run by Democrats. Now, I know you personally found your local Innocence Project. You have been active for years in trying to right injustices caused by the judicial system.

But where have other Democratic mayors been on this problem that's been going on for decades, if not centuries?

CRANLEY: Well, Jake, it's a great question, and I appreciate your acknowledgment of The Innocence Project, where we have gotten innocent people out of prison in Ohio, over 30 people.

Look, Cincinnati was helped enormously by a Justice Department that took civil rights seriously. And this was not a left-wing group. It was John Ashcroft who was the attorney when we negotiated our group -- when we negotiated changes in 2002, when I was a young city councilman.

[16:10:10]

And I happen to believe that, if you look at the long history of civil rights, it has already required a strong federal role for protection of the constitutional rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights, et cetera.

And it would be nice if the Justice Department would again look to work -- and we call ours the collaborative agreement. And it was endorsed by our Fraternal Order of Police when it was adopted, and it is still supported.

And so it was a collaborative process. But having the Justice Department actively involved made a really big difference. Going forward, I think, candidly, it would help a lot of Democratic mayors around the country.

TAPPER: And, Commissioner, let me ask you.

Obviously, police have collective bargaining rights, like any other group of people who work for the government, whether it's teachers or anyone. Do you think police unions do more harm than good?

HARRISON: Well, I don't know that (AUDIO GAP) the answer it that they do more harm than good.

But there are certainly agreements in those contracts that prohibit police chiefs from taking swift, certain and decisive action when certain things come to our attention in the form of bad behavior by police officers.

The harm that it does is, it ruins the relationships that we have with our community when we cannot take the appropriate actions as swift and as decisive as we need to. And then, because the community has an expectation that, when it's

brought to my attention, I would respond appropriately, and so I am not always, like many chiefs are not always able to take the appropriate action or what the community expects, pays for, and deserves.

So, in that regard, sometimes, those contracts can be very, very harmful. In another regard, it protects officers from executives that would be overbearing and would do things outside of the process that are not within regulation and are harmful.

So, it has its place, but it does limit what police chiefs can do when we need to do it.

TAPPER: All right, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, thanks to both of you for being with us today. We appreciate it.

As calls for police reform grow louder, the White House has been, as of now, silent about what President Trump might support, if anything, but he is tweeting about the proposal to have a discussion about removing the names of Confederate generals from military bases.

That's next.

Plus: One state now has a record high when it comes to the number of people hospitalized for coronavirus -- the alarming trend in multiple states coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:57]

TAPPER: In our politics lead today -- after two weeks of protests, marches, calls for justice, and more, President Trump is finally going to have a discussion about race tomorrow, we are told. This will be with community leaders in Dallas.

But today, yet another of his top advisers says system -- systemic racism is not a problem in the United States, and the president's tweets seem to distract from some of the real issues being discussed. Again, he tweeted today about military bases named after Confederate generals.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins takes us into the White House's efforts to find a coherent message to address racism in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Republicans rush to respond to overwhelming demands for police reform, all eyes are on the White House and the leader of their party.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He's important if he doesn't sign off on it, it's a wasted exercise. COLLINS: President Trump's aides are preparing to present him with

legislative options, but questions remain about what he'll support. The White House is also working on crafting an executive order, though it's still unclear what that will include.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We do believe that we will have proactive policy prescriptions, whether that means legislation or an executive order.

COLLINS: So far, Trump's response to the unrest across the nation following George Floyd's death has been muddled. He's invoked law and order, called for governors to use force on unruly protesters, and promoted conspiracy theories on his Twitter feed. The last time he talked to reporters, he denied there are systemic race problems within law enforcement.

And today, one of his top economic advisers said there is no systemic racism in the U.S. at all.

LARRY KUDLOW, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't believe there's systemic racism.

REPORTER: You don't think there's any systemic racism against African-Americans in the United States?

KUDLOW: I would say it again, I do not.

COLLINS: In Dallas tomorrow, the president will host a roundtable on race relations with law enforcement officials and faith leaders. But sources say he is also aiming to make an announcement while in Texas on police reform. Yesterday, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Jared Kushner huddled with Republican lawmakers about what they could agree on.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're not going to get into specific I think to negotiate it in the press. We'll do disservice to the senator.

COLLINS: Some of the president's political advisers fear that his response to Floyd's death has been confusing and incendiary. And polls showing him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden have raised alarms within the Republican Party. Amid fears about potential Election Day consequences, Trump met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House today to talk about competitive races.

In turn, Biden has seized on the opportunity to contrast himself with Trump. In an op-ed today, he wrote that Trump's hate-filled, conspiracy-laden rhetoric is inflaming the racial divides in our country. But just fixing the way the president talks won't cut it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, after the Pentagon said earlier this week that top officials there were open to renaming military bases named after Confederate leaders, the president tweeted this afternoon that that won't be happening on his watch. He said: These monumental and very powerful bases have become a part of great American heritage and a history of winning, victory, and freedom. He says: Therefore, my administration will not even consider the renaming of these magnificent and fabled military installations, putting him directly at odds with his own Pentagon secretary for the second time in a week.

[16:20:12]

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

A little context for just two of the Confederate generals after whom U.S. military bases have been named. Braxton Bragg led soldiers in the Mexican-American War. He owned slaves at a sugar plantation in Louisiana before leading Confederate troops to defeat against Ulysses S. Grant in the Battle of Chattanooga, which led to Bragg's ignominious resignation.

Henry Benning presided over Georgia's cessation convention from the United States of America. He became a brigadier general in the Confederacy and ultimately surrendered to the North in the Battle of Appomattox in Virginia.

Both bases were named after the losing army generals, not right after the war as an attempt at reconciliation, but in the 1920s when Confederate leaders started dying off.

I want to bring in CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, to be clear, the Pentagon brass, military leaders, they were open to having a conversation about renaming these installations that were named after generals who, let's be honest, were traitors to the United States.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Named after generals who picked up arms against the United States and were responsible, although so many decades ago, still for killing American soldiers.

Look, what the military had in mind was to start what they called a bipartisan conversation in the United States about how to proceed on this very sensitive point, though it's not sensitive to a lot of people. A lot of people think it needs to be done and in the year 2020, there are military people who support keeping the names. There are military people who think the names are very divisive and especially to black service members who go to work every day on these bases.

So they wanted a bipartisan conversation to see if they could come to a way ahead. Even today, the Army was quietly looking for names for a potential blue-ribbon panel to begin to discuss this. But the president shut it down. And by shutting it all down, he has basically ruled against his defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several members of the joint chiefs who wanted that bipartisan conversation, Jake.

BLITZER: Yes. Just a conversation is what we're talking about, Barbara. And let me bring Kaitlan Collins back. Why not just even have the

conversation about this if military leaders were trying to do so in a bipartisan way? What's the politics here?

COLLINS: Well, the White House is using the same defense that they did in 2017 when the president came out against pulling down those Confederate statues or removing them, which is basically where does it end? They were implying that if you start renaming bases like this or taking down certain statues, then people will start calling for statues like George Washington to be pulled down.

Of course, that is not an argument that many people have made or anyone really. But, really, Jake, the question is, you know, the president often makes arguments like these. They feed well with his base. The question is, does it still?

Because we've seen a lot of public opinion change over the last two weeks as you've seen the unrest across the nation and in response to George Floyd's death. And so far, the president's response to that has been to maintain his position on kneeling in the NFL and maintaining his position on not renaming these bases or moving Confederate statues.

TAPPER: Yes. It just seems like he has his base sewn up, it might be an opportunity to try to expand it. But what do I know?

Kaitlan Collins, Barbara Starr, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

George Floyd's brother fighting back tears on Capitol Hill today, asking lawmakers to stop the pain and enact police reforms. His words, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Die begging for his mom. I'm here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:53]

TAPPER: In our national lead today, one day after George Floyd was laid to rest, his brother, civil rights leaders, and law enforcement officials took to Capitol Hill to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

Philonise Floyd in an emotional opening statement asked lawmakers to honor his late brother by making his killing at the hands of police a catalyst for change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLOYD: The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough. The people elected you to speak for them, to make positive change, George's name means something. It is on you to make sure his death is not in vain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: CNN's Manu Raju joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Manu, Floyd also got emotional when talking about the officers involved.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he held back tears. It was an emotional hearing all around. The tone was very serious from members on both sides as they were grappling with the gravity of the situation and acknowledged how difficult it was for them to watch the video of George Floyd being knelt on by that officer in Minneapolis for eight minutes and 46 seconds, which George Floyd said it felt like 8 hours and 46 minutes.

And when he talked about it, he said he pleaded for it to stop and he wants justice to be served.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLOYD: He pleaded for his --

[16:30:00]