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George Floyd's Brother Pleads for Police Reform on Capitol Hill; Interview with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Speaker of the House on Police Reform and the Chaotic Georgia Elections. White House Defends Trump's False Conspiracy Tweet on 75-year-Old Protester. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 10, 2020 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: With calls increasing all around the country for meaningful police reform lawmakers in Washington are trying to take action in the wake of George Floyd's death. The House committee is holding a hearing on that very topic and Floyd's brother, Philonise, testified before the House Judiciary Committee today he, you know, wiping tearing from his eyes was just sitting there pleading with lawmakers to make big changes, make them now so that no other family has to experience the pain he and his family are enduring.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: George wasn't hurting anyone that day. He didn't deserve to die over $20. I'm asking you, is that what a black man is worth? $20? This is 2020. Enough is enough. 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. You have the opportunity here today to make your names mean something, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That hearing comes just days after House Democrats unveiled a sweeping reform package. Senate Republicans led by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina are working on a plan all of their own. He said this afternoon that there is common ground between Congressional Democrats, Republicans and the White House on this issue.

Meantime, about a dozen cities and municipalities all across the country have either banned or are moving to ban the use of police choke holds. So, to Washington we go to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi, welcome.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you, my pleasure to be with you.

BALDWIN: First, before we get to the legislation, just on the family, you know, when you watched Philonise Floyd testify this morning when he is sitting there saying enough is enough, and, you know, that George's name means something and you, members of Congress, have the opportunity here to make your names mean something. Speaker Pelosi, what's your message to him?

PELOSI: Well, it was quite an emotional experience for us to sit there and listen to what you just heard him say. But before we went into the auditorium where he testified, he said to me, I have a question. Is this going to happen? Is there going to be a bill that is passed? And why do you think so?

And I said I think so, I know so because the people have spoken. President Lincoln said public sentiment is everything. With it you can accomplish almost anything, without it practically nothing.

But for sentiment to prevail people have to know and people do. And people have spoken. They have been seen, they have been heard. And they've done so day in and day out for weeks. So, the injustice of it all is readily apparent.

The need to make the change is clear and the proposals to do so have been in the hopper for a while. That's why I'm so proud of our Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass, our Judiciary Committee, Chairman Nadler for being ready when this sad time came, at a time when the public was more ready to weigh in.

BALDWIN: And as you know, you say you know so and this has been in the works, for a minute, you also know though, Speaker Pelosi as a deal- maker just how difficult it is to bring about change in Washington and I know you're colleagues have tried. I think of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, you know, introducing five years ago that anti-chokehold legislation in the wake of Eric Garner's death. Yet here we are today. So, with this robust bill you are proposing, what are your three must- haves?

PELOSI: Well, there are three categories. One in terms of the stopping the use of violence and recording it. That is to say no chokeholds and again issues that relate to no warrantless breaking into people's homes and that. And again, recording it by having body cams, car cams and the rest and keeping the data. But also, very important to it all is the qualified immunity doctrine that really protects police from being prosecuted for their actions. This is very, very important.

[15:35:00]

And, again, whether it is how they are prosecuted and how -- what vulnerability, what exposure the police have for some actions, A. B, keeping a record of what it is. And also, the data on actions taken by police that are against the law that are unjust. And then of course chokehold, racial profiling and issues like that have to stop.

BALDWIN: So, are you speaking with Senator Scott about this? Are you speaking to the White House about this? How are you as Speaker of the House working to cross this across the finish line?

PELOSI: Well, my trust is in the Congressional Black Caucus which has been working on this for decades -- for decades -- and the Judiciary Committee. I have had my conversations, yes. But they're taking the lead on this. And we are very proud of the response they've received, over 200 cosponsors in the House. They command great respect on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. And hopefully down Pennsylvania Avenue. So, my goal is to give them options. But again, to respect their judgment on how we go forward.

BALDWIN: Speaking of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House today signaled that they are working on some form of an executive order on police reform, we don't know what's in it. We know President Trump travels to Dallas tomorrow for this round table with law enforcement and faith leaders and the like.

But when you look at his tweets, Speaker Pelosi, from earlier this week promoting this false conspiracy theory involving that Buffalo protester Martin Gugino and he just tweeted about keeping these military bases named after confederate leaders, it runs counter to all of those efforts, so Madam Speaker, do you have faith that the White House is taking police reform seriously?

PELOSI: Well, I have hoped that they will. Because I think it's very important for us to work in a bipartisan way to the extent possible. Certainly, I'm hopeful that that is possible in the Congress of the United States. And I hope that if that happens that the President will be receptive to it.

I wouldn't be distracted by any of the President's tweets or other comments. What we should focus on is the merit of the legislation. The difference that it will make, the hope that it gives people that things can and will change.

And, again, we must strive for as much bipartisanship and I'm hopeful that that can be the case. We, again, as you mentioned earlier, are right now in the process of having the hearing of many authorities on the subject of justice in policing in the Capitol of the United States. That record is going to be very important as to why and how we can go forward.

But let us at least try to be bipartisan or nonpartisan as we deal with this. The American people deserve that. And we should strive for it. But if we cannot, at reaching across the aisle, trying to find a common ground, if we cannot, we must go forward with the strongest possible legislation to make the biggest possible difference because we must make change.

BALDWIN: Speaking of change, you know, I was just thinking of the election in November. I was just speaking with Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, I asking her about what happened with the election in Georgia yesterday and all the issues with voting and this is what the mayor just told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D) ATLANTA: It is absolutely ridiculous. coming out of 2016 specifically when there were so many questions about the integrity of our election to be here again in 2020 under these circumstances, really, it's unacceptable.

I think the layers of the voter suppression and the break down in our election system in Georgia run very deep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: My question to you, Speaker Pelosi, is, you know, do you have any concerns about how things may go in November just given what folks experienced in Georgia late last night?

PELOSI: Well, I completely agree with what the distinguished mayor had to say and she has firsthand experience into voter suppression that exists, and that suppression takes many forms including not being ready for an election that you know what your responsibilities are.

Let me say that in the Heroes Act which we hope will be passed which supports our first responders, our health care workers, our heroes in all of this fight, our teachers and the rest, against the -- the fight against the coronavirus, and helps state and localities do their job. They also have in their considerable resources for voices not only not only a democracy issue of helping people vote at home and therefore making it easier for them, it's a health issue in the time of the coronavirus.

[15:40:04]

So, to see what happened in Georgia where in certain neighborhoods that are more affluent and more white, it took you 20 minutes to vote. But it took hours in other neighborhoods. That -- one would be suspicious that could be by design. So, again, in the bill we have $3.6 billion --

BALDWIN: May I jump in. When you say forgive me, Madam Speaker, when you say could be suspicious, could be by design, what do you mean by that?

PELOSI: Yes, by design.

BALDWIN: Who did the designing?

PELOSI: Well, those who are responsible. That would be the secretaries of state and those who are responsible in different states, it's largely secretaries of state. But you have to make a decision to remove obstacles to participation in voting. That's your responsibility.

If you send out machines prematurely where there isn't adequate training and personnel to deal with the voting, you're asking for trouble. And you don't seem to mind when it cost other people hours to vote. So, let's just assume that -- let's hope for the best.

Always hope for the best. But prepare for the worst. And what we have to do is make sure that we have the legal strength that we need to fight all of this, that we have the proper preparation of people to help other people at the polls, that we hold those responsible for sending out the vote by mail accountable.

There is no surprise here. It happened. Now let's make sure it doesn't happen again. This is about the essence of who we are as a democracy. The sacred right to vote and that they would trample on that or ignore their responsibilities to it is something that we must address.

And as the mayor referenced, there was intervention in the elections in 2016. There is no surprise in any of this. But I will tell you if you saw the Republican playbook on voter suppression, you would see that there's a plan here that says we're afraid of the vote, we're going to do everything we can to limit it. Limit it in terms of geography, locations and limit in terms of timing as to how late or in advance polls are open and limit it in terms of the mechanics of the election when it comes to voting by mail.

But you know what? We don't agonize. We organize. We're going to be ready for all of this. Because that is what we owe our Constitution and that's what we owe our democracy. That's what we owe our children and all of the American people.

BALDWIN: Sure. I imagine what's happened in Atlanta will be looked into, but I know that Georgia Secretary of State is essentially saying it was not his fault. We'll have other conversations on that.

I want to end with this, Speaker Pelosi. Because I know you have strong Baltimore roots and I wanted to ask you about someone I know you referred to as your brother in Baltimore. A Congressman and a civil rights champion Elijah Cummings who is no longer with us. But I was rereading your words you've written about him after he passed, and I just want to remind everyone what you had as it pertains to just the state of America, we're in.

You wrote: The people of Baltimore, the Congress and the United States lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth. Our beloved chairman, Elijah E. Cummings, in the House Elijah was our north star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity who pushed the Congress and country always to rise to a higher purpose, reminding us why we are here. As he said, whenever he saw what we were not living up to, our Founders' vision for America, and meeting needs of our children for the future, we are better than this.

And Speaker Pelosi, I want to end with those words, we're better than this. And what do you think your dear friend, your north star would say about where we are in America right now?

PELOSI: Well, one other thing that he did say is he said, when we are dancing with the angels, little did we know that that would be imminent for him. But when we are dancing with the angels we need to be responsible for what we did to make things better.

And he would be saying right now, what are each -- what is each of us doing to make things better, to take responsibility, take responsibility for our democracy. And he said of the children, he said the children are our messengers to the future, a future we will never see. So, this responsibility is to our democracy and to our children.

BALDWIN: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you.

PELOSI: Thank you, Brooke, my pleasure.

BALDWIN: Coming up, 19 states are now seeing a rise in coronavirus cases. Including a spike so severe in one state that officials are issuing a new warning to hospitals.

[15:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Remember that second wave of coronavirus cases that those top health experts had warned us about? So, it's happening right now. Johns Hopkins University researchers found 19 states are seeing a spike in the number of new patients with COVID-19. This is happening after many states loosened restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus. And then you add to that the number of massive protests over the last two weeks.

[15:50:00]

And you have all of this, despite the economic toll, not every American is on board with getting back to normal. In fact, the country is nearly split down the middle on whether or not they're comfortable with this whole idea. And then there is this number. 46 percent of Americans say the worst is yet to come. Contrast that with the 47 percent who think the worst is behind us.

Let's go to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here. What to believe, what to think, my goodness. I mean you see the divide based on the polling. It seems to be in disagreement between the World Health Organization and Dr. Anthony Fauci as well, just about the nature of asymptomatic transmission. What are you hearing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Brooke, let's try to bottom line this. So, over the past couple of days there's been a disagreement because the World Health Organization said one thing about asymptomatic transmission that confused everybody. Then they changed it on Tuesday confusing people even more. Including infectious disease doctors who said the W.H.O. left them scratching their heads.

And then Tony Fauci and others came out and said, look, asymptomatic transmission is real. People can feel fine, yet still be infected and infect others. And that brings us to the recent protests because there are people who are feeling well enough to protest but who in fact might have COVID-19 and not even know it. So, let's take a listen to something Dr. Fauci said recently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So, I wouldn't be surprised that members of the congregation that were there demonstrating could also be infected. And many of them would then go back to where they were because not everyone was demonstrating in the city where they live. They've come from the outside. So, it's the kind of things that we were concerned about. And unfortunately, we're seeing it come true right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So the bottom line for all of this, whether it's a protest or just people getting together, if we are not careful, if we don't socially distance, we can spread COVID-19 even if they feel fine -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, it feels like so many people have just sort of forgotten that it's a thing. But is very much a thing and we have to be so, so careful still. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

Just into us here at CNN, the White House Press Secretary is now defending the President for spreading this totally unfounded conspiracy theory about that 75-year-old protester in Buffalo, New York, who was pushed to the ground by police. We have those new details for you next.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Moments ago, White House Press Secretary Kaleigh McEnany jumped to defend the President over his incendiary tweet from earlier in the week when he claimed without evidence that the 75-year-old protester who was shoved by police in Buffalo, New York, may have been part of a, quote, setup. She suggested the President was doing the right thing, asking questions and that it was not a baseless conspiracy. Listen for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KALEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When we see a brief snippet of a video, it's incumbent upon reporters and those who are surveying the situation to ask questions rather --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't it incumbent upon the President to have facts before he tweets anything out? He's the President of the United States.

MCENANY: The President did have facts before he tweeted it out that undergirded his question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a baseless conspiracy theory.

MCENANY: It's not a baseless conspiracy theory. No, not all. I won't acknowledge that because, look, you had -- let's contrast this to the George Floyd situation which that horrific video that we all saw. Every single police officer that I saw across the country came out and said this is an inexcusable action, and I condemn this police officer. In this case, there were 57 police officers who said I resign in protest over the way these two officers were handled. And the President says those law enforcement officers have a right to be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But does the President think that anything justifies that 75-year-old man being pushed down to the ground like we all saw?

MCENANY: The President does not condone violence. He wants to see the appropriate amount of police force used in any given situation including this one. But he believes that the officers have a right to be heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN's political correspondent Abby Phillip is with me from Washington. And Abby, this is pretty inflammatory. What is going on here?

ABBY PHILLIP CNN'S POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The President's motto is don't back down, don't apologize, don't give an inch. And I think you're seeing Kaleigh McEnany really following through on that in a way that is literally unbelievable because it really has very little bearing to the truth.

I mean, Brooke, if you look at what the President actually tweeted, he wasn't asking a question. He said the Buffalo protester could be an Antifa provocateur, and then he said I watched, he fell harder than he was pushed. Those are statements, not questions.

And I think that's part of the problem here is that when the Press Secretary goes out there and says these kinds of things, it's part of the job in this White House to defend the President no matter what. But it erodes her credibility because it's not connected to what actually happened here.

And I think most people -- first of all, we should be very clear there's no basis for the President's claim. I mean we've talked to people who knew this man. He's a peaceful protester, no ties to Antifa. So, the idea that the President would put that out there is spreading a conspiracy theory and it's not just asking questions, it's not just wondering, oh, I wonder what happened here. The President was making claims that are not true about an incident that everybody saw on tape and saw what happened there.

BALDWIN: I've got you for 60 more seconds before we go to Jake. I was asking Speaker Pelosi and sort of what faith does she have in this White House in terms of bringing police reform? We know the President's heading to Dallas tomorrow and have that roundtable. They are talking about some sort of potential executive action. What do you know?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I think this is moving forward. I don't know how close the two parties are. One thing you did hear the Press Secretary say today was that one of the ideas that has been thrown around which is about qualified immunity, it basically would allow police officers to be held liable for violating other people's rights. The President is not interested in rolling that back. So that takes another thing off the table. I think we've heard a lot of what the President is not interested in. We've not heard very much about what he would support.

However, it does seem that this is really being led by Senate Republicans, and the big question will be, will the President be willing to get behind whatever they put together? They are staking out a pretty firm line on supporting police. So, I think it might be challenging to find some proposals that will make the President happy, that will make him believe that he is able to back reform without seeming to undermine police officers. BALDWIN: Abby Phillip, good to have you on as always. Thank you very

much. And thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you are watching CNN. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.