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GOP Struggles With Demands To Overhaul Policing And Address Racism; Georgia Officials Call For Investigations Into Voting Issues. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 10, 2020 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

In the space of a little more than two weeks, change has begun in the U.S. 12 cities and municipalities have taken action to ban chokeholds by police officers after George Floyd's killing. And in just a few hours, Floyd's brother will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on how to move forward from here.

House Democrats have already proposed sweeping reforms to policing. Republicans are now drafting plans of their own. But President Trump's contribution, so far, has been to spread a blatant lie about a 75- year-old peace activist who was shoved to the ground and injured by a Buffalo police officer.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: There are now developments this morning in the investigation of George Floyd's death. Minneapolis News Station KMSP is reporting that Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned George Floyd to the pavement with his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes, was in talks to plead guilty before he was arrested and charged with murder. Those negotiations reportedly fell apart.

Meanwhile, there are calls for investigations about voting problems in Georgia. A complete meltdown is what the Atlanta Journal Constitution called it after voters waited hours in line in the hot sun yesterday. Absentee ballot applications never returned. So why did this all happen? And can it be fixed by November?

Let's begin though on Capitol Hill with our Boris Sanchez. And, Boris, we are seeing actual plans for change now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. Philonise Floyd set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. He is set to tell his brother, George's story, to share the pain and grief that he's experienced and losing his brother to law enforcement. And he is part of a list of witnesses that are set to build a case that systemic racism in law enforcement is real and needs to be addressed.

That is something that President Trump has not acknowledged. The president standing firm in his law and order stance, still deliberating whether or not he's going to address the issue on the issue of racial unity. Aides to the president tell CNN that in recent days, they've tried to relay their own personal experiences with racism to the president. Sources tell us that the president has been open to that, that he's been receptive.

They also tell us that the president is open to some kind of police reform legislation, though the details of that remain murky. The president sending his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his son-in- law, Jared Kushner, to Capitol Hill yesterday, to meet with Senator Tim Scott, who is leading the Republican Senate effort to build some form of legislation.

A draft of that legislation was released yesterday. It is much more measured than the Democrat version that was released on Monday from Democrats in the House. It includes a far-ranging set of motions, including anti-lynching measures, as well as a ban on chokeholds nationally. The Republican version does not include that. It essentially leaves a ban on chokeholds up to local governments.

We should point out, already, a number of local governments and municipalities have banned chokeholds, have banned that practice, places like Washington, D.C., New York, Miami, et cetera. It is still a very wide-open question what these two sides are willing to compromise on and, of course, what President Trump will finally sign off on. John?

BERMAN: Yes, Boris Sanchez on Capitol Hill. President Trump is nowhere on this right now, hasn't said a thing about what he would expect or what he wants to see, and that's crucial.

So joining us now, CNN Early Start Anchor, Laura Jarrett, who covered the Justice Department for a while, CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers is here with us, as well. He's the author of the book, My Vanishing Country.

Laura, let's put it back up on the screen so people can see these various proposals. The Democratic proposal is in writing at this point. In addition, it includes significant changes to the qualified immunity enjoyed by police officers in terms of lawsuits right now. And you can see some of the ideas being kicked around by Republican Senator Tim Scott. Again, it doesn't go as far as the Democratic plan.

But a couple of things are notable, really, to me, Laura. Number one is that Republicans haven't been critical of the Democratic plan yet. They're not bashing it the way that plans normally get bashed when proposed by one party or another, which indicates to me they know that they have to come up with something, which is why you're seeing Republican Senator Tim Scott scrambling right now.


They know that the country is calling for action now.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, they're reading the room. They realize that they need to do something. And, look, federal policy is important. It makes a lot of sense in Tim Scott's version to say to states, look, if you're not having officers turn on body cameras, that's a problem and we may have to withhold funding.

But I think the concern for a lot of people is that these are just crumbs and really scratching at the surface of a much, much broader problem, that they will do these things, they will pack up and go home and say, you know what, our job is done. When in reality, a lot of the policing issues are happening at the local level. That's why we see so many states banning chokeholds.

And even in those cases, a lot of other people are saying, look, you know, some of these reforms we're seeing on the local level don't go far enough. In Minneapolis, officers had to go through cultural sensitivity training and that still didn't help George Floyd.

CAMEROTA: And, Bakari, isn't it strange to hear nothing from the president? I mean, I know we're three years into this and nothing should surprise us, but silence, while these nationwide protests, while all of the polls suggest that the public sentiment has changed in the past two weeks. And you see Congress taking action quickly, which is also striking, and nothing, no statement from the president other than these conspiracy theory, repugnant tweets. He gets them off of some fake cable network that finds them on a fringe website. That's the message he wants to put out.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not surprised. And I actually think that the country can better heal itself if the president stays out of this. I know that's kind of unique to say that we don't need to involve the president of the United States in one of the largest issues that it's facing right now at its most critical juncture we've had in the most recent 50 or 60 years, but that's the case. I mean, we can go without Donald Trump.

I am excited that Tim Scott is at the table. I am excited that Tim Scott is pushing forth ideas. And I know that these ideas may not go far enough to address the systemic racism that we have that's at the core of many of our systems in this country. However, Tim Scott does come with these experiences. I'm interested to see the testimony today from George Floyd's brother.

On the other hand though, you actually have people in the Republican Party, we have to be mindful, who believe that -- who believe that systemic racism does not exist. I mean, Dan Bongino is testifying on behalf of the Republicans. So you're going to have this messaging come out and emanate from the Republican Party that says that systemic racism does not exist. That's why I'm happy that Tim Scott is at the table. And I do believe something will happen.

But to Laura's point, now that George Floyd has been buried, now that we're shifting gears into solutions, will we be bold in trying to fix these solutions, or will we just nibble around the edges and move on?

BERMAN: Well, Laura, what's the difference? Can I ask? I mean, if we can put up on the screen so people can see the various proposals that are being, the ones by the Democrats and the ones by Republicans, what would count as a major structural change and what counts as nibbling around the edges? JARRETT: Well, I think the qualified immunity issue is actually a huge deal. And it may sound like sort of legal mumbo jumbo, but it's a big deal. Because what it means is essentially federal officers are off the hook, unless there has been a clearly established rule, which means that the Supreme Court has actually spoken on that issue, officers can point to that and say, look, I am not guilty in this case. And so I think there are actually legal rules that have allowed for a long time people not to be held accountable.

But I also think that, you know, senators need to listen to their communities and what their communities are asking for. And a lot of cases, it's not just reform measures. They want to radically change how policing is done. I mean, our T.V. screens are full right now of an enormous amount of police using force on citizens, even after the death of George Floyd. And so I think they're trying to -- the protesters are really right to reimage what police would look like in this country.

CAMEROTA: Former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to, I guess, well, be a voice for all of this and step into the void that President Trump is leaving. And so last night, he did talk about his view on systemic racism. Listen to this.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Do you believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Absolutely. But it's not just in law enforcement. It's across the board. It's in housing and it's in education and it's in everything we do. It's real, it's genuine, it's serious.

Look, not all law enforcement officers are racist. My Lord, there are some really good, good cops out there. But the way in which it works right now, and we've seen too many examples of it.


CAMEROTA: Bakari, do you think that he's having some impact? Do you think his voice is being heard in the middle of all of this tumult?


SELLERS: Yes, I mean, that was pitch perfect. I mean, that is what people of color, black folks have been screaming for 40, 50, 60 years. I mean, Alisyn and John, think about this. It took us seven years to get to the point where people would even say Black Lives Matter. I mean, seven years, that's how long the movement has been going and now finally people are saying it and we're putting forth solutions and we have a candidate for president of the United States who acknowledges this.

This moment is larger than George Floyd. And that's the challenge. This is a -- this is a seminal moment in our country's history. And it seems as if Joe Biden is ready to tackle that moment, even with all of his flaws and even with some of his stumbles, he's ready to tackle the moment.

On the flip side, you have to look at Donald Trump, who's ill-equipped for this moment. And we talk about, where is Donald Trump? I know that The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, had this amazing and lengthy video on social media asking, where is our leader? Well, many times you don't want the arsonist coming back and doing something with the fire.

And so we sit here today just thirsting for leadership, but that leadership has to have empathy. We have an empathy void in this country, one that Donald Trump cannot feel. And the question is whether or not people will support Joe Biden and he'll continue to lift this message up between now and November.

BERMAN: The thing is, the president has to sign a legislation if Congress passes something and the president has to sign it. So he can't be completely removed from this process. And in terms of what he's doing, we saw what he was doing yesterday with this just absurd, blatant lie about Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old peace activist in Buffalo who was pushed to the ground, blood pouring from his head, suggesting it was some kind of conspiracy theory.

Now, I agree with you on the sense, Bakari, it's not surprising from the president at this point. We've seen that before. Just because it's not surprising though doesn't mean that it's offensive. And it should be easy for politicians of any flavor or party to condemn such a statement. But look how not eased it was. Look how hard Republicans worked. Look at the gymnastics that they performed, trying to avoid these questions yesterday.

Listen to this.


REPORTER: 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.

REP. KEVIN KRAMER (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.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You saw the president's tweet this morning when he talked about this Buffalo protester.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't read the damn thing, I don't want to hear it.

RAJU: I know.


BERMAN: Okay. You could have just said, it was bad, he shouldn't have done it. That took me less than three seconds to say. But each of those senators pulled a muscle trying to avoid a question there.

Laura, you can see them just -- it just seems like such an opportunity missed to take a stand.

JARRETT: Look, time and again, they have made their gamble that they don't have to say anything and that he will do something else and the media cycle will move on and we will go through this over and over and over again. But the real test is what happens in November and whether people are actually going to hold their elected officials accountable.

We have seen already, Trump's poll numbers are slipping, and the campaign knows it. Even among white evangelicals, they don't like what they're seeing. The question is just what actually happens when people go to the polls.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, Bakari, I mean, it has become just so notable when Republicans now do speak out against the president's tweets. I mean, now it -- when Mitt Romney says it was a shocking thing to say, and I won't dignify it with further comment, when, you know, Senator Thune says, it's a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence and I haven't seen any, and when Lisa Murkowski says, it just makes no sense that we're fanning the flames at this time. This is not good. That is notable and do you think that is a shift?

SELLERS: That's a good question, Alisyn. I mean, the bar is so low. I mean, I remember back in the day when we actually were mad at a president for wearing a tan suit or using Dijon mustard. I mean, that's where we once were. I mean, this is absurd.

And to applaud Mitt Romney or Murkowski or actually having some semblance of character is -- I just don't want to applaud that. I think that the damage that Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party is something that's going to be felt for the next decade.

I mean, I'm not the person to do it, and I'm not smart enough, but I wish there was someone who could come on this show and write a book on how Donald Trump has crumbled the moral fiber of the Republican Party, how he shifted the moral compass of this party, how he's lowered the standards and expectations of the White House from someone who was held to the highest standard, the black man we had elected, the 44th president, to someone who can literally, if he puts together a complete sentence we cheer for, and if people speak out against him being rude, we count that as a victory for that person.


My, my, my, things have changed in just four years. And the bar is so low that it only takes a little bitty hop. Maybe even John Berman can get over it.

BERMAN: Even I can jump higher than that bar.

Bakari Sellers, you have written a book, I should note, it's called, My Vanishing Country, now available in bookstores, and now I hope that you feel bad for making fun of me now that I've promoted your book. CAMEROTA: And his hopping skills.

BERMAN: Thanks, Bakari, I appreciate it. Laura Jarrett, great to have you on.

So it has been called a complete meltdown in Georgia. What happened yesterday when voters tried to cast their votes, what a mess, in line for hours, absentee ballots never delivered, what went on here? We ask the state's lieutenant governor, next.


CAMEROTA: Officials in Georgia are calling for an investigation after this scene played out at polling places yesterday.


Voters stood in line for hours after a cascade of problems with voting machines.

The front page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution calls it this morning a complete meltdown.

Joining us now is Georgia's lieutenant governor, Jeff Duncan. Lieutenant Governor Duncan, thank you very much for being here. I know yesterday wasn't easy. Let me just tick through a litany of the complaints that voters had.

Poll workers struggled with the new machines. They didn't feel they had had enough training on the new paperless voting system. There were long lines. The touch screens didn't work. They had to process paper ballots by hand. Many people never received their absentee ballots. Voters had to wait multiple hours in line exposing them to a coronavirus risk. How did Georgia screw this up so badly?

LT. GOV. JEFF DUNCAN (R-GA): Well, thanks for the opportunity to be here. And you know, the sun is starting to rise and we're starting to gather all the information necessary to figure out the things and the areas that we can improve.

I know that here in Georgia, like many other states, there's a split responsibility between the secretary of state and the local county election offices. And certainly, they're all in that process of doing a deep dive and debriefing on opportunities to improve.

You know, I think, you know, you describe many of the issues and the challenges that we faced. We have new machines that are implemented statewide. You've got obviously the coronavirus social distancing and then you've also had a wave of storms come through Atlanta and the Atlanta metro area.

In my particular county, we had no issues. I voted with an absentee ballot. My wife and my 18-year-old son got to vote for the first time and they came home and said that they spent less than 20 minutes in their places. But certainly, we're going to go through a full review here and continue to look for an opportunity to put an even better foot forward in November.

CAMEROTA: Can you guarantee voters there that this will not happen in November?

DUNCAN: Well, certainly, that's the goal, right? I think we can all learn from this and hopefully we can continue to really work on training. I think initial feedback is that we can continue to do a much better job as a state and as counties, individual counties, training the poll workers on the equipment and the processes. But also, I want to encourage everybody here in our state to take an opportunity to potentially volunteer.

I think some of the feedback we got is there wasn't enough volunteers. And, typically, those are going to be older folks, more on the retired side that typically volunteer in those polling centers and obviously with corona, that creates a little bit of an obstacle.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like, as you said here this morning, that you're not that confident or entirely confident that this won't happen again in November.

DUNCAN: Well, certainly, we'll do all that we can do to make sure we put an even better foot forward. And like I said, those techniques are going to be better training, better education, and like we would in the business world, we're going to do a deep dive into the project and we're going to understand the best foot that we can put forward and better techniques to implement as we go forward.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the Ahmaud Arbery case. As well know, Georgia is just one of four states that does not have a hate crime law. Investigators say that when Ahmaud Arbery was shot down, a horrible racial slur was uttered in the commission of that crime. And this week, his mother is calling for Georgia to change its ways, to change its laws, and she's calling on you specifically. Let me play for you what she said.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Last year, Georgia statehouse moved in the right direction, passing House bill 426, which will impose harsher sentencing for hate crimes. But the bill has been stalled for a year and state and Senate Leadership refuses to vote on it. Chairman Jesse Stone and Lieutenant Governor Duncan, please do the right thing.

State senators are going back into session. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support this, pass a hate crime law.


CAMEROTA: When she says, Lieutenant Governor Duncan, please do the right thing, what's your response to her? DUNCAN: Well, I don't think there's anything more powerful than somebody's mother making an appeal. I'm a father of three boys and I look at so many of these situations that continue to arise through the lens of being a father. I mean, how do I answer the questions for my own kids as to how does this happen? What's the remedy to this?

And so House bill 426 is a bill that came over from the House, over to the Senate, and over the last four or five weeks, I've decided to try to become a subject matter expert. I've asked a lot of questions and brought in members of the African-American community, members of the Democratic Party into my office and asked them, what's the best way to move forward? And quite honestly, I think we can do better than House bill 426.

I've been told by an African-American gentlemen sitting in my office that House bill 426, if passed, would be the weakest hate crimes law in the country, and quite honestly, that's not good enough.


This past Sunday, we were sitting online watching church and our pastor made a comment. He said, it's not enough to not be racist. We've got to be anti-racism. As I look forward to the next 11 days to craft hate crimes bill that will make Georgia the worst place to commit a hate crime and the best place to love your neighbor. That's the goal we've got over the next 11 legislative days.

I call on my senators in the Senate and in the House to approve the legislation and get it to the governor's desk.

CAMEROTA: So you supportive a hate crime law and you believe in the space of two weeks, you're going to be able to get it done?

DUNCAN: I do. I think we're continuing to build a consensus all across the Senate. I hope to have a bipartisan effort with support from both parties, as we move forward, because, think about it, the mechanics of a hate crimes bill have to be just more than words on a page.

As we analyze this, we need to make sure that we include things like data collection, uniform reporting, we need to make sure that there's an opportunity, potentially for civil recourse. We also have got to make sure that we have the opportunity to, instead of just having a sentence enhancement and have it as sole discretion of the prosecutor, that we actually give the victim to have the opportunity to have a separate charge of a hate crime and allow them to be able to make that presentation in a court case, in a courtroom.

Those are things that I think we can bring together. It's a big ask, I got you. But I'm up for the challenge and I'm ready to lead this effort.

CAMEROTA: Do you think Ahmaud Arbery's Murder was a hate crime?

DUNCAN: Well, certainly, as the data and the facts continue to roll in. But I think one of the most alarming things of this was the way it was handled, even after the incident itself happened. To have to wait months and to watch the process not work, that's troubling also.

And so I think if we can train law enforcement and prosecutors to understand what is a hate crime, what are the right questions to ask, what's the right training to build an investigation around a hate crime? That to me is the way to make this thing continue to trend in a positive direction.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, yes or no, as of what you know right now, do you believe that Ahmaud Arbery's murder was a hate crime?

DUNCAN: It certainly appears to be a bias-motivated crime, at least from the messaging, but I've not watched the tapes. I've not read the file. My job is to make sure that we put 11 million Georgians in the best possible position each and every day, when they go to work, when they go to church, when they go to school, when they play in their neighborhoods.

It's important for me to make sure that all 11 million Georgians don't fear for any sort of hate crime or bias-motivated crime.

CAMEROTA: Lieutenant Governor Duncan, thank you. We really appreciate you coming on this morning.

DUNCAN: Absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity.

CAMEROTA: The Minneapolis City Council is talking about dismantling their police department, as you know. We find out what that could look like from a city that has already done it successfully, next.