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George Floyd's Brother to Testify before Congress; U.S. House and Senate Working on Separate Proposals for Police Reform; President Trump Draws Criticism for Tweet on 75-Year-Old Activist Pushed to Ground by Police in Buffalo; More Cities Ban Chokeholds After George Floyd Killing; Parents of Black Man Who Died in Police Custody Speak Out. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 10, 2020 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. And this morning, to an extent, change is here. Twelve cities and municipalities including Washington, D.C., have just moved to ban chokeholds by law enforcement officers. The police chief from one of these cities joins us live in just a few minutes. Today, the brother of George Floyd will testify before the House Judiciary Committee. House Democrats have just proposed sweeping reforms to policing. Republicans, led by Senator Tim Scott, are now drafting plans of their own. So the default position, as we've said, is reform, and that is a very big change.

There is one person, though, largely absent from the discussion, at least now, and that's the president. His contribution has been to spread this horrific lie about a 75-year-old man who bled from the head after being pushed to the ground by a police officer.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the developments in the investigation into George Floyd's death. Minneapolis news station KMSP is reporting that Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned George Floyd to the pavement with a 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, what went wrong in Georgia, after scenes like this, voters waiting hours in the hot sun yesterday and reports that machines didn't work. Why did they have so many problems and can they fix them before November?

Let's begin with CNN's John Harwood. He is live for us at the White House. Hi, John.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. We've got the wheels turning fairly quickly on Capitol Hill just 24 hours after George Floyd's funeral. Today, Philonise Floyd, his brother, is going to testify before the House Judiciary Committee as legislative action begins on police reform. The House, of course, laid out their bill Monday. It was a -- as you would expect a more proscriptive bill, banning chokeholds, banning no-knock warrants in certain cases.

But the Republican Party, interestingly, is now stepping up and saying in the Senate that they want to have some action as well. Tim Scott, the senator from South Carolina, the only African-American Republican in the Senate offered a bill yesterday evening. It is less proscriptive. It's more in the manner of collecting data from states and providing grants that are conditioned on certain actions, but it indicates that there's a common space for discussion between the Democrats and Republicans.

It's going to be Senate Republicans who drive the GOP position on this rather than the White House. We know that the president and his aides have indicated that they're open to some of those reforms. But as we have seen in past episodes like this on gun control after mass shootings, it's really the Senate Republicans who are ultimately going to drive the train here. Important to note, though, that many local jurisdictions, a dozen of them so far, have acted on their own to ban chokeholds. Of course, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and a number of others have. So reform is happening at the local level, and there are signs that we may get some at the national level too, guys.

BERMAN: John, has the president indicated at all, out loud, which measures he would ultimately support?

HARWOOD: No. His aides are going to present options to him, and I'm sure that those will be drawn from the Senate bill. We saw the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Jared Kushner on the Hill yesterday consulting with fellow Republicans. But they're going to be in more reactive mode to what Mitch McConnell and the Republican caucus is willing to support.

CAMEROTA: John Harwood, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent at "The New York Times." Also with us, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. Great to see you both of you. So Maggie, as the president has watched this, what feels like a sea change over the past two weeks, people demanding progress, Congress attempting to take some steps towards that, what is his thinking and his mindset inside the White House?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Whether the president recognizes the speed at which public opinion is changing on race, Alisyn, and police remains to be seen. As John said, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, is planning on bringing the president a menu of options that are plucked from what folks on Capitol Hill are talking about, and senators and Republican Congressmembers don't all have the same plan in mind. There's a bunch.

The president has heard from a number of advisers that he has to do something. He has avoided it thus far. The options have been to give a speech or do a listening session. Lots of aides don't want him doing a speech, and he doesn't like the idea of a listening session. But I do think that there are enough people around the president recognizing that something has to be done, and they have to get him there whether he is ready or not in terms of showing that he is hearing that this conversation is happening nationally.


BERMAN: His instincts, though, from when we go back nine days now to when he cleared out the street in front of the White House and walked across the street for a photo-op, have been in a different place. His instincts have been to lean into the different place. And to what extent has that affected the discussions over a public speech, or affected the discussions about whether to come out publicly in favor of something?

HABERMAN: A great deal. His impulse is to lean into law and order as his default setting, and he believes or says he believes that he thinks this is what his base wants to hear. He thinks that this is what is going to help him win again, talking this way. And it is true that historically Republicans have done well with a law and order message. It's a little different when you're the incumbent, and it's a little different when you have literally inserted yourself into this conversation at a number of different point without actually talking to the various voices around the issue of race and police. Instead, he just says 99.9 percent of police are good, and he thinks that that is the message that folks will want to hear.

It is going to be a struggle to get him a little further. I think when he recognizes his back is against the wall, he tends to try to get up and fight, and fight for a reelection win. But look, his advisers know that he's in a lot of trouble right through. And I'm not sure that just saying that he is looking at reform bills is going to be enough, but we'll see.

CAMEROTA: Abby, if you really have to wrestle with whether or not you should give a speech on racism, that's probably a sign you shouldn't give a reach speech on racism. And so that always seemed a little curious that the president was considering coming out and giving a speech when his Twitter handle speaks for him. So we know how he has felt about the protesters, et cetera. So that's not going to happen, right?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I tend to agree with you, Alisyn. I have a lot of flash backs in this moment of the days after Charlottesville when the White House decided to put the president out to give a speech that was from a teleprompter that he read, sufficiently convincingly, and then proceeded to completely undo what was written in that speech just a day or two later.

So there are risks here that the president is perceived as not genuine in his efforts to speak to this moment. And I think that there's no indication that what the president actually wants to do is unify the country, lead this effort to start grappling with racial reconciliation. There's absolutely nothing in what the president has said on Twitter with his own words or done over the last two weeks that indicates that that is where his head is at. And it's a huge risk on this White House's part to force him to read

something from a teleprompter that he does not mean, because I think we will find out very quickly soon after how he really feels about these situations, and that will backfire. I think the American public right now, they already feel like he has handled this poorly. More missteps will only make that problem worse.

BERMAN: In terms of where his head is, Maggie, we saw the statement that the president made on Twitter yesterday about Martin Gugino, he's the 75-year-old peace activist in Buffalo who was pushed to the ground. I don't want to restate what the president said there, but my understanding while no one is surprised when the president says something outrageous on Twitter now, my understanding is that there was an unusual level of alarm from within about how damaging that statement at this time actually was.

HABERMAN: The tweets have been an issue. Look, the tweets are always an issue. And by the way, just to be clear, I completely agree with Abby. I don't think he is going to give a speech for the reasons that Abby said. They don't usually go well, and that's why some of his closest advisers haven't wanted him to do one.

In terms of what the president tweeted yesterday, the White House is used to him tweeting things. A bunch of people have told that they have taken Twitter notifications off the phone because they don't want to chirp of what he says. This one is different in the sense that he's -- there's a guy who is 75 years old who was hospitalized, was still hospitalized as of the moment that the president tweeted this, and the president is saying based on nothing that he offered up that the guy -- basically that the guy had it coming. Essentially, well, the guy was trying to harm the cops is what he was saying.

People saw the video, and the problem the president is having over the last week and a half, a problem that he's having, is that there's a lot of video. There was video of George Floyd. There was video of this man in Buffalo being pushed. And essentially the president and some of his defenders are resorting to saying that people didn't really see what they saw, and that's very dangerous.


CAMEROTA: Abby, in terms of moving forward, a lot is resting, it seems, on Senator Tim Scott's shoulders. He has been tasked with trying to figure out the Republican plan for police reform. And he said something yesterday that I thought needed clarification. I don't know if we have it. He said something to the effect of I'm working on a different track than the White House. What does that mean, as Jared Kushner and Mark Meadows head over there?

PHILLIP: Yes, I think it actually means exactly that, that Senate Republicans have, in a lot of ways, not just on this issue, but on a lot of other issues, they are forced to kind of take the lead and bring the White House along with them. The White House does not have a kind of moral authority on this issue. They cannot lead on this. They have, in Jeron Smith, who was with Jared Kushner on the Hill yesterday, a senior black administration official who has been spearheading some of this, but quite simply there are not very many voices speaking loudly and with moral clarity on this issue.

So Tim Scott has had to do that. And Scott, I should note, has been one of the Republicans who has been willing to say, yes, racial discrimination does exist in the criminal justice system. He himself has said that he's experienced it as a black man. And so I think that's why you're seeing that divide here.

At the same time, if you look at the details of the Republican proposal so far, it's very bare bones. Some of these things are kind of basic. They don't even include, for example, this database that would allow people to track when bad cops go from one city to another. That's actually something that even some House Republicans have expressed openness to public. So I think that there is a large gap right now between the Democrats and the Republicans. But the White House understands that they need to rely on the only black Republican senator in the Senate to take the lead on this because there's not a whole lot of room for error here.

BERMAN: It is interesting, while Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to know that there needs to be movement towards some kind of concrete reform, there is one place that it doesn't seem the president is willing to go, which is to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism. And it was interesting, Maggie, to see Joe Biden, the former vice president, stepping into that yesterday. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement?

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely. But it's not just in law enforcement. It's across the board. It's in housing, 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 now, we have seen too many examples of it.


BERMAN: It's been interesting to watch, Maggie, people were suggesting that Joe Biden was in a bind this week with the calls to defund the police or dismantle the police force in Minneapolis. It actually seemed to me it was very easy for Joe Biden to determine where his position is. No, he's not in favor of defunding police. Yes, he believes there's systemic racism. And it does provide a contrast because I don't think the president is going to be willing to go anywhere near saying there's systemic racism in policing.

HABERMAN: No, he already hasn't. Look, he did a roundtable this week, as I mentioned before, and he talked about how 99.9 percent of officers are good. Biden was careful to make clear that he believes there are officers who do good work and whose intentions are good, but acknowledging that the prevalence of racism in the criminal justice system and acknowledging that black men and women are impacted differently than people who are white are is going to be a big difference. I don't think you're going to hear much of that from the president.

But I do think that there are some Republicans in the Senate and in Congress sort of be more willing to say that than the president. Whether he recognizes that that is something that he should do both as a leader and in terms of his own political future remains to be seen. But he has resisted it at almost every turn.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, Abby Phillip, thank you both very much for all of the reporting and perspective.

So some police departments are already making changes, like banning choke holds. Denver's police chief joins us next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, police departments are taking steps toward reform. At least 12 cities have banned the use of chokeholds by police officers. Denver, Colorado, is one of them.

Joining me now is the Denver Police chief, Paul Pazen.

Chief, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

I just want to show people the changes that your department has just made. It's going to ban using chokeholds. SWAT officers required to wear body cameras. Officers must inform supervisors after pointing weapons. Restrictions on when police can use chemical weapons and projectiles.

So, why? Why have these changes been made?

CHIEF PAUL PAZEN, DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, first of all, this is a lot of work with our use of force committee made up of community members as well as some ongoing work with the Center for Policing and Equity. We really looked at these types of policies. We had a pretty strong and progressive use of force policy already.

However, strengthening the language can really help us around culture, making sure that every member of our department knows and understands that chokeholds are strictly prohibited.

BERMAN: How will the changes affect your ability to enforce the law?

PAZEN: We believe that working with our community is how we're most effective in addressing crime issues and public safety issues in our community, and continuing to have dialogue with our community, continuing to work with partners is how we will effectively address the public safety issues in our city.

BERMAN: So, what is it about this moment that these changes happened now?

PAZEN: Really, we have to be cognizant of this movement. We have to recognize that this truly is a tipping point, that this is bigger than just our city, our state and our country. We need to truly re-examine.


We have to re-evaluate and really re-imagine what public safety looks like now and what it's going to look like in the future.

BERMAN: You said we have to recognize this is a tipping point. I'm just wondering what it feels like to be sitting in that chair or sitting in that position as the chief of police right now in a major American city? Just how much things have changed over the last three weeks?

PAZEN: Well, really, the police department has to be reflective. It has to understand the community needs. It really needs to listen and that's what we are doing right now. We are listening to our community, where significant policies make sense, like these ongoing conversations that we have had with our use of force committee as well as the Center for Policing Equity.

This gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate and make positive changes, substantive changes that can help us keep our community safe.

BERMAN: And when you hear around the country, I'm sure it's happening in Denver also, people calling for defunding of police, or in some cases, dismantling police forces. That's in Minneapolis. What's your reaction to that?

PAZEN: Well, you know, again, this has different forms across the entire country and we need to listen to our community here. We need to be open-minded and we need to be ready for change. When we're talking about re-evaluating, re-examining and re-imagining, we have to listen and maybe there are better outcomes on alternative response to certain of types of calls -- mental health calls for service, the substance abuse types of calls for service, as well as calls for service involving people experiencing homelessness.

If there's alternative ways to address these types of challenges, then we need to really take a hard look at these. If there's better outcomes, then certainly, we want to partner with community and create space so that way we have a safer city.

BERMAN: You know, that's a really interesting part of the discussion that in some ways I don't think is getting enough focus right now. The discussion of whether or not there are things that police are doing. Sometimes being forced to do by necessity over the last several decades that maybe others could do differently or do better, maybe that police would rather not be doing. And that has to do with fund allocation as well.

Just talk to me about that discussion.

PAZEN: Again, you know, we want to further explore these types of opportunities, alternative response getting mental health clinicians, medical professionals, potentially peer navigators to help us with these types of underlying issues and if they have better outcomes, then that can be better for our communities. So, we believe that there are opportunities. We want to build on some of the small steps that we have taken as a city to try to step into the -- to have others step into these spaces.

BERMAN: Just very quickly, one quick question. I know you have banned chokeholds on your own unilaterally in the city of Denver. How much of a difference would it make if there was a national call or part of federal legislation to ban chokeholds, would that make it easier? Or do you think that would have a positive impact around the country?

PAZEN: So, we made that change, again, based on ongoing dialogue and communication with our use of force committee. It made sense for us to do this. It's the right thing to do. While we think that others are doing the same, and if it can help us keep communities safe, then we certainly support it.

BERMAN: Chief Paul Pazen, we appreciate your time talking to us this morning, and we appreciate how much you've been listening I think over the last few weeks and working with the community there. Really appreciate it, sir.

PAZEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. We're hearing from the family of a black man killed after telling police he couldn't breathe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't look at my son as just a big black guy that is -- his life doesn't matter.


BERMAN: More of this emotional interview, next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Texas authorities are investigating the death of Javier Ambler who is heard telling police officers during his arrest "I can't breathe". Ambler died more than a year ago, but body camera video of the deadly encounter emerged just this week.

Javier's parents spoke with CNN's Ed Lavandera and he joins us live from Austin with that emotional interview.

What did they tell you, Ed?


Well, it's been about 15 months since Ambler died and what's shocking in all of this is that his parents tell us that they are just now finding out the most basic details of how he died in police custody.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAVANDERA (voice-over): Body camera of a police officer captured the final moments of Javier Ambler's life and his parents can't bring themselves to watch. It's too similar to the way that George Floyd died.

(on camera): So when you saw the George Floyd video, you saw your son?

MARITZA AMBLER, MOTHER: When I saw -- I saw my son. I saw it. I just said that's exactly -- oh, you know, most likely what my son went through.

LAVANDERA: Maritza and Javier Ambler sat down with CNN for an exclusive interview the day the horrific video was released that show the death of their son. The couple is angered that it's taken more than 15 months to learn the most basic details of how their son died. They were stunned that it all happened because Javier Ambler allegedly failed to dim the headlights of his car.

JAVIER AMBLER, FATHER: It could have been avoided if the officers were to just use common judgment.