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U.S. Reckons with Racism as Trump Digs in; Senate Panel Adopted Plan to Remove Confederate Names from Military Bases; More Confederate Statues Come Down After George Floyd Killing; Minneapolis Police Chief Talks About Future of Policing; U.S. Surpasses 2 Million in COVID-19 Cases; Eighteen States See an Increase in New Coronavirus Cases; Pence Deletes Tweet Showing Campaign Staff Not Wearing Masks. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 11, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow.


This morning, the president is resisting, even denying, as much of the nation moves forward. Despite no concrete action yet from the White House, change, remarkable change is taking place in this country. Overnight a symbol of oppression and racism to many Americans, the statue of the Confederate president Jefferson Davidson crashed to the ground in Richmond, Virginia. Just the latest monument that protesters have taken down across this country.

And NASCAR says it is now banning Confederate symbols including the Confederate flag from all of its races. Last night, the sports' only full-time African-American driver Bubba Wallace circled the track in a race car with these words emblazoned on the back, "Black Lives Matter."

HARLOW: Such, such a sight to see. For his part, the president is pushing back against change, saying he will not even discuss renaming military bases named after Confederate commanders even as top military leaders say they are open to it.

Also this morning the U.S. just passed two million confirmed coronavirus cases. This as a key model now projects 170,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 by October. We'll have more on the latest rising numbers in a moment, but first, hours from now the president will travel to Dallas for a roundtable discussion on social justice and solution to disparities.

Let's get to our John Harwood. He joins us at the White House with more.

You know, this following the president saying no, we're not even going to talk about renaming those bases, what is he going to talk about and I think more importantly listen to today? JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the president

is doing, Poppy, is traveling to a white evangelical church in Dallas. That is the political equivalent of retreating into the bunker in the White House. White evangelicals are the strongest individual group supporting the president. He's had some erosion among that group lately, but still, you've got 80 percent plus approval among those voters, so he's going where he can feel safe politically.

We expect that he will discuss some of these law enforcement issues. It's possible that he could announce what he would support in legislation from Congress or what he would offer himself in an executive order, but we already know where the president's heart is and his heart is in continued racial division rather than unity. We see that from his summary rejection of getting the idea of getting rid of Confederate symbols, even as conservative institutions like the U.S. Military and NASCAR razed passed him to keep up with changing public attitudes.

We've seen that from the president's tweets about Antifa and the 75- year-old protester, suggesting he had -- repeating a Kremlin advanced propaganda theory that he may have some nefarious purpose. And we just got a tweet from the president a few minutes ago, let me read it, saying that, "It was a walk in the park for our great National Guard troops to take care of the areas around the White House."

That's referring to what happened last week when they fired rubber bullets and tear gas at those protesters. He said, "The protesters, agitators, anarchist, Antifa and others were handled very easily." So the impulse as it's been throughout his political career is to play to racial division as a source of political strength. That's why his former Defense secretary Jim Mattis condemned his approach last week and said it was un-American.

HARLOW: John, thank you very, very much for that.

This is just in to CNN. According to a source, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee has just adopted an amendment behind closed doors for the Pentagon to remove the names of Confederate generals from military assets, Jim, within three years.

SCIUTTO: This is notable, of course. The Senate Armed Services Committee has a majority of Republicans, despite President Trump's opposition to renaming those bases.

Let's go to Barbara Starr now at the Pentagon. And Barbara, so you have the Senate Armed Services Committee, that's notable. Tell us what's happening inside the Pentagon here because on this issue are there Pentagon officials, leaders, who want to move forward with renaming these bases in contradiction to the president?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. And look, this Republican-led vote, it could still be stripped out in further action in the Senate, of course. But right now, it is a key message to the president telling him to listen and perhaps to listen to the military because Defense Secretary Mark Esper, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, the Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, had all lined up behind the proposition that it was time for a national conversation, bipartisan, on trying to talk about this issue.


Trying to deal with how, if, when to strip those Confederate generals' names off of about 10 U.S. army bases in the country. The president yesterday -- no other way to say it, a smackdown to his own Pentagon leadership, in a series of tweets, saying that he wouldn't even consider a conversation on it, wouldn't even consider renaming it. And talked about respect our military, not acknowledging that the original idea has come from his own military leadership.

So right now, it will be very interesting to see how this shapes up because three of the top leaders involved have already put their cards on the table, that they think this very sensitive issue, they absolutely acknowledge it's sensitive, but they think it is very much worth having a conversation about it. The president does not.

SCIUTTO: Well, the second major disagreement between military brass and the president just in the last week, of course, also on the issue of deploying regular U.S. forces to respond to the protests, notable.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Other news we're following this hour, a major symbol honoring the Confederacy has fallen in Virginia. Protesters in Richmond ripped down a statue overnight of Jefferson Davis. He of course served as president of the Confederacy during the civil war. The Confederacy which fought the union, fought the American nation.

HARLOW: This as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renews calls to remove 11 statues honoring Confederate figures on Capitol Hill.

Our Alexandra Field is with us again this morning.

What more do we know about the desire to do this versus the actuality of it happening?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy and Jim. Look, what seems to have changed most fundamentally is the fact that people are not waiting for politicians to act here, to go ahead and remove these statues. Instead for another night in a handful of states we are seeing protesters and demonstrators take to the streets and take things into their own hands, insisting on tearing down the symbols that they perceive as oppressive or symbols of white supremacy or symbols of a racist history in this country.

Take a look at Miami. This is where we saw a statue of Christopher Columbus defaced overnight. The words "Black Lives Matter" graffitied on it, along with our streets and the name George Floyd spray-painted in graffiti on that statue. In Portsmouth, Virginia, you had a group of demonstrators attacking a series of Confederate statue, one protester was even hurt when part of one of those statues came tumbling down.

And you pointed out, Jim, perhaps one of the most powerful images of the night, that would be the statue of Jefferson Davis, the former Confederate president in the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, being toppled by protesters. Certainly that city has seen in the last few nights a number of actions to take down these monuments that remain in this city to this day.

There was also a monument to Christopher Columbus that was taken down by protesters just a day ago. Another Christopher Columbus monumented decapitated in Boston just a day ago. And one more defaced in St. Paul, Minnesota. People clearly frustrated and determined to set this country on a new course and to take down these symbols that they have objected to for such a long time now -- Poppy, Jim.

HARLOW: Yes, Alex, thank you very much for that.

Thomas Lane, one of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's killing, is now out of jail. He was released last night on a $750,000 bond as his ex-boss, the Minneapolis police chief, says it should not be so hard to get rid of police officers who commit misconduct.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Sara Sidner, she sat down for an interview with the chief about the future of policing in that city, including questions there about disbanding the police department. Here is some of her interview.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is your police department capable of policing justly in this town?

CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: I believe that the Minneapolis Police Department is. I also know that there are parts of this organization that have to do better and must do better.

There are certainly parts within the policing agencies across this country that are broken and Minneapolis Police Department, there are areas that we must change and must get better. But I absolutely am inspired by the men and women who come here every day, our sworn-in civilian team members who are doing all they can to do their best on the best interest of those that we serve.

So -- and so I do believe that we can be that police department that our communities look towards and trust and see as legitimate. And that we do have their best interests at heart.

SIDNER: Are police unions the entity that is making it difficult to get rid of officers who should not be on the streets?


ARRADONDO: If police unions and certainly mine here in Minneapolis, if they do not evolve, if they are not listening, and the voices are screaming out, if they are not listening, the changes -- substantial changes need to be made in the way that they operate, they will ultimately be contributing to the harm and not the good.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Sara Sidner, thanks very much for that interview. I mean, real hard questions there, Poppy, for the head of the police department.


SCIUTTO: We'll see how they handle them going forward.

HARLOW: And the union, I mean, walking away from negotiations with the union. There's been a lot of talk about, you know, what is the union doing to actually address this issue, and we have not heard from Bob Krull, the head of the police union there, not willing to do interviews at this point.

Our thanks to Sara for that.

A new forecast shows a potential second wave of COVID cases in the United States this fall, but right now more than a dozen states are already seeing a spike in new cases.

Plus, as some states watch these cases rise, we talk to the founder and CEO of Airbnb about why he's seeing a surge, a really surprising surge in travel amid the pandemic.

SCIUTTO: And more than a year after a black man said, I can't breathe, and died while being arrested in Austin, Texas, the mother of his sons has a message. We need justice. Ahead, we're going to speak to the mayor of Austin about what's happened since then and what's next.



HARLOW: Well, a key model this morning is now projecting nearly 170,000 Americans will die from COVID by October.

SCIUTTO: This comes as the number of U.S. cases has surpassed 2 million with more than 112,000 Americans dead. Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Jay Varkey; he's an associate professor of medicine at Emory University. Doctor, great to have you on. When you look at this data recently about upticks in about a dozen states, is that tied directly to reopening, in your view?

And I wonder though, is that manageable? Because of course, the stay- at-home orders were intended to flatten the curve, not eliminate all infections. I'm curious where you stand.

JAY VARKEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Yes, it's difficult, Jim. I think in the absence of a national cohesive policy to this pandemic. What we're seeing across the country are different outbreaks occurring at different points in time. So to your point, especially in some of the states that are seeing an uptick in hospitalizations, so and these are just some big states, like California, Texas, Arizona and the Carolinas.

I think it's of particular concern. And there's no real accurate way to directly associate it with reopening. But I think it's safe to say that it's occurring from re-socialization. And I think the take-home message that I'm emphasizing to the general public is the same message that we're telling the folks that I work with in the hospital. Is that during a pandemic, there's no such thing as a zero risk social activity. The key is to try and take appropriate measures to try and reduce that risk, both to yourself and to others.

HARLOW: When you look at some of these specific states -- I was struck this week for example, doctor, by Arizona, which opened up largely on May 8th. Barbershops, in diner -- you know, you could sit in a restaurants and eat on May 11th. They have had such a spike in cases there, that they're really concerned about the ICU beds. They have been telling their hospitals to activate emergency plans, 76 percent of their ICU beds are now taken.

So it seems like a reversion. I mean, it just seems like, you know, they thought they were succeeding and now this.

VARKEY: Absolutely. And I think the key is we had talked about this whole risk of seeing second waves across the country. But what's really concerning is that we may see second waves occur at different points in time in different states and in different communities. So to your point, Poppy, I think that a critical shortage of ICU beds is absolutely been a nightmare scenario.

That was the whole reason we were emphasizing about flattening the curve. And when there -- when hospitals are forced to open up contingency plans and emergency plans in terms of for ICU beds, the risk of seeing an increased risk of death goes up.

And I think again, the takeaway is that not all social activities are the same. The principles that I tend to emphasize is that when doing a social activity, outdoors where you can spread out is certainly preferable to indoors where you're in a closed space. Less people is preferable to more people, and when possible, wear a mask.


SCIUTTO: Dr. Varkey, you say you still encourage people to be smart about this. I want to show a picture because the Vice President of the United States, the head of course of the coronavirus taskforce, taskforce appears to be deliberately flouting the taskforce's own recommendations about social distancing in the workplace, wearing masks. That is a picture of him greeting campaign staff with a thumbs up.

He apparently realizing this was not a positive or useful message, then attempted to delete the tweet. Of course, things live on the internet forever. Tell us what that message is there, and is it damaging to Americans as they try to protect their health in the midst of this continuing outbreak?

VARKEY: Yes, Jim, I'll be frank. I think the image that accompanied that tweet is appalling. The reality is, as a physician, as an infectious diseases specialist, I strongly feel that all elected officials, regardless of party, have a fundamental duty to set a good example for the general public in terms of good, public health practices.


And in the vice president's case, I think it's incumbent that he had a critical responsibility to follow his own taskforce's guidelines, the ones that he leads. And that at a more personal level, I think when I look at that picture, and I see a lot of young people who I'm sure are working very long hours, if I was a spouse, if I was a family member of that person, I would want to be reassured that they're working in a safe environment.

And those kind of images can be very damaging and are not helpful in terms of -- in terms of giving a strong, consistent public health message.

HARLOW: Look at Mitt Romney when he joined protesters a few days ago, he wore a mask, right? You see a lot of Republicans wearing masks, and a lot of Democrats. It's not about party. On the vaccine front, I was struck by this quote from Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA, who wanted to remind people this. He said by his estimation, quote, "30 percent or 40 percent of the population will not take a vaccine when we get one.

We will not be in a position of herd immunity. I mean, we talk so much about a vaccine, but again, once we have one, the fact that it's still voluntary for people. So, are you worried as he is here?

VARKEY: Yes, I think that this is another example where we have to be honest with the general public, and yes, as infectious diseases specialist, I am as pro-vaccine as you get. And I do think that, that will represent hopefully a real game-changer in terms of starting the end of this pandemic. However, we have a lot of work to do in terms of one, identifying a safe vaccine, identifying a vaccine that is effective.

And then to your point, Poppy, doing the work to try and convince the general public on why it's in their best interest to receive the vaccine and why they're taking a vaccine will increase herd immunity, protecting all of us. There's a lot of groundwork that needs to be laid for that.

HARLOW: For sure. Dr. Jay Varkey, it's so nice to have you. We appreciate it.

VARKEY: Great, thank you.

HARLOW: Let's take a look at the market. Look at Dow futures this morning, they are off sharply as coronavirus cases in the U.S. past 2 million and a million and a half more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.

SCIUTTO: That drop coming as the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman said the economic future for the U.S. is very uncertain, but let's be frank. The market has been up gang busters for the last several months even as the economy has suffered. Let's get to CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans. And Christine, the disconnect for the -- CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Last several weeks between an economy in distress, 42 Americans or more out of work, and a stock market just going up and setting new records. I mean, maybe you can explain that -- maybe you can explain that to people but also see -- say if today is just a blip in that rise or something more.

ROMANS: Well, some of these major averages are up, you know, 40 percent since the March low. I mean, they're pricing in a V-shaped recovery in the economy. And what you heard from the Fed chief yesterday is that, it does not look that V-shaped. I mean, they're expecting the unemployment rate to stay above 9 percent by the end of this year.

And the Fed chief said there could be jobs that don't come back as the economy is remade in a different way after this crisis. So you look at the coronavirus numbers and the worries about some of these states that are seeing hospitalizations rise, you take a look at the health part of the crisis, and you look at the just the facts about where we are in the economy, and the stock market looks like it's going to have a bit of a tumble today after being pretty much straight up for several weeks.

Those jobs numbers really important to note, 1.5 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, that is a big number. It's coming down, but look, it is a big number. Another 1.5 million, that brings it to more than 44 million people over the past 12 weeks. If you think about everybody who was in the labor market before the pandemic and the beginning of March, say 27 percent of those people have filed for unemployment benefits and the continuing jobless claims, maybe a better gauge here.

That's stubbornly stuck above 20 million people who are relying on the government for a jobless check. These are still big numbers. I'd say we're at the bottom of the hole, and now we just have to start climbing out.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, you look at that figure, I believe still about double the worst week in the midst --

ROMANS: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Of 2008, 2009 financial downturn. So, you know, it's all about -- it's all about perspective I suppose. Christine Romans, always good --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: To have you on. Thank you. Javier Ambler died in police custody in Texas after telling officers in clear terms those familiar words, he could not breathe. But more than a year later, no officers have been charged. The case is still being investigated. Why? What's next? We're going to speak to Austin's mayor next to discuss.


SCIUTTO: It's been nearly 15 months since Javier Ambler died while in police custody near Austin, Texas. But newly released video of that arrest has his loved ones pleading for justice including the mother of his two sons.


BRE GAMBLE, MOTHER OF JAVIER AMBLER'S SONS: You cannot go about this like this anymore. We need justice, we need equality and we need solidarity. What's hard about that?