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President Trump Condemns Some Use of Police Chokeholds; Interview with West Point Graduate Todd Friedman; Minneapolis Police Officers Break Silence to Condemn Death of George Floyd. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 12, 2020 - 14:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So that's an expression I've heard over the years, and it really means to --

FAULKNER: Do you know where it comes from?

TRUMP: I think Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia, from --

FAULKNER: No, it comes from 1967. I was about 18 months old at the time, everybody shooting Wiki (ph) because they probably got it wrong. But it was from the chief of police in Miami. He was cracking down, and he meant what he said.

And he said, I don't even care if it makes it look like brutality, I'm going to crack down when the looting starts, the shooting starts.


FAULKNER: That frightened a lot of people, when you tweeted that.


TRUMP: Well, it also comes from a very tough mayor who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia named Frank Rizzo. And he had an expression like that. But I've heard it many times from -- I think it's been used many times.

It means two things, very different things.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: And while Trump's promising executive action on law enforcement, he continues to make threats about using the military against protestors. He also quashed a conversation about renaming U.S. military bases named after Confederate generals.

And now, we're learning what many have suspected, that this is a strategy, it's on purpose. Sources say President Trump is convinced the racially tinged culture wars he stoked in 2016 are still a winner for him in 2020. Multiple other advisors have urged the president to unify the nations, with warnings that he risks erasing support he has gained from a small fraction of black voters. But course say the president does not want to appear conciliatory or weak.

Gloria Borger is CNN chief political analyst, and we're also joined now by our CNN law enforcement analyst and former Philadelphia police commissioner, Charles Ramsey.

Gloria, to you first. I mean, this is what we're learning, this is on purpose, it's a strategy, it's not just an impulse -- although it may also be an impulse, obviously.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's both. I think it's where the president is comfortable, quite honestly. I think this is a president who sees any call for unity as weak. He keeps using the word "dominate." He sees -- you know, his strength, he believes, is in calling for the use of force against citizens who are protesting.

And I think that at this point, he's kind of stuck in a time warp. This is a president, he was talking about Frank Rizzo. He's talking about the 1960s. He's kind of stuck in the Nixonian call for law and order, without really understanding that in fact, the country has changed from the 1960s. Just look at the protests and how they've changed from the 1960s, and how diverse these protests are.

But the president is uncomfortable or perhaps unable, I believe, to call for a kind of unity, when you see those kind of protests out there, because he believes that that would somehow present weakness on his part rather than strength as a leader.

KEILAR: Charles, what do you think about this strategy of his?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, looting, as bad as it looks, is a property crime. And deadly force is not authorized against people who are committing a property crime. It is certainly unacceptable, it sends a terrible message. Everything can't be dealt with with force, it shouldn't be dealt with with force.

Take you back to the clearing of Lafayette Square and Lafayette Park. I mean, I served nine years as police chief in Washington, D.C. We never had to go to that extreme. It's not that we handled everything perfectly, but certainly what I saw occur is a result of the federal police, along with National Guard, clearing out the park, was totally unacceptable and unjustified in my opinion.

So those kinds of things just make situations worse, not better. And I think the president is off-base when he thinks that way because -- or maybe it's because he's never been out there to deal with these kinds of things. But through experience, I can tell you that force will be met with force. And then you wind up with a riot.

KEILAR: The president also weighed in here on the use of police chokeholds, which were banned in New York today, and similar action we've seen taken in several other cities around the country. This is what he said.


TRUMP: I don't like chokeholds. Now, I will say this. As somebody that, you know, you grow up and you wrestle and you fight and you this -- or you see what happens, sometimes, if you're alone and you're fighting somebody, it's tough. And you get somebody in a chokehold. What are you going to do?

Say, Oh -- and it's a real bad person, and you know that. And they do exist. I mean, we have some real bad people, you saw that during the last couple of weeks, you saw some very good people protesting, but you saw some people also.


And you get somebody in a chokehold, and what are you going to do now? Let go and say, Oh, let's start all over again, I'm not allowed to have you in a chokehold? It's a tough situation. Now, if you have two people or --


FAULKNER: Or four.

TRUMP: -- and a case that we're talking about --


TRUMP: -- four people --


TRUMP: -- and two of them, I guess, just pretty much started, it's a very, very -- a very tricky situation. But --


FAULKNER: That's an interesting point --

TRUMP: -- so the chokehold thing is good because -- to talk about because off the cuff, it would sound like absolutely. But if you're thinking about it, then you realize, maybe there is a bad fight and the officer gets somebody in a position that's a very tough position --

FAULKNER: So you say it's a sliding scale depending on what the circumstances are?

TRUMP: I think you have to probably say that (ph).

FAULKNER: Do you want to be in that conversation? Are you in that conversation right now?

TRUMP: I really am. And I think the concept of chokeholds sounds so innocent, so perfect, and then you realize if it's a one-on-one -- now, if it's two-on-one, that's a little bit of a different story, depending. Depending on the toughness and strength. You know, we're talking about toughness and strength, we are talking. There's a physical thing here also.

But if a police officer is in a bad scuffle and he's got somebody in a chokehold --


FAULKNER: Well, if it's a one-on-one fight for the (inaudible) --


TRUMP: Yes, and that does happen --

FAULKNER: -- that's what you're saying?

TRUMP: -- and that does happen, too. So you have to be --

FAULKNER: But in terms of --

TRUMP: -- careful. With that being said, it would be, I think, a very good thing that, generally speaking, it should be ended.


KEILAR: Charles, from a law enforcement perspective, what do you make of the president's comments about chokeholds?

RAMSEY: Well, he was kind of all over the place, so I don't know if I quite got what he was trying to say. But first of all, let me just say this, I believe chokeholds should be banned. Now, having said that, you never know if there's exigent circumstances that would cause a person to have to resort to that in order to save their own life.

But it should be treated the same as you would any use of deadly force, because that is deadly force, that's exactly what it is. And it should be considered use of deadly force. And it would have to be an incredibly extreme circumstance. I would ban it, and I think that's appropriate, to ban it.

So what happened in Minneapolis, there was no need for anything like that. I mean, the person was in custody. And so that's not anything to be used as a comparison.

I think they're on the right track with banning chokeholds. And, again, if there were circumstances -- and exigent circumstances, extremely rare circumstances -- where (ph), a fight for your life, then it would be considered same as you would use of deadly force, if you used your firearm or something of that nature, it would be no different in my mind.

KEILAR: It's -- Gloria, the president doesn't seem to want to take a position really.

BORGER: Right. It sort of reminds me. You know, remember when he came out after Charlottesville and said there were fine people on both sides? This is a president -- and nobody has forgotten that -- and this is a president who understands the political pressure on him to do something on police reform, not only from Democrats but from within his own party, as you know. Senator Scott in the Republican Party is taking the lead on that.

So he's also getting internal pressure in the White House from those who say, Stick to law and order, you're right in talking about that. And there are those inside the White House who say, you have to do some kind of reform.

So as -- as Mr. Ramsey was saying, he is all over the place on this because he kinds of knows he has to come down somewhere else, but his real comfort level is in saying, you know, use of force, law and order, you know, maybe chokeholds aren't that bad.

KEILAR: Gloria, thank you. Charles, thank you so much. Great perspectives, you two and we'll see you soon.

Alumni of the prestigious military academy West Point are calling out their own who are working for President Trump. They're accusing them of defying their most basic and important vows.

In a letter, posted on "Medium," a group of diverse graduates, calling themselves The Long Gray Line, which is of course a reference to West Point, said this.

Quote, "We are concerned that fellow graduates serving in senior- level, public positions are failing to uphold their oath of office and their commitment to Duty, Honor, Country. Their actions threaten the credibility of an apolitical military... We ask you to join us in working to right the wrongs and to hold each other accountable to the ideals instilled by our alma mater and affirmed by each of us at graduation."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a West Point grad, who brought in two others from his Class of 1986. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also attended West Point. David Urban, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, also graduated as well from the U.S. military academy.

Joining me now is one of the West Point grads who wrote the letter. Todd Friedman graduated in 1987. And tell us, Todd, about the decision to write this, and how you and your fellow grads came to it.


TODD FRIEDMAN, 1987 WEST POINT GRADUATE: Hi, Brianna, thanks for having me on. I was actually informed that the letter was being written, and it was really done out of concern and love of country. It seems that, you know, there's been some -- for lack of a better term -- behaviors that really don't support what we believe, not only while we were at the academy but while we were out in the military.

And we want to make sure that the current graduates -- and it was more just out of concern that we're held to a higher standard. And to, you know, make sure that we are honest and truthful at all times. KEILAR: What would you like to see these grads do? And -- I think of

Mike Pompeo or Secretary Esper, what would you like to see them do?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think they've been put in some very difficult situations. And unfortunately, sometimes, you know, in those difficult situations, they have to, you know, make the harder, right decision than maybe the easier, wrong.

Back at the academy, the honor code, you know, says a cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do. And that's ingrained in you. And unfortunately, some of these leaders have been put in positions where they have to sacrifice -- you know, probably, you know, being honest and truthful with what we used to say was quibbling, or being in a gray area, and not being completely honest and candid.

So I think really, all we're looking for is for these senior leaders and the folks in the administration, just to be honest and trustworthy. And I think some of that has come to concern.

KEILAR: Todd, I wonder, do you worry, as you look at the state of the military -- and it is becoming politicized. The president has taken actions that have politicized it, using the military for socially divisive causes, using them in the protests.

He seems to have lost a lot of support -- or maybe never had support, but has certainly gotten a lot of criticism from some retired top brass, even some who have served in his own administration. And he's simultaneously kind of making a play for the rank-and-file that tends to come from the south, as he's talking about, OK, we're not renaming these bases.

Do you worry about that fracture and what it could mean?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think it goes down to the fundamental question of unification and you know, respect and dignity. Because if we look at West Point -- or we just go ahead and look at the military in general -- you've got a very diverse population. And in some cases, it's a cross-section of America.

So you've got a lot of ethnicities, you've got a lot of different religions. And there is going to be and there needs to be that level of tolerance if you're going to be a leader of a lot of different types of soldiers.

And, you know, America's really not that much different, you know, we're a very diverse population. And I think what everybody's looking for is just to make sure that everybody has, you know, equal rights and that, you know, there's that level of respect out there.

And the military should not be politicized, and I think that's recently what the biggest problem has become, is the military has been pulled into some of these efforts that I think probably, they should not be involved in. So the military should remain apolitical or non- political. And that's really probably where most of the concern comes from. KEILAR: Todd, thank you. Todd Friedman, who co-wrote this letter from West Point Grads. We appreciate you being here.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks for your time.

KEILAR: Every week, I work to bring you some stories that are aimed at bridging the civilian and military divide, and you can find my column at, and send your ideas or questions to me. Homefront at

We have some breaking news. For the first time, we're hearing directly from the colleagues of the fired officers at the center of George Floyd's death, hear what they are saying.


Plus, the CDC, issuing new warnings about big events, travel, and more surges coming in America. Stand by for that.


KEILAR: More than a dozen Minnesota police officers are breaking their silence now on the killing of George Floyd. They have written an open letter that is addressed to the citizens of Minneapolis.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is there for us in Minneapolis with details. And, you know, Lucy, this letter, wow. But I'm sure folks there will want to see actions in addition to words.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It'll depend on what the city actually does to respond to this. But on the topic of this letter, this was an open letter signed by Minneapolis Police Department sergeants and lieutenants, condemning the killing of George Floyd. They wrote -- it accused Derek Chauvin of failing as a human by stripping George Floyd of his dignity and life. They wrote, "This is not who we are."


Now, 14 officers signed this letter. We're told by sources that many more wanted to publicly get behind this, but they chose this group to showcase a diverse group of police officers. One source said internally, this is sending a message.

They also came out in support of the police chief, saying that they will follow his lead on reforming the police department.

And on the topic of reform, Brianna, new just over the past few hours, the city council -- all 12 members -- passed a resolution that effectively launches the process of potentially defunding and disbanding the police department, but that is going to be a lengthy process. This is just the first step in what will probably take years -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Definitely Lucy, thank you so much for that.

I want to bring in, now, Richmond Police Officer Carol Adams. Carol, thank you for joining us.

CAROL ADAMS, OFFICER, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA POLICE: Thank you for having me, Brianna.

KEILAR: And I first want to get your reaction to this letter from the officers in the police department in Minneapolis, coming out and condemning the officer who's now charged with second-degree murder. What do you think of it?

ADAMS: I think that's awesome, that shows who they are as human beings. And the silence sort of tends to lend that the actions were OK.

And I can say that I join the nation -- and this is what these officers are saying -- condemning the police tactics and actions that led to the death of George Floyd, so that shows the character of those officers because they took an oath to protect the citizens and to make them safe. And so that means that they don't condone it, and they want their city to know that, and the residents that they work with and work for.

So that's really an awesome step forward, for them to come out and to publicly say it and to be as a team and to be unified to express their feelings.

KEILAR: Officer Adams, you've said that as an African-American officer, you identify with both the protestors and the police. We've seen this play out with many police officers, right? On TV, we've seen videos of this, that they're in the same position.

How, if you identify with both, how do you work to reconcile that?

ADAMS: Well, I just continue to do what I do in the community. But seeing the video, you know, it brought about a host of emotions for me. I was horrified as a black -- as the mother of a black male, but then furious of the betrayal of the profession by all of the officers on-scene.

And outraged as a citizen because when I call for the police, I called them to come to be my knight in shining honor, to protect me, and not my worst nightmare.

So the goal for officers around the world is to work with their communities and to show who they are as human beings, not just those behind this badge. And to understand that the community, that there is no such thing as community and police, we're supposed to be one. Because the world needs to know that police officers are in their communities when they're not there, and we're there to protect them.

And as officers, we spend more time in the citizens' neighborhoods than we do in our own homes, so that's what we need to -- get the message that we need to get across, and to continue to work the work.

I've been asked a lot of questions as -- if this is a tough time for me in policing. I said, No, it's not. Because the relationships that I built and that I continue to build, they have a good foundation, and individuals know who I am and what I represent. So the actions of one officer does not predicate the actions of all.

So we just have to continue to do the work, and we have to continue to be honest and to be open and to show where we stand. And we can't stand in silence.

KEILAR: I want to ask you a question that a lot of people have been confronting lately. Do you think that there is systemic racism in policing? And if so, how does society, American society, address this?

ADAMS: Yes, our profession has a history of racism. Unfortunately, policing has operated with the us-versus-them mindset due to the outdated systems for hundreds of years, which has not created the opportunity for the needed change to occur across the country -- across the board nationally.

As you should be familiar with, there are some initiatives such as the president's Task Force of the 21st Century, was enacted because of what happened in Ferguson, to provide guidance nationally to change the mindset of officers and the community, from warrior to guardian. And this was an attempt of community policing across the country.

You see, policing is at the heart of the criminal justice system. And now is the time for criminal justice reform to occur through actions. Not by written legislature, but through action. And that's what's going to have to happen in order for us to change this dynamics. When you look at historically, you look at the demographics of police officers, and then you look at the demographics of those that are incarcerated.


So -- and not just in the policing professions, but in others. So we are working in -- with antiquated systems, and we need to do an overall reform. We need to build new systems and create new systems.

And I often tell people that, you know, we're still trying to drive the first car Ford ever built, and we're trying to replace the parts, which we know that there are no parts from the first car that was built. So we need to stop looking at doing things just the same way over and over again. And as we can see, it's not working.

KEILAR: Yes, reinvent the wheel.

Officer Carol Adams with the Richmond, Virginia police department, thanks for joining us. We really enjoyed the conversation.

ADAMS: Thank you.

KEILAR: CNN is going to be hosting a town hall this weekend. And this is going to be with four of the nation's top mayors, to talk about how they are dealing with protests and also how they're dealing with the pandemic.

You can join Laura Coates with D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser; Atlanta's Keisha Lance Bottoms; Chicago's Lori Lightfoot; And San Francisco's London Breed. That will be Sunday night, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

The CDC, warning, moments ago, the pandemic is not over. And issuing its own prediction for the number of deaths that we will see from coronavirus in the U.S., you'll want to see that.

Plus, the Trump administration backtracks, and refuses to reveal who received taxpayer relief funds for the coronavirus. Why this is getting serious heat from critics.