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Source: Trump Convinced Stoking Cultural Wars is Good Strategy; Defiant Trump Stokes Racial Divisions and Defends Harsh Response to Protests; New York Governor Signs Package of Sweeping Police Reform Bills; 18th Straight Day of Protests Under Way Nationwide; New CDC Guidelines Warn Time Spent With Others Raises Virus Risk; U.S. Deaths Surpasses 114,000, CDC Projects 130,000 Dead By July 4; Utah & Oregon Pause Lifting Of Restrictions As Cases Spike; Lawsuit: Officers Used Excessive Force And Delayed Medical Care For Man Who Died In Custody. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 12, 2020 - 17:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

With policing across the U.S. under unprecedented scrutiny right now, President Trump is defending the use of chokeholds saying they sound - I'm quoting him now, "innocent" and "perfect" and are sometimes needed. But he's also open to banning them as a number of cities have done in the wake of George Floyd's death. The president is also suggesting he's done more for African Americans than Abraham Lincoln. Adding that the 16th president's legacy and I'm quoting him now, is "always questionable."

CNN has learned that some aides to the president are urging him to change his tone in this time of national strife. But according to a source, the president is convinced that stoking cultural wars is a good political strategy.

We're also following breaking news in the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. death toll has now surpassed 114,000 people with more than 2 million confirmed cases. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is projecting the number of American deaths will reach 130,000 by July 4th.

Lots of news going on right now. Let's begin this hour with our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, the country is still reeling from the death of George Floyd and the ongoing pandemic. But the president is staying his course when it comes to his rhetoric.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump appears to be going all in when it comes to stirring up racial divisions in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. The president is defending his photo op here in Washington after protesters were gassed and beaten by authorities and warning other cities like Seattle, they too may see the same show of force. The president is tiptoeing around questions of police brutality describing chokeholds as, quote, "perfect," but indicating that perhaps the tactic should be banned.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Defending his response to the protests following the death of George Floyd, President Trump is sounding like the divider in chief. The president is praising his photo op in Washington after demonstrators were pummeled near the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it was a beautiful picture.

QUESTION: Why do you think --

TRUMP: And I think Christians think it was a beautiful picture.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as he's dismissing comments from Pentagon officials who now say they regret being a part of it.

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I mean, if that's the way they feel, I think that's fine.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Reacting to protests in Seattle, the president is threatening more harsh tactics warning the city's leaders, "These liberal Dems don't have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it is just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now."

As for Floyd, the president danced around the question of whether it's appropriate for officers to continue using chokeholds, saying they sometimes work before adding they may need to be banned.

TRUMP: 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.

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

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is standing by his campaign's plans for a rally next week in Tulsa, the scene of one of the worst massacres of African Americans in history, on the same day the end of slavery in the U.S. is celebrated.

HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS HOST: Was that on purpose?

TRUMP: No, but I know exactly what you're going to say. Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Later this summer, the president is set to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida on the anniversary of an infamous attack om African Americans in that city.

The president told Fox he should be mentioned in the same sentence as Abraham Lincoln. TRUMP: I think I've done more for the black community than any other president, and let's take a pass on Abraham Lincoln because he did good, although it's always questionable. You know, in other words, the end result.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president is hearing appeals to be a more unifying leader. Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz said during a podcast that his wife, Heidi, urged the president to address racism in the U.S.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I said, "Mr. President, Heidi's here, do you want mind if I put you on speaker?" And so he chatted with Heidi.

She said, "Mr. President, it is really, really important for you to speak out to the racial injustice in this country and for you to speak for unity."

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump's rival, Joe Biden, just released a new ad insisting the president is incapable of uniting the country.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where is Donald Trump? Too scared to face the people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Also blasting the president's leadership, former National Security Adviser John Bolton who is offering a scathing account of his days at the White House, writing in a new book, "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations."


White House is counting on a recovering economy to bailout Mr. Trump come election time. Top advisers insisting there won't be a second wave of the coronavirus. Contrary to what health experts are warning.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: I spoke to our health experts at some length last evening. They are saying there is no second spike. Let me repeat that, there is no second spike.


ACOSTA: The president is laying low at his golf club in New Jersey today with no public events on his schedule. He will deliver the commencement speech at West Point tomorrow, an event that will include some social distancing even though the White House has drifted away from those kinds of precautionary measures and expect the president to continue that law and order message when he addresses at West Point tomorrow. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll have coverage to that, I'm sure. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's talk about this and a lot more. The New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is joining us on the phone right now. Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY) (via telephone): Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: As you know, at the same time, you're banning chokeholds, President Trump says he understands why police would want to use them on what he calls real bad guys. So, what message does that send to law enforcement?

CUOMO: Look, I think it's clear from day one on this situation, the president made his position clear, Wolf, when he had the demonstrators moved by the U.S. military. That's where he is. He walks from the White House to the church, holds up a Bible. He is trying to say God and country, and the protesters are bad people, and there's no validity to what they're talking about.

And, frankly, the disgusting and disgraceful thing was the use of the U.S. military. But we passed today the most aggressive package banning chokeholds, turning over disciplinary records so there's transparency. We use the attorney general as a special prosecutor.

And even more, Wolf, we signed -- I signed an executive order that says every police department has to sit down with their community and go through a reinvention reform process so we restore trust between the police and the community. That has to happen for all 500 police departments. It has to happen in nine months, or the state won't fund the police departments.

Because this is not just about Mr. Floyd's murder. This has been 40, 50 years and coming. Let's be honest. And let's restore the trust because if we don't, the police can't do their job, and the community won't feel safe.

BLITZER: As you say, you just signed these police reform bills into law as well as this executive order saying the police must adopt these plans to reform by April of 2021 to be granted the funding. But what are the biggest goals of these measures right now? And how do you make sure that the police throughout the state of New York, the police forces, the police officers fully comply?

CUOMO: Well, we lay out the issues that have to be addressed. And they're the issues that have been percolating for a couple of decades now, right? It's the use of force. It's the militarization of the police. What should the size of the police force be? What should the budget be? Where should we use civilians? How do you manage a crowd?

They have to do it in consultation with the local community. It has to be passed by the local legislative body. And then it has to have a deadline by April 1. The community must be engaged. The plan must be responsive to the concerns of the community. And then it must become law by the locality. And April 1 I think is a fair deadline, nine months.

So, there's nothing squishy about this process, Wolf. There is a deadline. The issues that have to be addressed. And what we want to do is take the dialogue that you're seeing on the streets and now make it productive. We did it with Reverend Sharpton who's been involved in a lot of these protests over the years. And his expression was the right one, demonstration, legislation, reconciliation. The demonstration and the protest is not the end. It's the means to get people's attention so you can now sit down and do the systemic reform. And that's what we want to do in New York, turn it to systemic reform.

BLITZER: You've also repealed, Governor, a decades-old law that shielded police disciplinary records. Do you want those records reviewed to ensure that you don't still have any officers like Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis still on the New York state -- throughout New York state police forces?

CUOMO: Well, certainly the release will do that, Wolf. We redact all the personal information, home address, et cetera. So, the privacy of the police officer is maintained. But the disclosure is now going to be the same as any other public service official.


Same as a teacher, same as any other government worker where you can get their disciplinary file, and you can get complaints that have been filed against them by citizens. I understand the original rationale for the police exception, but it doesn't work anymore. So, we'll protect their privacy, but people will have a right to know what disciplinary proceedings they've gone through.

And, by the way, the record can either exonerate or implicate, right? If the person has never had any disciplinary findings against them and no complaints, well, that will help exonerate them. So, it will work both ways. It will just be evidentiary of the past.

BLITZER: I want to talk to you a little bit while I still have you. I know your time is limited, Governor Cuomo. On the coronavirus pandemic at New York state, you were signing legislation today. I didn't see that people wearing masks. They were pretty close together. I know different regions in New York are in different phases of re-opening right now. Are you ready to pause or reverse the opening if you see cases going up again? And we're all worried about that.

CUOMO: Wolf, we all should be worried about that. And we're at another frightening moment. And we are in denial once again. New York state, we went from the worst situation in the nation, and you remember it well, worst situation in the nation. We now have the lowest rate of transmission in the nation. The lowest. New York of all the states the lowest rate of transmission. Because we were disciplined and masks and closing and phased re-opening.

What you're seeing across the country over 20 states now are seeing the numbers go up. And when they say it's not a second spike, that's even worse because then they're saying they blew the first spike that they had the virus slow, but they reopened too quickly. And they reopened without controls, and now you're seeing the virus spike. Which is just what the health experts warned.

And too many people said no, no, we have to reopen, the economy is more important. And now you're seeing exactly what we were warned where the virus is increasing with the activity because the re-opening was reckless. And that will not help the economy.

Look at the Dow Jones. As soon as they know we are losing control of the virus again, you are going to see that market tumble. The virus goes up, the market goes down. We have been very disciplined in New York. And that's how we have our transmission rate the lowest. And we're going to stay that way. But this is a frightening time in this country.

BLITZER: It certainly is. I'm going to be speaking live here in THE SITUATION ROOM in a little while with Dr. Anthony Fauci. The nation's top infectious disease specialist. We've got a lot of questions for him at this frightening time indeed. Governor Cuomo, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

CUOMO: Thank you for having me. And Wolf, Dr. Fauci warned exactly about this, and now we're there.

BLITZER: Yes. And hopefully we can get past this, but there's a lot of concern right now about what's going on. And we've got a lot of important questions for him coming up. Governor, thank you so much for joining us again.

CUOMO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. The Minneapolis City Council, meanwhile, has voted unanimously to end its current policing system and replace it with a new model.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in Minneapolis for us. Lucy, could we see the Minneapolis police department actually be disbanded?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, that's what the Minneapolis police city council is pushing for, Wolf. All 12 members approved a resolution declaring their intent to create an alternative model for public safety. But this is just the first step in what's going to be a very long process. It's important to note that neither the mayor nor the police chief are coming out behind this plan. They are calling for sweeping changes to policing but rather within the system.

Also new today, Wolf, for the first time since the killing of George Floyd, we are hearing from officers themselves, an open letter signed by Minneapolis police lieutenants and sergeants condemn the killing of George Floyd. They wrote, they accuse Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd as failing as a human by stripping Floyd of his dignity and humanity. They write this is not who we are. One source telling CNN internally this is sending a strong message. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Lucy, thank you. Lucy Kafanov in Minneapolis for us.

Let's get some more on all of this, the Attorney Benjamin Crump is joining us. He represents the families of - the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among many others.


Thanks so much, Ben, for joining us. First of all, what do you make of this letter by 14 Minneapolis police officers condemning their former colleague Derek Chauvin and committing to reform?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, LEAD ATTORNEY, GEORGE FLOYD FAMILY: Well, Wolf, I think it's appropriate. Anybody who watches that horrific video, what I call a documentary narrated by George Floyd of his own death, you have to say there was no humanity that was extended to George Floyd who begged and pleaded for his life for almost nine minutes. That is not what police officers are supposed to do. They're supposed to be first responders. They're supposed to try to save lives. They are supposed to try to protect and serve. But too often when it's black people in America, we are policed while everybody else is protected and served.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers by the way, Ben, live pictures coming in from New York City where the protests are clearly continuing right now. What does it tell you that even if this ex-police officer Derek Chauvin is convicted of killing George Floyd, he could still get more than $1 million in pension benefits?

CRUMP: It shows the problems with the system. I had the opportunity to testify before the United States Congress along with the family of George Floyd, particularly his brother Philonise. And what I told them, Wolf, if we are to change the culture and the behavior of policing in America, it must start at the top on the federal level that hold these cities or municipalities responsible for the grievance that they make with the police unions that continue to condone the killing, the unauthorized, unjustified and unnecessary open season killings on black people on America.

BLITZER: The Minneapolis City Council is moving forward in the process of creating a new public safety model. And the governor of Minnesota is actually putting support behind statewide police reforms. Do these steps, from your perspective, go far enough - and far enough from not only your perspective but the view of the Floyd family?

CRUMP: Well, I think Governor Cuomo and obviously the Minnesota governor know that this is the time we have to have courageous responsible leadership speak to what's happening in America. Because people are just fed up, Wolf. They are tired. How many times have I talked with you about the killings of unarmed black people, where this 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Alton Sterling.

I mean, the list goes on and on and on, Wolf. So, we have to do something about this to show America that there are not two justice systems that exist in America, one for white America and one for black America. What we need to have equal justice for the United States of America. This is our opportunity in the aftermath of George Floyd. And I pray we don't squander this opportunity.

BLITZER: You and I, Ben, we've been having -- you correctly point out these conversations for many, many years. Every time we have this conversation, there is hope that maybe things are about to change. They really haven't changed much over the years. Do you think this is different?

CRUMP: I do think this is the best opportunity I have ever seen in my life for us to get real systematic reform. Because when you look at the protests that have now been going on for 17 days in a row, people who saw that video cannot unsee that video. People who heard the 911 tape from Breonna Taylor who was executed in her own apartment by the Louisville metropolitan police department, you cannot unhear that video.

So, this is the time, Wolf Blitzer, for us to finally try to build transparency, plus accountability to equal trust between law enforcement and communities of color. We are counting on America to be America for all Americans.

BLITZER: All right, let's hope this time it really does lead to some significant, significant changes. The attorney Benjamin Crump. Thanks so much for joining us.

CRUMP: Thank you, Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Coming up, President Trump suggests he's done more for black Americans than Abraham Lincoln and questions his predecessor's legacy.

Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, he will join us live for a one-on-one interview. We're covering all the late-breaking developments in the coronavirus pandemic, including the new CDC projection of 130,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus by July 4th.



BLITZER: We're showing you some live pictures coming in from New York City right now where you can see crowds have gathered once again. Protesters, this is the 18th straight day of these kinds of protests nationwide. We're continuing to watch all of this. We're also getting some more mixed signals from President Trump as the White House prepares an executive order on policing.

Let's discuss what's going on with our senior legal analyst Laura Coates and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. Laura, the president today, said he generally thinks chokeholds should be ended but only after outlining scenarios where he thinks police would want to use a chokehold against what he calls real bad people.


What does that tell you about his role in this wider national conversation that's going on in major police reform?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he appears to be waffling between a very important issue here. And here's the thing, Wolf. It's not about the personality of a particular person or personality traits. The only reason that police are allowed to use force up and including lethal force is if that is the level of force that he's used against them. You can only repel that which you are given.

And so, chokeholds across the nation, if that is one of the tools in the officer's arsenal, if it exists or not, it could only be used if they were in fact demerit lethal force. We're staying with the George Floyd killing is that there was a man who was no longer if at all ever resisting at the time that he was essentially asphyxiated by a knee to his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

And so, the president has to understand that the idea of what an officer can and cannot do for use of force, considerations, and Fourth Amendment considerations, depends upon the case law and the use of force, not whether he deems somebody a bad person or not.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, some of the president's advisers, we're told, are actually pushing him to change his tone to adapt to this historic moment. How is that being received?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not well. You see the president. You see the interview he did with Fox News. He can't decide where he is on chokeholds. He seems to be equivocating about the protesters. He can't seem to decide whether they're doing a good thing or a bad thing.

Look, this is a president who is unable to speak to the moment. And also I think we have to say at this point that he's been unwilling to speak to the moment because he believes in some way, shape, or form, that this is going to benefit him politically, and his reflexive action is to go back to what he's comfortable with, which is punching, not unifying, but punching.

And so, he goes back to the '50s, to the '60s, to the Nixonian law and order bumper sticker. And that's where his head is at. And I think this is a president they are not going to be able to sort of get him off the dime unless they can convince him in some way, shape, or form that it's going to hurt him in the election. Because everything with Donald Trump is transactional. And it wouldn't be because he would think it was the right thing to do for the country. But it would be because he thinks it's the right thing to do for himself.

BLITZER: You know, Laura, the president also said his rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, as this called the holiday marking the end of slavery, wasn't done for that reason. But when you see this in the context of some of his previous statements from Charlottesville to birtherism, what message does this send?

COATES: Well, it's saying that the president continues to look at race relations in this country as if it were in a vacuum. And one of the things we've been seeing for weeks on end now, at least since the killing of George Floyd and predating that is that you have to consider race relations and the impact on African Americans and black and brown people generally in this country as it relates to government action.

And so, the idea that the president is having a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where you have the infamous racial massacre of African Americans, the destruction of Wall Street, black Wall Street on the same day that follows a time when justice was delayed by the delayed reading of the emancipation proclamation shows that he is looking at it in a vacuum as opposed to holistically in a way that people would like.

BLITZER: All right. Laura, thanks very much. Gloria, thanks to you as well.

An important note to our viewers right now. Join Laura with four of the nation's top mayors for a town hall on fighting racism and the coronavirus. Watch "Mayors Who Matter." That's this Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And we're also following breaking news in the coronavirus pandemic. I'm going to be speaking shortly one-on-one with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. We've got lots to discuss at this very, very sensitive moment. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Once again, you're looking at live pictures from New York City, Brooklyn actually outside Barclays Center. The protests there are continuing. We're watching all of this very closely.

But there's other breaking news we're following as well. The U.S. coronavirus death toll now surpasses 114,000. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now forecast that that will rise to 130,000 deaths by the 4th of July, which is what, just three weeks away. CNN's Erica Hill has the latest.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reopening now on pause in Oregon and Utah as new cases mount.

DR. AILEEN MARTY, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: As long as we give the virus an opportunity to jump from one host to another, that's what it's going to do.

HILL (voice-over): The governor of Texas looking to July 4th for a full reopening of his state as Harris County, which includes Houston, records some of its highest numbers to date for new cases and hospitalizations.

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: We've got to take action now so that we avoid a shutdown in the future.


HILL (voice-over): Houston's energy stadium being prepped as a field hospital, just in case. Nineteen states are trending up in the past week. Texas, Florida and South Carolina posting a single day records as the CDC predicts 130,000 virus related deaths by July 4th.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: We're in the early days of the pandemic, and if only 5 percent or 10 percent of the population has had this infection, we have a really long way to go.

HILL (voice-over): The agency recommending the best way to stay safe, keep your distance, avoid travel and wear a mask.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I know it's become politicized. Put that aside. The virus knows no politics.

HILL (voice-over): California's Orange County rescinding its strict mandate for face coverings, downplaying public pushback and threats as the reason. The chief health officer abruptly resigned on Monday.

DR. CLAYTON CHAU, ORANGE COUNTY INTERIM CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER: I want to be clear, this does not diminish the important of face coverings.

HILL (voice-over): Neighboring L.A. County, which recorded its highest single day increase this week, moves into phase 3 today. Gyms, day camps, and TV and film production among the businesses reopening. All of Missouri will be open next week.

Concerts and conventions can resume in Georgia July 1st. Meantime, anyone attending the President's campaign rally next week in Tulsa must sign a waiver promising not to sue if they contract the virus.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We know that the types of conditions that lead to the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission are crowded indoor spaces, with a lot of people who are shouting and screaming. And I think it's almost certain that we will see super speeder events come from these rallies.


HILL: And in terms of those rallies, what's interesting here, Wolf, is then a call with reporters. The CDC was asked about these new safety guidelines that they put out because they talked about the size of gatherings and say the highest-risk gatherings are ones that are large that involve a lot of people who can't safely socially distance 6 feet apart, and also attendees who may traveling from outside areas. That sounds a lot like a political rally. The CDC, again was asked on that call by reporters if the safety guidelines, also referred to political rallies, and they said simply, these refer to large gatherings.

BLITZER: Erica Hill in New York for us, thanks very much.

By the way, Erica and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will co-host the special hour tomorrow morning with Sesame Street called The ABCs of COVID-19, that's at 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning.

Coming up, I'll speak live with Dr. Anthony Fauci. We'll discuss the latest in the fight to stop the coronavirus. My interview coming up here in "The Situation Room".


[17:42:25] BLITZER: The breaking news, we're following the U.S. coronavirus death toll now surpassing 114,000 as a new projection from the CDC forecast it will rise to 130,000 in three weeks by the 4th of July.

We're joined now by Dr. Christopher Murray, the Director of the institute behind an influential coronavirus model. He's at the University of Washington. Dr. Murray, thank you so much for joining us. Your model now projects what nearly 170,000 deaths here in the United States by October 1st with a sharp spike in September. What's behind that jump?

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: What's behind the jump, Wolf, is that we're now seeing that the evidence that there's quite a bit of seasonality associated with COVID-19 is getting stronger. And then what that means is that despite some of the optics and some of the states that we're watching, like Arizona and others, we expect death to slowly go down in the U.S. to late August, and then pick up and could go -- our best estimate is about 1,000 deaths a day on October 1st, could be much higher. But what's driving that is seasonality.

BLITZER: Yes. We were seeing about 1,000 deaths a day right now as well. Which states, Dr. Murray, are at the greatest risk right now based on your projections?

MURRAY: The ones that are at the greatest risk right now are definitely Arizona. That's the one that I think we're all watching. And then there's certainly worrisome trends in Texas, Florida. Southern California, I think the Bay Area is looking OK. But Southern California, the trends are also not in the great direction.

BLITZER: The CDC has just put out new guidelines, very straightforward guidelines, I must say, and they say the more interaction you have with people, the greater your potential risk. And they warned that travel and public transportation are still very risky. Does the country need to get back to the basics as these cases continue to rise?

MURRAY: Look, what actually happens depends a lot on what people are going to do. And, you know, the basics are essential, wear a mask. We know masks are effective. The best assessment of the evidence says a 50 percent reduction in risk for each individual who always wears a mask. And then avoid lots of close physical interaction. And so, yes, those are the two pillars for how we're going to, you know, be on the low end of the epidemic going forward.

BLITZER: As you know, a handful of states and cities around the country are hitting the pause button on their reopening plans. Do you expect more areas of the country to be forced to do the same thing?


MURRAY: You know, I think that's probably a wise strategy. I think, you know, right now things can turn the wrong direction. And if we let transmission get out of control, and so that seems like a really important step to hit pause on relaxing the mandates, if things are heading in the wrong direction. And then I think as we go later in the year, that's going to be all the more important. What are we going to do when things really get out of control in some states in the second wave?

BLITZER: Yes. There's a lot of people think this coronavirus pandemic is over. It is, by no means, over and might potentially even get a whole lot worse. Dr. Murray, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

MURRAY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, allegations of excessive force and delayed medical care at the center of a lawsuit by the family of a black man who died in custody. Plus, my exclusive one-on-one interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci about all the late breaking developments of the coronavirus pandemic. He will be here in "The Situation Room", that's coming up as well.



BLITZER: The family of a black Tennessee man who died in custody is suing alleging officers used excessive force and delayed medical care following a struggle that was captured on video. Our Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has details and we want to warn our viewers this video is disturbing.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sterling Higgins appeared high, hallucinating and paranoid last March when police arrested him for trespassing. It's what happened next to the 37-year old that has resulted in yet another claim a black man was killed in custody as cameras rolled.

EDWIN BUDGE, ATTORNEY FOR HIGGINS ESTATE: It shows the officers hands grasping around Mr. Higgins neck and throat and it shows Mr. Higgins stopping all movement while that officer has his hands in the area of Mr. Higgins' throat.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Seattle Attorney Edwin Budge is suing Union City, Tennessee, the county and the officers involved on behalf of Higgins estate, accusing jailers of excessive use of force, failing to provide adequate medical care and causing his death. The City County and people involved all deny wrongdoing. Jailhouse videos show minute by minute, Higgins death from a scuffle with officers in which Higgins handcuffed, pulls a jailer's hair, to a scuffle on the floor, where he is kicking feet as jailers struggle on top.

And here, in close up video, enhanced by the attorney to zoom in on one of the jailer's gripping Higgins' face and neck. In a handwritten report. The jailer says Higgins was spitting and he put his hand under his chin.

BUDGE: If, in fact, Mr. Higgins was alleged to be spitting and it certainly doesn't explain why an officer would keep his hands around somebody's neck or throat area for fully two additional minutes from the point that the person stops moving.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The video shows two others applying shackles to his legs and ankles as the hand of the officer holding Higgins' neck stays in place. It is 1:48 a.m. and 50 seconds. Minutes pass, Higgins body goes limp, and yet the lawsuit alleges the hand on his face and neck remain for two more minutes. At 1:54:27, the officer finally removes his hand. It's been nearly six minutes.

The jailers do not call for medical help at this point. Instead, they drag Higgins limp body onto a restraint chair and wheel him into cell 15.

BUDGE: Why they would strap a lifeless human body into a restraint chair, spend minutes doing that, and then put him in a cell by himself when all movement had seized for minutes on end, until a medics are called is beyond my comprehension.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): At 2:14 a.m., one minute before medical staff arrive, the officers remove his restraints. The EMS team finds no pulse, no breath, apply CPR but it's too late. Their report says the primary symptom is obvious death.

An autopsy report shows a tear in Higgins' neck muscle. The conclusion, excited delirium due to methamphetamine toxicity, a controversial term used to describe accidental drug deaths sometimes in the hands of police.

TOMMY THOMAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBION AND WEAKLEY COUNTY: Do I think that the officers handled this situation properly? No. I don't. I did not believe beyond reasonable doubt that any of those officers were guilty of a crime.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): District Attorney General Tommy Thomas says he understands that some people won't agree with his decision not to charge the officers. Thomas says he presented the case to the grand jury, as he always does when law enforcement is involved, but never showed the grand jurors the video.

THOMAS: I guess the bottom line is this, it would have taken a couple hours to show the video to the grand jury. And I'd already decided that this case was not a proper case for indictment.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The grand jury agreed with the D.A.'s recommendation, do not press charges. Thomas says, because the burden of proof is lower in civil courts, he advised Higgins' family to get a lawyer and sue.



GRIFFIN: Wolf, several attorneys will seek experts to review the autopsy, review those videotapes and if it gets to a jury, this time, make sure jurors see those videotapes and see how Sterling Higgins died. Wolf?

BLITZER: Drew Griffin, good reporting as usual. Thank you.

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