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George Floyd Protests on Night 18 amid Worldwide Pandemic; Defiant Trump Stokes Racial Division; Coronavirus in the U.S.; Cuba Announces Gradual Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions; American Soccer Star: Trump's Not Right. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired June 13, 2020 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I am Michael Holmes.

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HOLMES: Now the U.S. is seeing its 18th consecutive night of protests over George Floyd's death, as demands for racial equality and police reforms are not letting up.

Let's have a look at Seattle, one of President Trump's favorite targets of late. For the third straight day, he tweeted about, it demanding the mayor and what he called the takeover of one neighborhood by protesters.

Mayor Jenny Durkan told CNN she wants the president to know Seattle is fine.

In Chicago marches starting a giant George Floyd banner sang hymns and called for the creation of a civilian council to keep police accountable.

And in Minneapolis protesters demanding the head of the police union resign. Earlier Friday the city council voted to end the local emergency declared more than 2 weeks ago.

And we have this just in. Amid the protests and the racial tensions President Trump had planned on restarting his campaign rallies next Friday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma; that plan has now changed.

Just moments ago Mr. Trump tweeted this, quote, "We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th - a big deal. Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests," unquote.

The outrage and the protests have inspired at least 20 cities and municipalities in the U.S. to ban chokeholds in policing, that includes Minneapolis, where an officer had his knee on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

But is this reawakening about race and justice in America resonating with President Trump?

CNN's Jim Acosta looks at how he has been responding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (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.

HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS HOST: Why do you think that your.

TRUMP: And I'll tell you, Christians think it was a beautiful picture.

ACOSTA: 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. No, I mean, if that's the way they feel, I think that's fine.

ACOSTA: 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's just wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover."

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 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, it should be ended.

ACOSTA: 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.

FAULKNER: Is 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: 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 on African Americans in that city.

The president told FOX he should be mentioned in the same sentence as Abraham Lincoln.

TRUMP: I think I have 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: 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 is here. You mind if I put you on speaker?"

And so she -- he chatted with Heidi.

And 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."

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): 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."

The White House is counting on a recovering economy to bail out Mr. Trump come election time, with top advisers insisting there won't be a second wave of the coronavirus, contrary to what health experts are warning.

KUDLOW: 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 was laying low at his golf club in New Jersey on Friday with no public events on his schedule, delivering the commencement speech at West Point on Saturday, an event that will include some social distancing, even though the White House has drifted away from those kinds of precautions -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

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HOLMES: Well, the death of George Floyd is hitting close to home for the former Detroit police chief. Isaiah McKinnon says, when he was 14 years old, he was walking home from school when four white police officers jumped out of their car, threw him against their car and beat him.

He said this, quote, "The more I screamed, the more they beat me. That day I promise myself that I would become a Detroit police officer and change the Detroit police force from the inside."

And he did just that. He told Erin Burnett the racism didn't stop him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISAIAH MCKINNON, FORMER DETROIT CHIEF OF POLICE: I joined the Detroit Police Department August second, 1965. My first day as a Detroit police officer I walked into the squad room and as they had roll call, I was the only person of color there.

But as they had roll call and they announced my assignment was a white officer, he said, I'm working with the -- and he said the "N" word.

And that was my indoctrination with the Detroit Police Department. This man rode with me for eight hours and I rode with him and he did not say a word. That appeared to be the norm.

There were some great people. In fact, an officer I met I'm still friends with, Frank Mitchell. He's a white officer. But that was the norm with me and other officers of color.

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HOLMES: He is now calling for departments to be restructured so the police can serve and protect their communities. And CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein joins me now from Los Angeles.

Always good to see you, my friend. I want to start with the president postponing this Tulsa rally after according to him African American friends urged him to do so, because of Juneteenth. An uncharacteristic move for the president to bow to criticism, if that's what it is.

What did you make of it?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's just a sign of how tenuous he feels the ground to be under him at this point, how uncertain he is, how to react. The president's initial reaction always at any moment of crisis as we have seen over 3.5 years is to double down on trying to mobilize his base, without worrying much about the majority opinion in the country.

But here, he is in a moment where his natural instinct to defend the police, to insist to systemic racism doesn't exist, all arguments that do resonate with his base, the gap between that and what is very clearly a significant movement in public opinion toward concern about racism, toward acknowledgment of systemic bias in policing and criminal justice, I think that has left him a little bit at sea.

And you see him responding to somewhat more uncharacteristic and flexible way, although he is still going to Tulsa, the site of one of the worst race massacres in America in the 20th century. So --

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BROWNSTEIN: -- limits.

HOLMES: Well, good point. Given the events of late and how the president has handled, some would say mishandled, but how big of an issue might race be in the election in November?

And I mean that in terms of how out of touch Trump has been on the issue of change and the need for it?

The polling is saying people want change, even some Republicans. Yet the president and a good portion of his party seem to think things are OK or they are even threatened by change.

BROWNSTEIN: There were multiple academic studies about what happened in 2016 and the unequivocal conclusion of them, study to study, was that attitudes about race was a far better predictor of who would vote for Donald Trump than any kind of economic distress.

And in fact, the strongest predictor voting for Trump was the belief that racism, systemic racism no longer exists and, for that matter, gender discrimination no longer exists.

In polling last, year two-thirds of Trump supporters said that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.

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BROWNSTEIN: And other polling says three-quarters of Trump supporters say that shootings of African Americans by police are isolated incidents, not part of a broader pattern.

It is essential to his message. The argument that his voters, what he describes as the real America, are the ones who are, in fact, under siege and he is protecting them from contemptuous elites above and dangerous minorities and immigrants on the other side.

That is the core of his appeal. The risk he has got is that the majority of Americans, who don't accept that vision, who recoil from the vision, for some of, them it was not a decisive issue.

They may like tax cuts and they want less regulation. They may have liked the way the economy was going. What is happening now is raising the salience, drawing this line more sharply and I think it will polarize the electorate around their attitudes, not only toward his handling is race but toward the underlying issue of whether you accept or resist the way America is changing demographically, culturally, even economically. HOLMES: Right. I want to ask you this, too, coronavirus obviously a

public health issue first and foremost. But there is a political aspect. You've got these red states, electorally significant red states -- Florida, Texas -- and I know you have tweeted earlier today about Arizona. They are all seeing spikes.

Could Republican handling of the virus in certain states have consequences in November?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think so. Here is the most logical, the most likely consequence. The coronavirus, although it is spreading all over the country, it is reaching rural as well as urban, it has hit the hardest, it has imposed the heaviest consequences in the big urban centers of the country, in both red states and blue states.

We look at what's happening right now in Houston and Dallas and Phoenix and other big cities, even across the Sun Belt. And I think what that is likely to do is deepen the hole for the president in those large metro areas.

In 2016, the hundred largest counties in America, he lost 87 of them by a combined 15 million votes, which is an incredible number. I think between the issues of race that have come to the fore and his handling of the coronavirus, he's likely to lose them by even more in 2020, which would put enormous pressure on him to turn out in great, even greater margins in small town rural areas, which are not gaining in population and in some cases are losing population.

HOLMES: Yes. I want to get this in before we go, we are nearly out of time. We have the elections in Georgia, the state of Georgia this week. They were considered a debacle. A lot of people predicted a Dumpster fire and there it was in plain sight.

What does that suggest for November?

How it was run and also the allegations of suppression.

BROWNSTEIN: First, they are clearly a warning sign of what we're heading for November. Most experts expect that about half of Americans will try to vote by mail in 2020. That is double the share that voted by mail; it was one-quarter in 2016.

There are some states like Arizona and Florida and Michigan, to some extent, that have a history of dealing with a very large vote by mail. Most do not. And even states where it's legal may not have the infrastructure to handle this.

We saw Stacey Abrams saying, for example, that her voting by mail ballot came damaged and she couldn't use it. So on the first end, there will be many states that are struggling to handle the increased volume of voting by mail.

And then what is left on Election, Day obviously the coronavirus enormously complicates this because, our poll watchers, our volunteer force, they are heavily elderly, many of them may not feel comfortable doing it in November. Plus you have the issue of suppression, a state like Georgia, since

the 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County, John Roberts wrote it 5-4, party line decision by Republican appointed justices, basically eviscerating our Voting Rights Act in 1965.

We have seen a lot of poll closings, especially in red states, especially in minority neighborhoods. And that was a big factor in those enormous lines you saw in Georgia. I tweeted that day, the lines you saw in Georgia led directly to John Roberts' door.

HOLMES: Yes, it was worrying for a lot of people in the state, that's for sure.

Ron, good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: Coronavirus case numbers, as we were just discussing there, on the rise in a number of states. Health experts say it is possible more people are letting their guard down and not wearing masks. We will discuss how state leaders are trying to change that when we come back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

Let's talk about coronavirus in the U.S., it is not even close to going away, of course. Johns Hopkins counts more than 2 million cases now in the country and it is still rising. Some 19 states have seen big surges in case rates, several of which have broken records for worst ever.

Doctors with the CDC warning people do need to stay on guard and prepare for things to get worse before they get better. Nick Watt reports.

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NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Houston, they're prepping to reopen not more businesses, but maybe the field hospital at the Texans NRG Stadium. COVID-19 hospitalization rates in Texas just hit an all-time high.

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: I'm growing increasingly concerned that we may be approaching the precipice -- the precipice of a disaster.

WATT (voice-over): Oregon and Utah have hit pause on re-opening following upticks these past couple of weeks.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Has the United States stalled in the fight against coronavirus?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I am not so sure we can say it is stalled, but what we are seeing right now is something obviously that's disturbing.

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WATT (voice-over): New case counts right now rising in 19 states. Florida's average new case count has about doubled since June 1st.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): As you're testing more, you're going to find more cases.

WATT (voice-over): But he admits there are new outbreaks in farming communities.

DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: A small part of it is testing. But it truly is a real increase in cases and part of that is because people are getting too close together without using their masks.

WATT (voice-over): Orange County, California, scene of some crowded sand just ended its mask advisory a couple of days after the health officer behind it quit after receiving threats.

Meanwhile, another new study says masks work that making masks mandatory in New York City on April 17th prevented more than 66,000 infections over the following three weeks alone.

The president doesn't wear one and his campaign is now asking everyone attending next week's MAGA rally in Tulsa to sign a waiver saying they won't sue if they catch COVID-19.

FAUCI: Please wear a mask, all the time. Because a mask will give you some protection. The best thing to do is to avoid crowded areas, but if you're not going to do that, please wear a mask.

WATT: Here in Los Angeles, as of Friday, zoos, museums, movie theaters, movie production, they're all back. But the mayor says, they will watch the numbers and, if in a few weeks, they're not looking great, they might ask some questions, are we not doing well enough with the masks?

Or they might tweak the rules and regulations -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

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HOLMES: Cuba now laying out its plans to reopen while trying to avoid a new spike in coronavirus cases. Officials did say that people will be required to wear masks in public and that no date has been set to reopen Havana's international airport yet. CNN's Patrick Oppmann breaks it down for us. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cuba's president says the island now has the coronavirus under control and is looking to reopen certain parts of the economy as early as next week. Cuba is an exception in the region that has seen a surge in cases of the coronavirus.

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OPPMANN: By some estimates, there are now more than 1.5 million cases of coronavirus, just in Latin America. Some countries like Mexico and Brazil have been criticized, their leaders, for not taking the outbreak as serious as they should early enough.

Other countries that do have strict measures in place, like Peru and Chile, still continuing to see their cases climb, perhaps because of the disparity, the poverty that exists in those countries and other countries around the region, that prevents many people from taking social distancing advice, from being able to stay at home, because they are part of an informal economy.

They need to go out every day to work and are not able to keep a distance from other people because of their living conditions.

Cuba is also an exception because of the number of cases here has dropped. We recently saw a week where there were no deaths, according to government statistics. And while there continued to be about a half a dozen to a dozen cases every day, the government says they are confident that the number of cases will continue to drop.

And in the weeks ahead, they will first open up the economy to local tourism. People will be able to travel around the island. Businesses like restaurants and stores, once again will reopen.

And then the second phase, probably in the weeks or months to come, will allow tourists to visit islands off the coasts, where they will not be able to have contact with communities of people. They will have to go to hotels, these various islands, beach resorts where Cubans do not live.

And that's to keep the population on the mainland safe. It's still not clear, according to the Cuban government, when people will be able to fly from outside of the island, to destinations like Havana.

That will take a while, even though the Cuban government says, in the near future, everyone who arrives on the island, whether at beach resorts or eventually here at major cities, will have to be tested.

It's just an indication that, even for countries that say they have control now, have the virus under control, there is still a great risk in reopening too soon, even for countries that have seen the number of cases drop, like Cuba. It is still just too risky to completely open up -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

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HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We will be right back.

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HOLMES: The U.S. soccer star, Weston McKennie, is criticizing Donald Trump's handling of unrest in the wake of George Floyd's death. He says Trump is, quote, "not the right president to handle the situation."

McKennie, who plays on the German Bundesliga, reflected on his own experience with racism in the U.S. and Germany in a candid interview with CNN "WORLD SPORT" contributor, Darren Lewis.

The star holds nothing back and the following does contain disturbing language. But these are words of a victim of racism and CNN believes they are important to hear.

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DARREN LEWIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's your view, Weston, about the way that the sporting protests so far have been handled by President Trump?

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WESTON MCKINNIE, U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM: Me, personally, I don't think he's the right president for this time, to handle a situation like this. You're supposed to be our president. You're supposed to help the situation, not throw oil onto a fire, not putting lighting fluid onto a fire.

So, I don't think he's the right type of president for it. Right now, we need a president that would stand up do something and say when enough is enough, will stand up and stand behind it as well and see through, that there is a change.

Instead, he was taken to a bunker and he's hiding out safe somewhere. So, me, personally, I think that he's ignoring the whole situation and not using his full potential power that he could.

LEWIS: America is in a very febrile state right now.

What is your experience as a black man in America?

MCKINNIE: The thing is, I've obviously been called all types of things here and there in America and obviously I know better not to try and give a reaction off of it because it gets the best of me.

So I don't do anything. But one of the things, the reason I always preach that it's a global problem, because most of my racist encounters also have been in Germany as well.

And I've been called an ape, I've been called a nigger, I've been called all types of things here in Germany as well. And even this season I got called a shit ape and got monkey noises made at me and so on, throwing up arms like a monkey and ooh-ooh-ooh.

So that's why I always preach it's a global problem because it's not just something that's going on in America. It's not just America's problem.

LEWIS: Have you joined in protests at all?

Have you been on any marches?

MCKINNIE: Yes, I've been to one here, obviously undercover, covered up, mask and everything.

Me, personally, I've never seen so many black people in my area ever. And this is the first time, you look around and you're like, wow, they're here. Like these -- my fellow brothers, my people, they're here, they're supporting, they're voicing their opinion. They're standing up for what they believe in.

And you can't just do it as one person. Together, as everyone -- that's why it was so overwhelming because it's like, it's one big collective, you know, it's one big group that are all supporting the same thing. They're all wanting change, they're all voicing it and not afraid to go out and support a situation like this.

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HOLMES: Extraordinary.

Thanks for watching and spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes, do stay tuned for "INSIDE AFRICA." I will see you a little later.