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Nationwide Protests Over George Floyd's Death Continue For 19th Day; Man Fatally Shot By Police At Fast-Food Drive-Thru In Atlanta; Atlanta Police Chief Stepping Down; Inside Seattle Zone Overtaken By Protesters And Free From Police; At Least 2,066,000 Coronavirus Cases And More Than 115,000 Confirmed Deaths; President Trump Today Addressed Class Of 2020 At West Point. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 13, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We begin tonight with the nation jolted into realty on two fronts. First, the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and against police violence now in their 19th day, still going strong. In many cities, protesters are trying to turn that energy into positive change.

Adding to that urgency, for so many people, the fating shooting last night of the 27-year-old black man by police in Atlanta, the circumstance is different from George Floyd's death, but the death adding to the frustration that is clearly out there. All of this happening against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the country reopens in many places, statistics show the fight against the virus is far from over. The death toll remains staggering and a vaccine, the only thing that will really, in the end, end this ordeal, remains months if not years away. We're covering both stories extensively tonight.

First, in Atlanta, the Mayor is reacting quickly to the deadly shooting of a black man last night. Atlanta police shot and killed 27- year-old Rayshard Brooks outside a fast-food drive-thru. Authorities say Brooks failed a sobriety test, then struggled with officers before acquiring one of their tasers and appearing to point at police.

CNN has obtained eyewitness video of the struggle between Brooks and police, and a warning to our viewers, this video is disturbing.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This footage also appears to show police scuffling with Brooks. Georgia officials say Brooks managed to grab one of the officers' tasers during the struggle, and then you can see police chase after him. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation released surveillance footage of the incident. Again, we must warn you, this video is also disturbing. You can see Brooks running from police here, and he seems to point the

taser that police say he took, pointing it in the direction of the officers. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms spoke just a little while ago talking about next steps for the City of Atlanta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, (D) ATLANTA: I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer. Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as Police Chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Natasha Chen is joining us now from Atlanta.

Natasha, you've been there all day. A lot of nervousness going on right now. What's the latest, first of all, on the shooting?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, we are seeing the video that you just played as well. The people here in the protests are really reacting to that, and they are seeing that this plays into the argument that they do not believe this should have escalated to the point where police had to shoot this person.

They say that this plays into the argument that the resources should be redirected to other services in the community that could have gone to a call like this, with perhaps police as backup. But to have a situation like this escalate to the point where someone is shot, they don't believe this needed to happen.

And so we have one group of people here at Centennial Olympic Park. You have another group that's at the Wendy's location where this happened last night. And of course, you heard Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms say that the Chief of Police, Erika Shields, offered her resignation today. The crowd here was a bit mixed in reaction to that. There were some who said that the problem just persists with whoever they replace her with. And then others say that that was not terribly surprising.

I do want to read you a statement that Chief Shields released in the last hour or so. She said, "For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest women and men in the Atlanta Police Department out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department. I offered to step aside as Police Chief." That's part of her statement there.

So, of course, every city leader here is feeling this pressure because of the movement that's been going on in the last couple of weeks. But still this case has to be taken and looked into separately by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation looking into this case, looking at that video. They are asking for the public to cooperate and help with witnesses coming forward to talk to them about it. From what the GBI Director says he sees as well from this video is

that the officers were called there for a person reportedly sleeping in his vehicle, that he failed a field sobriety test, that there was a struggle over the officer's taser, that witnesses saw Mr. Brooks obtain the police taser, was running away from the officers, and then in the video, one of the videos that you showed, we can see that Mr. Brooks was - seems to have extended his arm and turned back around to point the taser at officers. And of course, all that happened very quickly, as he was shot and he fell right there.

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The family is obviously distraught. They have a lawyer now, and they anticipate addressing the public on Monday, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Natasha, I want you to stand by. We're going to watch what happens on the streets of Atlanta tonight.

In the meantime, I want to discuss all the implications of this dramatic development. Our Law Enforcement Analyst, Chief Charles Ramsey, is joining us - Former Police Chief here in Washington D.C., Former Police Commissioner in Philadelphia.

Chief Ramsey, what's your reaction to the videos that we've been showing our viewers? What's your reaction to this encounter that occurred?

CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER DC POLICE CHIEF, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER & CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, there's a couple of things, Wolf. One, you see the ground fight or the struggle that took place. The officer had a taser in his hand. I don't know if he had it in what's called a drive-stun mode, which is a pain compliance mode, in order to get him under control and handcuffed. Otherwise, he had himself at a disadvantage by having just one hand that he could really control the man with.

As far as the shooting went, he's chasing the individual. He does turn. It looks like he may have fired the taser. I'm not really sure if that was just a reflection or if he actually fired it. But clearly, there's going to be a strong case made against whether or not this was a necessary shooting.

And there's three things you look at. You look at, one, was it necessary? Was it reasonable? And was it proportional? And so, he had a taser in his hand. That's less lethal, but it's certainly not a firearm that you have in your hand. Once you discharge it, it's not effective. It has to recycle. So it would not have been any good at all. But these things go down in a matter of seconds.

GBI will do a thorough investigation I'm sure. I've seen their work before. They do a very good job. And they'll let the cards fall where they may. And my understanding is the DA is going to do a separate investigation. So we'll see how it turns out.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, on a taser, Chief Ramsey, I know it can hurt you, it can slow you down. RAMSEY: Right.

BLITZER: But can it kill you - a taser?

RAMSEY: What they call it less lethal, there had been a couple of instances where a person has died, person with a pre-existing condition, heart condition, or something like that. So it's not 100 percent that it can't, but it's very rare when something like that occurs. So that's why we call it less lethal as opposed to non-lethal.

BLITZER: Well, let's say this was you, and you worked as a police officer for many years and you worked your way up to becoming Police Chief here in D.C., Police Commissioner in Philadelphia. If you're chasing a suspect or someone that you want to slow down or arrest and he points a taser at you, is it appropriate to use lethal - a gun to kill that person?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, listen, what I would do, I probably would not have fired. But that's me. There's a big difference between what you can do and what you should do. I mean, legally, I think they're going to have a hard time looking at this from a criminal perspective, perhaps, although it's possible. But that doesn't mean that just because you can do something that you should do it.

And so, taking a life, there is absolutely nothing more - more important than the sanctity of life. I mean, that's a last resort. And you have to be in immediate danger, immediate threat. It doesn't look like that was the situation here.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, I want you to stand by. We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news. We'll get back to you. But right now, I want to bring in the national President and CEO of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson.

Derrick, thanks so much for joining us. You've seen the video now. All of us have seen the video by now. What's your reaction to what has occurred?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: It's unfortunate that we are repeating this now. Over the last six weeks, this is the fifth incident dealing with some type of videotaped racialized activity. If in fact he had been drinking, we would have preferred him to stop at the Wendy's drive-thru, take a nap than drive - drunk-driving and kill someone else.

Police need training. This is not acceptable. I commend the Mayor of Atlanta for taking decisive actions to ensure the safety of her citizens. I commend all of the protesters who are continuing to raise the question. And that question is essential.

We need to change the culture of policing. We need to evaluate how we train police. We need to make sure police not only support the communities that they have a duty to protect and serve, but in many cases, they need to be in the community that they have a duty to protect and serve.

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We have far too many officers who live outside of the jurisdictions in which they work. Therefore they have little to no regard for the citizens. But this is unfortunate. This is a true indication, another indication that we must change the culture of policing in our communities.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Derrick, that the police officer who shot and killed Brooks should be fired?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. If you look at the video tape, maybe there is something else that we don't know, but he was under no threat of harm. There was no one that we could see that was in any danger. Why would you use such aggressive force because you found someone sleeping in their car? Maybe he was intoxicated. But intoxication is not a death sentence, and police officers are not judge and jury and executioner, all in a same row.

We must change the nature and the culture of policing. And the only way we can do that is by holding officers accountable. I think he should be - they should be terminated immediately. I think they should be brought up on charges. And until we send clear, decisive messages across the country of how we expect police officers to respect African-Americans and the community at large, we will continue to see these type of incidents happen.

BLITZER: Stacey Abrams, who you know and who ran for governor of Georgia, she tweeted this - and let me put it up on the screen - that the killing of Brooks demands the severe restriction of deadly force. She adds, "Sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death." She says basically what you're saying.

So, what sort of alternatives might have prevented - do you believe, Derrick, might have prevented this death?

JOHNSON: You've got to de-escalate these scenarios. You have to meet people where they are and not meet them where you assume or who you assume them to be. There is this looming fear, particularly from too many police officers, that African-American males pose some type of threat or danger. And in many cases such as this, they're intoxicating.

Intoxication is not a crime. Driving while intoxicated is a crime. He was parked. He was asleep. De-escalate the situation and not escalate it. Understand that you are talking to a citizen, not someone who you walk into the sort of situation automatically assuming they have committed a crime.

Respect people. What if that person was a family member? What if that person was one of the officers? They would want to be treated with respect and dignity even in their intoxicated state. This should not be acceptable.

And unfortunately, here's another example - unfortunately it's another example in the State of Georgia. We must train police better, change the culture so they can de-escalate these situations and not escalate the situation.

BLITZER: So, give us a sense. We keep seeing - nowadays there's video almost of everything, Derrick. And we're seeing this - presumably, before the days that people had cell phones where they could take video and video cameras were not everywhere, this was going on pretty routinely I assume.

JOHNSON: I could talk about my own experience growing up in Detroit. On my block, there were two police officers. And I recall driving a young teenager, maybe 18, 19 years old. I was pulled over every day for a week. Those two police officers had to serve time because they killed somebody, Malice Green, on my block, on 23rd Street in Detroit.

Finally, somebody heard that those two police officers, they were a problem. They were abusive. They were not straight cops. They would take money out of people's pockets. And complaint-after-complaint, finally they were terminated from the police department, but unfortunately someone's life had to be taken.

This is nothing new. We've seen this. We've known this. We've felt this in the African-American community for many, many, many years. We have to have talks with our children. We have to be always on guard, particularly when we are confronted with police officers who lack cultural competency.

They don't come from my community. They don't live in the jurisdictions in which they are policing. And they have low regard for the citizens who happen to be African-Americans. This must stop.

BLITZER: Yes. What we've seen over these past few years with all the videotapes that have emerged, what we've seen clearly is that there is so much work that needs to be done in these police departments all over the country.

Derrick Johnson, thanks so much for joining us. Derrick is the President of the NAACP. Appreciate it very much.

JOHNSON: Thank you for the opportunity.

BLITZER: We're continuing to follow this developing story out of Atlanta, Georgia as well as the nationwide protests that have entered the 19th day. Take a look at this. Live pictures coming in from Seattle, Washington. So we're going there next, where protesters have occupied various city blocks. You're also seeing live pictures from Atlanta where this shooting has just occurred.

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Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to Seattle, Washington, where protesters are heading into their fourth night occupying several city blocks in the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or what they're calling CHAZ. We'll go there in a few minutes, but right now, I want to check in with CNN's Dan Simon. He's actually on the scene for us in Seattle.

Dan, so, set the scene for us right now, what are you seeing and what are you hearing.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. We are in the heart of CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, as protesters call it. It's a six- block area in the middle of Seattle. You can see what it looks like. It basically looks like a Saturday street festival. You can see all these folks on the street. This is the police station that was effectively abandoned by officers as a way to de-escalate the ongoing tension that existed here.

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You had ugly protests going on, violent clashes between officers and some of these protesters. Tear gas was deployed. And when officers fled the station, it effectively de-escalated everything. And from what we've observed, everything has been peaceful despite what you might be seeing in conservative media as well as President Trump's tweet.

I did speak to a protester who responded to the President's rhetoric. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DARRYL "TNT" KING, PROTESTER: All I've got to say to Trump is, "Trump, you've got all the secret service in the world, come down here and see for yourself. Get in that plane and come see for yourself. Come look at what's going on down here. Come talk to us."

I can't understand a person who's never been in my situation and vice versa. He's never been poor. So how could he understand what it's like to not have? I don't want my kids to have to be here talking to CNN or whoever about this one day when they get older. That's why I'm now here. That's why we're here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Now, among the protesters' demands, they want to see the Seattle Police Department defunded, which of course is what you're hearing all over the country. They also want to see that a police precinct turned into a community center. And it sounds like from what the Mayor is saying that that option may in fact be on the table. She has questioned whether or not there actually should be a police station in this part of the city.

Right now, there appears to be no strategy in place, Wolf, in terms of how or when this situation might end. She is basically saying - she's basically saying this is an expression of democracy and she's OK with all these protesters on the streets for the time being. Wolf?

BLITZER: So, just to be precise, Dan, when the police abandoned that building that's now been boarded up, they left on their own and no one has been able to get inside. The protesters have not entered that building. Is that right? SIMON: That's exactly correct. The protesters have not entered the

building. And there have been a few police officers who have remained in the facility essentially to watch over it. And the Chief actually was able to get inside and talk to some of her staff members. But right now, it is not staffed.

And according to the Chief of the department, that has led to some problems. Keep in mind, the Chief disagree with the Mayor in terms of the decision to leave the building. And she is saying, as a result of those officers not having access to the facility, or at least most of the officers, it has led to - it's taking out triple the amount of time to respond to some of the calls in the area. For instance, if you had a typical 911 call that was emergency, it might take five minutes. She says now it's taking 15 minutes. Wolf.

BLITZER: And no police have been seen within that six-block area. It's a no-police zone. Is that right?

SIMON: It is a no-police zone. That's what they're calling it. Now, occasionally, Wolf, you might see an officer come by and engage with some of the protesters. But those officers are unarmed. And it's a way for them to mingle and build trust with some of these protesters.

I did actually observe one officer. Her name is Lieutenant Tammy Floyd. She spoke to one of these protesters for about half an hour, just listening and they're hearing her concerns. And when that conversation was over, she had tears in her eyes because she was really taken away with what that person had to say. And she said that the complaints that she's hearing are valid, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan. We're going to get back to you. We'll see what's going on in Seattle, Washington, a very extraordinary development out there.

I want to bring back our CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Charles Ramsey, the former police chief here in Washington D.C. and the police commissioner in Philadelphia.

Chief Ramsey, have you ever seen anything like this in the years you were atop the police force in D.C. or in Philadelphia? Have you ever had to abandon a police precinct along these lines and let protesters just do whatever they wanted in that precinct?

RAMSEY: No. No. And fortunately, I haven't had to deal with anything like that. But this is highly unusual. But hopefully, there are some good negotiations going on behind the scenes because this can't go on forever I would imagine. You have competing interests. You've got businesses along that street that - I don't know if they've been shut down because of corona or not, but eventually they're going to want to open up. So they're going to want the streets open.

You're going to have a sanitation problem after a period of time. We found that would occupy with people needing to do what people have to do periodically. So, that becomes a huge issue as well. So we'll see how it all turns out. I've not had to personally deal with it, fortunately. And I'll be honest with you, I don't - I don't know if I would have given up a police station like that. But that's just me. I'm not in Seattle. Mayor is the boss, and the Mayor calls the shots. So--

BLITZER: Well, the Police Chief in Seattle, as you know, Chief Ramsey, is openly criticizing the decision by the Mayor of Seattle to leave that police precinct in that area.

[19:25:00]

Does it set a potentially dangerous precedent? Have you seen these kinds of situations over your many years in police enforcement develop in other cities?

RAMSEY: It can definitely. We know Minneapolis actually had a situation where a police station was taken over a few years ago. I don't think it was this extreme. Walking away is the easy part. Taking it back is going to be very difficult. So, unless they have some kind of negotiations taking place where people voluntarily leave, it's going to be a problem eventually.

I mean, that's six blocks. That's half a mile. I mean, you've got public transportation. You've got all kinds of issues that come from shutting something down like that for such an extended period of time. So it'll be interesting to see how it plays out, what kind of plan the city has because this is - the longer it goes, it's going to be a problem.

BLITZER: It's going to be a huge problem I'm sure. Chief Ramsey--

RAMSEY: Yes.

BLITZER: --I'm going to have you stand by because we're following all the breaking news.

A quick programming note for our viewers. Join Laura Coates tomorrow night with four of the nation's top mayors, D.C.'s Muriel Bowser, Atlanta's Keisha Lance Bottoms, Chicago's Lori Lightfoot, and San Francisco's London Breed, "MAYORS WHO MATTER," a CNN town hall on race and COVID-19. That's tomorrow night, live, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

And we're continuing to follow these live nationwide protests that are continuing this hour. We'll watch what's going on in cities across the United States, looking at live pictures coming in from Atlanta, Georgia right now. But it's also easy to forget that all of this is happening while the nation is still fighting the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more than 115,000 Americans in a mere three months. And now spikes in new cases are worrying top health officials. We'll update you on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BLITZER: We will stay on top of the nationwide protests underway right now and also on top of the breaking news out of Atlanta. But right now, I want to turn to the coronavirus pandemic.

This past Monday marked two weeks since Memorial Day and the statistics right now are not encouraging. Here in the United States, more than 2,066,000 cases and more than 115,000 confirmed deaths.

But these are the most troubling trends we're seeing right now. There are at least 20 states with a rising number of cases, 14 states have a record number of new cases and since Memorial Day, 20 states have seen hospitalizations increase.

Last night, I spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top Infectious Disease expert, who says this last statistic is very concerning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you start seeing more hospitalizations, that's a sure fire sign that you're in a situation where you're going in the wrong direction.

When you see more percentage of the tests that are positive and more hospitalizations, that's something that should get you to pause and say, wait a minute, let's rethink this and see where we're going. Maybe we need to slow down a little, maybe we need to intensify our capabilities to identify, isolate, and contact trace. We don't want it to get out of hand again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN medical analyst, Dr. Seema Yasmin is joining us once again. She is a former disease detective at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Yasmin, at this rate, could we see a second wave sooner than in the fall potentially?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Potentially, Wolf, and you know, you will recall that for a few months now, you and I have been talking about this potential for a second wave and history has taught us that with pandemics, a second wave can be far deadlier than the first wave.

But what I'm concerned about right now, Wolf, is that we're seeing this record breaking spikes among about 20 states within the first wave. So, we haven't even cleared this battle yet. We're not even approaching the second wave and we're already seeing about 20 states with spikes in cases since Memorial Day weekend, a spike in hospitalizations as Dr. Fauci has said.

So, this concerns me that, yes, we need to be over prepared for a second wave which could coincide with the flu season, and that's worrying. But right now, we're still in crisis mode. The news has moved a little bit away from the pandemic, but it's still very much a crisis here in the States and globally.

BLITZER: Yes, this crisis continues. We're clearly concerned. Nearly a thousand -- nearly a thousand Americans are dying from coronavirus every single day. Are the numbers we're seeing now, Dr. Yasmin, a reflection of gatherings, possible infections around Memorial Day? When will we see what sort of impact these protests for example over the past few weeks have had potentially on transmission?

YASMIN: So, it can be difficult to correlate an exposure directly to a spike in cases. But as you'll recall, we saw those photos of packed beaches during Memorial Day. We saw pool parties that were packed, and certainly that increase in hospitalizations is much more of an indication that reopening early in some places did lead to the spike.

I'm thinking about places like Arizona that have seen nearly 200 percent increase in cases in the last few weeks. Texas has seen 42 percent increase specifically in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

So, numbers like that are worrying when you hear about ICUs being packed. In the Phoenix, Arizona area, patients having to be transported much further to fill for their medical care and we do start to link these spikes in cases back to reopening too early.

And places like Oregon, cities like Nashville, Tennessee are watching this in real time and saying we need to stop. We need to reopen much more slowly because that's how drastic these spikes in cases are. They are not just a small increase in some places compared to previous weeks, in some states and some cities, these are the highest number of cases that they've seen in any point in the pandemic.

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BLITZER: I interviewed Dr. Fauci last night and I asked him about the race for a vaccine, which is so critical. He is actually cautiously optimistic. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: I'm confident in the timeline that we will get to the point by the end of the year, we will have a trial that has accrued a large number of people, and we hopefully will get an answer whether it works or not.

The one thing that people need to understand, it is never a guarantee that a vaccine -- any -- and we have multiple candidates, it isn't just one -- that going to be safe and effective. But the preliminary data that we've seen, Wolf, indicates to me a degree that I can have a certain amount of cautious optimism.

Namely, it's inducing a response in individuals to a level that would predict --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you share that cautious optimism, Dr. Yasmin?

YASMIN: I am stunned by the speed and the progress that we're seeing. Historically the fastest we've ever developed a vaccine is for the mumps virus and that took four years. So that fact that already 510 people in the U.K. have been involved for the University of Oxford vaccine, the fact that we could see data from that in six weeks -- that is promising.

And we're talking about AstraZeneca saying that there could be doses available for people in the U.K. by the end of summer. Again, we cannot guarantee anything.

But I do feel a sense of optimism from seeing 135 research groups around the world racing to find a vaccine. We can't promise that there will be something, but so far, the progress has been stunning.

BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot of progress being made on various potential treatments as well, not a vaccine, but treatments that presumably might prevent the seriousness of the disease and prevent death. We'll see what happens on that front as well.

Dr. Yasmin, as always, thank you so much for joining us.

YASMIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, so we're monitoring the nationwide protests this hour and the developing situation that is unfolding in Atlanta right now where the Police Chief has just stepped aside after a 27-year-old man died following a confrontation with police at a fast-food restaurant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:58]

BLITZER: President Trump today addressed the Class of 2020 at the U.S. Military Academy over at West Point and he thanked the National Guard for the role they've played during the nationwide protests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to thank the men and women of our National Guard who responded with precision to so many recent challenges from hurricanes and natural disasters to ensuring peace, safety, and the constitutional rule of law on our streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But even before he spoke out today, the President's visit did stir some controversy. CNN Military Analyst, General Wesley Clark is joining us now. He is the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and he was also, by the way, the valedictorian of the Class of 1966 at West Point. General, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's get to the President, his address today. What do you think of the President calling back, first of all cadets, to address them at a time like this?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: It was really controversial, and you know, it's nice that he wanted to address the cadets, I mean, I'm sure they appreciated that, but they didn't want to come back. And it did put them at some health risk and some inconvenience.

It didn't have to be done. It was really done for him.

BLITZER: A group of West Point alumni called Concerned Members of the Long Gray Line posted an open letter criticizing the use of the U.S. Military in response to legitimate protests -- peaceful protests in fact. Do you agree with the hundreds who is actually signed that letter?

CLARK: I thought it was a good letter, Wolf, but there were a lot of people who wanted to -- who would have signed that letter who weren't contacted and I know there were a lot of graduates who objected to the letter and they weren't contacted either.

So, like the rest of society, Military Academy graduates both on active duty and retired, they're spread across the political spectrum. There's no unified core of professional values here.

BLITZER: As you know, some have actually called for the Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who himself is a West Point grad to resign after attending that photo op with the President over at St. John's Church in Lafayette Square here in Washington.

But we know that Esper pushed back when the President wanted to deploy active duty troops against protesters. Is there an argument to be made that it's better to stay in the Trump administration where you can have some important impact?

CLARK: Well, this is a familiar dilemma. You know, General Powell obviously faced this in the George W. Bush administration and he stayed, and he tried to ameliorate things.

This is the perpetual dilemma that people face in public office. Jim Mattis stayed as long as he could. John Kelly stayed as long as he could. I think Mark Esper will stay. He will do the best he can. I think he is on a steep learning curve, you might say.

I mean, this is something that he probably wasn't prepared for. He didn't see it as Secretary of the Army, but he is in the thick of politics right now. He is pushing back. That's a good thing.

I think he and General Milley both caught a lot of heat after what happened on that Monday night in Lafayette Square, and when you catch heat like that and you're in a public position, most people learn from it and they try not to repeat the mistake.

[19:45:31]

BLITZER: General Clark, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

CLARK Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're continuing to monitor the nationwide protests this evening, the 19th straight day of protests.

We are also monitoring the developing story out of Atlanta where protesters are gathering after a 27-year-old man died following a confrontation with police there. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:21]

BLITZER: The deadly grip of the coronavirus is tightening tonight in hard hit Brazil. Eighteen hundred reported deaths over the past two days is pushing the toll of the virus there past 42,000, but the effort to get food and medicine to those in desperate need and bring those sick to the hospital is being hampered in part by the country's long running battle with its drug cartels.

CNN's international security editor, Nick Paton Walsh is joining us live right now from Brazil. So, update our viewers, Nick, what's the latest?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, extraordinary numbers we are hearing out of Brazil, 850,000 confirmed cases. Over 100,000 really in just sort of the last week or so, startling, including it seems now, the Mayor of Sao Paulo, the Mega City in Brazil, that's really the epicenter of so many of those cases.

He has announced himself that he has tested positive, seemingly not suffering that badly from the disease at this point, but it is away from that central government, away from the authorities we sort of turn our attention.

Now, so much of Brazil's poorer areas under the control of drug gangs. These are criminals, of course, but at the same time, they are the people who the community is turning to try and help them through during these difficult times.

Here is what we saw in one favela as they are known in Brazil outside Rio de Janeiro.

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PATON WALSH (voice over): Out on the edges on the unluckier hills around town, you only really see the state when police raid to hunt gangsters, not when ambulances come for the sick.

This slum is run by drug cartels, a no-go zone for police. Here, the virus means the dealers have had to impose new rules to survive. A curfew, in theory, distancing if possible, and even food handouts for those hit hardest by not working in the lockdown.

This is something they want us to see, but there's no faking the gratitude. The virus killed this street vendor's father-in-law and put her uncle in the hospital.

"Until my father-in-law went to the hospital, he was stable," she says, and then inside, he died in less than a day. It took two weeks to bury him. This help is huge.

It is strange to see signs of normal again up here, where even the gunmen can't get everyone to take their new rules seriously. These young dealers feel invincible against the violence and continuing police crackdown by President Jair Bolsonaro's police, but not when it comes to the virus. That's the law of nature.

"We fear the virus, not Bolsonaro," he says. The isolation was going well here, but now even the President himself in his own words is disregarding it. But we can't ease it. We've seen a lot of death.

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PATON WALSH (on camera): Donald Trump is sending two million pills of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil. Will you take any?

"I don't think hydroxychloroquine helps," he says. It's BS. Everything that comes to Brazil from abroad has already been contaminated.

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PATON WALSH (voice over): Many tell us they've done more than the state. Neya has turned to mask making which means she can stay at the window. She says, the dealers give her a little more for them than everyone else.

Daniel's friend had diabetes and died suddenly at home. "The virus is in control here," he says. Even the dealers are afraid. They're imposing some rules like bars and restaurants can't have tables and chairs. It is part of living here that police could return any time. This rock is meant to block their vehicles, their last raid nearby left at least seven people dead.

PATON WALSH (on camera): It doesn't look like much for curfew, does it? But we're told that this is a massively reduced street presence here.

And the bars, frankly, would normally be heaving, and there are still deals being done on various street corners here. This favela cut off again. This time by the virus rather than criminality that keeps it going from the rest of Rio de Janeiro.

PATON WALSH (voice over): A world Brazil can't afford to distance or ignore as the virus strikes at and spreads from everywhere without distinction.

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PATON WALSH: So a peak coming to Brazil now, a country with the second worst death toll in the world behind the U.S. 850,000 confirmed cases, that's not the full number because there is such restraints on testing in Brazil.

And most importantly, President Jair Bolsonaro who once called this a little flu and whose government last week tried for a brief moment to keep the running toll of cases and deaths away from their web site. It's back now, but troubling times for Brazil ahead -- Wolf.

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BLITZER: Very disturbing. Excellent reporting, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.

And take a look at this live pictures coming out of Atlanta, Georgia right now where protesters have gathered outside the location where a 27-year-old man was shot after a confrontation with police.

And now, the Police Chief in Atlanta has resigned. We're getting lots of reaction to this breaking news development. We'll be right back.

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