Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Coronavirus In The U.S.; George Floyd Protests On Night 18 Amid Worldwide Pandemic; Defiant Trump Stokes Racial Division; JHU: Brazil Has World's Second Highest Death Toll; BLM Movement In Nigeria. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2020 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

The U.S. has seen an 18th night of protests over George Floyd's death as the demands for racial equality and police reforms are being heard across the world.

In Miami, Florida, a peaceful march to the courthouse downtown ended up with some protesters on Interstate 95 blocking a bridge there as you can see. There was a brief standoff with law enforcement but it all ended without violence.

In Baltimore, Maryland, demonstrators painted "Defund police" on the pavement downtown. They say they want to cut the police budget in half and put that money into the community.

And demonstrators in New York City saying "Black Lives Matter" at a rally Friday, New York one of 20 cities now banning officers from using chokeholds. That ban was one of four new police reforms Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Friday.

President Trump changing his mind about restarting his campaign rallies on a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

Late on Friday, he put out this tweet, 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,"

Moving up by a day.

Mr. Trump was criticized for holding the rally on Juneteenth, while the country is experiencing, of course, social upheaval, not to mention there is a pandemic. But as CNN's Jim Acosta shows us, Americans decide he might be undergoing a sea change. It seems, however, Mr. Trump is not.

(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."

ACOSTA: 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: 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.

[03:05:00]

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: 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 and threw him against that car and beat him. He said, 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."

He did just that but told Erin Burnett, the racism did not stop.

(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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: He is now calling for departments to be restructured so police can serve and protect their communities better.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: 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 --

(CROSSTALK)

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.

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 of race but toward the underlying issue of whether you accept or resist the way America is changing demographically, culturally, even economically.

[03:10:00]

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We'll take a quick break now. When we come back, coronavirus cases are on the rise in U.S. Health experts say it's possible more people are letting their guard down and not wearing masks. We will discuss how state leaders are trying to change that.

Also, drug dealers in a vulnerable Rio community are imposing health rules as infections continue to climb in Brazil.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:15:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOLMES: Hi, let's talk about coronavirus in the U.S. The epidemic, of course, far from over, getting worse in many places. Johns Hopkins counts more than 2 million cases in the country, still rising.

Some 19 states are seeing big surges in case rates, several of which have actually broken records the, worst ever. Doctors with the CDC are warning that people do need to stay on guard and to prepare for things to get worse before they get better. Here is Nick Watt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: A treatment can't come soon enough for India, South, Africa and Latin America, the world's coronavirus hot spots. In most of Europe, though the virus seems to be fairly under control. France is going to lift restrictions for those traveling from a long list of European countries.

Ukraine's president has had to adapt the way he works, as his wife tested positive and he is working from home. Now many want answers, starting in Italy with a prosecutor there questioning the prime minister on his response to the pandemic.

In China, a bittersweet new beginning for the widow of the whistleblower doctor from Wuhan. You'll remember, he died in February after becoming infected. His wife, telling Chinese, media she has given birth to their son, writing, quote, "Can you see him from heaven?

"The last gift you gave me was born today."

Turning our attention to Brazil now, the country with the second highest death toll in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, well, health experts warn that the virus is still spreading aggressively and testing is inadequate. Shops have begun to reopen to the public. The situation, so bad, in one poor area, the drug dealers are imposing curfews and social distancing.

[03:20:00]

HOLMES: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (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 that 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 hospital.

"They took 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 cannot 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."

WALSH: 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 B.S. Everything that comes to Brazil from abroad has already been contaminated."

Many tell us they have already done more than the state.

Maya (ph) has turned to mask making, which means she can stay at her window. She says the dealers give her a little more for them than everyone else.

Daniel's (ph) 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 at any time. This rock is meant to block their vehicles. Their last raid (ph) nearby left at least 7 people dead.

WALSH: It doesn't look like much of a curfew, does it, but we are told that this is a massively reduced street presence here. The bars, frankly, would normally be heaving. And there are still deals being done on the 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.

WALSH (voice-over): A world Brazil cannot afford to distance or ignore, as the virus strikes out and spreads from everywhere, without distinction -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: For one CNN producer in Nigeria, George Floyd's death and the subsequent protests have hit very close to home. Just ahead, our Stephanie Busari shares her personal and powerful thoughts on the destructive impact of racism.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

[03:25:00]

HOLMES: The French government, announcing, Monday the police will no longer be able to use chokeholds when making arrests. That caused some members of the police union to march through the streets of Paris on Friday, to protest that ban, saying that it makes their job more dangerous and also they feel insulted by claims that they tolerate brutality and racism.

They are calling on the interior minister, who announced the ban, to resign. With the Black Lives Matter movement, front and center, a CNN producer

in Nigeria was inspired to talk about her experience as a black journalist and how the death of George Floyd hit closer to home than she originally thought. Here is CNN's Stephanie Busari.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN PRODUCER: Living in Nigeria, the George Floyd protests seemed like thousands of miles away, until I had an unexpected conversation with my 9 year old daughter.

She had seen the protest and was upset that I didn't tell her. She told me it was important for her to know, because she had to be ready to deal with it, because she was black. I was saddened and shocked that my little girl was already preparing herself for others to dislike or hate her simply, because of her skin color.

I was born in Nigeria and when I was at her age, I had no idea of my skin color. It wasn't until I moved to the U.K. when I was 12 years old, that I became black. I experienced racism for the first time there. I was called "a dirty African" and I once had a door kicked in my face.

A careers adviser tried to discourage me from journalism, because there were not many black journalists at the time. I lived in London for three decades. And when the chants came to move back, to leave CNN's bureau in Nigeria, I jumped at the chance.

I wanted to raise my daughter to be free from the burden of oppression that many black people abroad face. She is part of a majority here and not a tolerated minority. And, she is gaining a strong sense of her roots and who she is.

Nigeria is far from perfect and has its own divisions. But it is a relief to not have to deal with racism and daily micro-aggressions anymore. As Africans, there is a tendency for us to dismiss the black American struggle.

But we too have race privilege and we need to empathize and stand with black Americans, because an encounter with the police should not become a death sentence. Black Lives Matter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Stephanie Busari there.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is up next. You will see Natalie Allen in about 30 minutes.