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Interview With Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ); President Trump Defends Police, Issues Executive Order; New Model Predicts 201,000+ Deaths By October, Blames Easing of Social Distancing for New Spikes. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired June 16, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with the politics lead. President Trump this afternoon signed an executive order enacting new policing reforms, in the wake of weeks of nationwide protests about policing in the United States sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

The executive order includes some modest changes, such as setting financial incentives for local police departments to establish credentialing programs. It also incentivizes police departments to ban choke holds.

President Trump today claimed this moment was about finding common ground and bringing together law enforcement with the communities they are supposed to serve and protect.

The president cloaked the event in full-throated pro-police language, defending police at large, saying that only a -- quote -- "very tiny number" of police officers are bad.

The president, in addition, lied about the Obama administration, saying President Obama and Vice President Biden -- quote -- "never even tried to fix this during their eight years."

In fact, the Obama administration pushed many policing reform measures, and its Justice Department entered into special agreements with police forces called consent decrees, specifically with 12 police departments accused of abuses.

The Trump administration has significantly reduced what are called pattern or practice investigations that lead to consent decrees and undermine other parts of the Obama policing reform program, which should not be surprising, given that, on December 1, 2014, when Obama truly began initiating many of those policing reforms, then citizen Trump tweeted: "Obama is community organizing from the Oval Office on Ferguson today. More riots sure to follow" -- unquote.

And, of course, in 2017, at a law enforcement event on Long Island, President Trump sounded almost as if he supported mistreating people being arrested. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you guys put somebody in the car, and you're protecting their head, the way you put their hand -- like, don't hit their head, and they have just killed somebody, don't hit their head.

I said, you can take the hand away, OK?


TAPPER: But beyond the president's lies and his apparent flip-flop, this is a moment, truly, that many pushing for policing reform are embracing.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, this executive order came moments after President Trump privately met with the families of men and women who had been killed because of police brutality and racism, including the family of Ahmaud Arbery.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he offered a full-throated defense of law enforcement, today, President Trump signed an executive order encouraging modest police reforms.

TRUMP: We will have reform without undermining our many great and extremely talented law enforcement officers.

COLLINS: Instead of calling for immediate action, the order focuses on guidelines and establishing a national database to track excessive use of force, while offering funding incentives for police departments that increase training and meet Justice Department standards.

TRUMP: These standards will be as high and as strong as there is on Earth.

COLLINS: Without offering details, the order also encourages prohibiting the use of choke holds, with an exception.

TRUMP: Choke holds will be banned, except if an officer's life is at risk.

COLLINS: The president did not address allegations of systemic racism in law enforcement and instead argued that police misconduct is rare.

TRUMP: They're a very tiny -- I use the word tiny. It's a very small percentage, but you have them.

COLLINS: Before the event, Trump met privately with families whose loved ones have been killed by police, then surrounded himself with law enforcement officials and police union representatives.

TRUMP: Please come up.

COLLINS: At the event on police reform, Trump quickly moved on to other subjects, as he mused about retail numbers and school choice.

TRUMP: Frankly, school choice is the civil rights statement of the year.

COLLINS: He also made a veiled reference to efforts to replace Confederate statues.

TRUMP: We must build upon our heritage, not tear it down.

COLLINS: On FOX News this morning before the event, Vice President Mike Pence was asked what seemed like a simple question.

QUESTION: Do you believe it's harder to -- for someone who's black to make it in this country, whether they're a man or a woman?

COLLINS: Pence spent over two minutes not answering it directly and instead focused on Joe Biden.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love your question, because I saw where Joe Biden last night actually tweeted that everybody ought to have a fair shot at the American dream. Well, why don't you support allowing African-American families to choose where their kids go to school?


COLLINS: Now, Jake, back to that executive order, the White House has made pretty clear that the implementation of what they're laying out is going to have to happen on a local level.


And when it comes to funding for some of those new programs the president outlined, that's going to have to come from Congress. And, of course, on Capitol Hill, it is still far from clear where those police reform efforts are going to go.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

But, before you go, Kaitlan, we're still in the middle of a deadly pandemic. And I couldn't help but notice that, during the signing, President Trump was surrounded by White House and law enforcement officials, not one of them wearing a mask, not one of them social distancing.

This is, of course, what the CDC and the surgeon general are telling us to do. But the president and these law enforcement people, individuals, are not doing it. Have they offered any explanation?

COLLINS: No, they haven't.

And you will notice there were more people in the Rose Garden today than we have typically seen in some of these past events, these past signings that the White House has done, since, of course, so many changes, given coronavirus. And you saw the attorney general there chatting with people not wearing a mask, Jared Kushner, the acting DHS secretary, of course, the president himself and those law enforcement officials and police union representatives.

And, often Jake, what we hear from the White House when we ask about why they're not wearing masks is that they are tested on a regular basis, the president and people around him. But, of course, the question is, what message does it send to the president's supporters, to people who are watching seeing these top officials in government not wearing masks when they are within very close distance of one another?

And that's really the only thing that they have ever pointed to.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

And joining me now to discuss the president's executive orders and policing reforms, former federal prosecutor Laura Coates and former police officer Redditt Hudson, who founded the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice Reform and Accountability.

Redditt, let me start with you.

This federal tracking system for so-called bad cops that the president is in favor of, this does, frankly, seem like a big win for people who want reform to keep bad officers from getting fired by one department and then hired by another ,as happened notoriously with the officer who killed Tamir Rice?

Redditt, did you not hear my question?

Let me go to you, Laura, if you can hear me.

Laura, this does seem like, legitimately, a big step.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. In that respect, it is one of the aspects people have been calling for in terms of being able to track not only those officers who are problematic, but also termination.

But on the other side of that particular win is essentially the sword and the shield. There's the idea here that, although they will have that national database to track, it has to rely on only those officers who perhaps have been terminated or have been provided fair process.

And so I'm wondering what that's going to mean in the long run, whether there will be some discretion about who can be or should be included into the database. But, overall, the idea of being able to track problematic officers and prevent things like the very thing that happened to young Tamir Rice would be a very wonderful thing.

TAPPER: And, Redditt, I think your earpiece is now functioning again.

REDDITT HUDSON, FORMER ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICER: Yes. I can hear you now. TAPPER: What's your take on this federal database that will track bad officers to make sure that bad ones aren't fired by one department and then hired by another, as happened with the officer who killed Tamir Rice?

And what's your take also on the president saying that the percentage of bad cops is -- quote -- "very tiny"?

HUDSON: I agree with Laura on the utility of the database. I think it's a necessary thing, and it would be helpful to know if an officer has abused his power in one precinct or district, can move to the next municipality or even state over, we can prevent future abuses of power.

Relative to that tiny percentage, I'm so glad that you asked that question. I have a colleague. His name is K.L. Williams, who wrote use of force policy for us here in Saint Louis for years. He's trained thousands of officers.

Here's the reality Jake. In a major city on any given day, with a major police department, you have got 15 percent of your officers are going to do the right thing all the time whether anybody is looking or not. You have got 15 percent of your officers who are going to abuse power, whether that's physically, planting evidence, taking the drug money.

You leave 70 percent of your officers that could go either way, depending on who is the most influential within that culture. The problem is, those officers in the 15 percent who abuse their power exert an outsized influence on the overall culture in just about every department in the country. And it's always tinged with the institutional racism that is also central to police culture in this country.

So that fits what we have seen over generations much better than this ludicrous idea that there is this 1 percent, tiny percent of officers who abuse their power. It just doesn't make sense in the reality that we live in and that we have observed.

TAPPER: And, Laura, the Justice Department is also going to be able to certify police departments based on their programming for de- escalation, for use of force, for how much they engage with the community.


This also includes banning choke holds, in a way, I guess, although it does have this caveat, you're allowed to use them when an officer's life is at risk. So, I mean, I guess that doesn't really mean he's banning choke holds at all.

Police departments get to choose to get certified. So what do you think about the way that they're doing this? I mean, it really is up to the police departments to decide whether or not they want to comply with these guidelines. COATES: Well, the idea that the Department of Justice is going to

make opting in volunteer -- on a voluntary basis, I mean, it's not much of a mandate, if it's optional, is it?

It's the idea of saying, look, we believe this is important, but you don't actually have to do it if you don't feel like, it feels more like the sort of "Pirates of the Caribbean" guidelines segment of the movie, as opposed to anything else.

And so when I look at this, I say to myself, in all legislation about justice, about the ideas of use of force, if it's all bark and no bite, if there's no real way to actually hold people accountable or to not only incentivize through federal grants, but to act as a disincentive to bad behavior, which is what people are really asking for, there's not enough out there, whether it be the aspect of qualified immunity about the difficulties of criminal prosecution.

There's not enough to act as a disincentive to bad behavior. And so without that mechanism, it largely, to me, could ring very hollow. However, certification is important, if it's trying to establish a national standard.

But what would also be helpful here is having the courts involved through, say, I don't know, a consent decree, Jake, the kinds that have been rolled back that did have a disincentive and a mechanism to enforce.

TAPPER: And, Redditt Hudson, choke holds obviously cut off oxygen and blood to the brain. And that's why so many individuals are calling for them to be banned, because they can kill people, as we have seen.

This idea that the president is disincentivizing choke holds, except there's this big loophole, except when an officer's life is thought to be at risk, I mean, that seems to be the mother of all loopholes. Officers constantly cite that with any time they use force, am I right?

HUDSON: You're absolutely right. It is the mother of all loopholes, because it's a subjective standard. You may feel like your life is in danger when someone else in your same circumstances does not.

It allows the opposite then to justify almost any time that he uses that kind of force. If the president was serious about reform, he would have directed the Senate and the House to present a bill that substantively addresses the real issues that have been presented by officers and officers in communities around the country.

But he hasn't done that. He's given us kind of a toothless executive order that's really window dressing for a problem that, if anybody expected him to meet the moment, I don't know why. He did not. And I didn't expect him to.

It's going to be left to the leadership in law enforcement that you see emerging around the country who have acknowledged the realities on the ground to do the real work of making our justice system what it needs to be, especially as it relates to police and community interactions.

TAPPER: Well, in the last few days, I have interviewed Tim Scott, the Republican and the senator, Republican senator, working on this, Jim Clyburn, the Democrat in the House, working on this. There is still optimism that something can be done congressionally, legislatively, as well.

Redditt Hudson and Laura Coates, thanks to both of you. We always appreciate your sharing your expertise.

Coming up next: the Democratic governor who just had dinner with President Trump. We're going to talk with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy about President Trump's action today on policing, and also the coronavirus response.

Plus: North Korea literally and figuratively blowing up peace talks -- a look at what might happen next ahead.



TAPPER: A disturbing projection in our health lead. The United States could see more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths by October. That's according to a new model often cited by the Trump administration. The IHME model points to states such as Florida which is seeing a record of new cases daily and blames officials who relaxed social distancing measures too early.

CNN's Erica Hill now takes a look at what we need to do to prevent this.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: States are not opening gently. They're opening with lots of crowds. They're opening with lack of face masks.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those behaviors could lead to more than 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. by October, according to a key model. The science is clear, wide use of face coverings can help slow the spread.

Airlines taking note. United warning refusal to wear one could land you on a restricted travel list.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi might make them mandatory on the House floor.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERLGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The best thing, don't gather in crowds. But if you are going to, please wear a mask consistently. Keep it on, don't take it off.

HILL: The Trump campaign says masks are not required at this weekend's indoor rally in Tulsa. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're also looking

at another venue. We're also looking at outside activities.

HILL: North Carolina weighing new rules for the entire state.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): We want people voluntarily to do this. But we are looking at additional rules to potentially make these mandatory.

HILL: It's among 18 states reporting an uptick in new cases over the past week. Florida, one of eight shown in deep red, numbers there up more than 50 percent. Athletes at Indiana University and Ohio state must now sign a pledge acknowledging the risks of the virus and agreeing to certain health safety measures, as hope dims for return of Major League Baseball.

ROB MANFRED, MLB COMMISSIONER: It's just a disaster for our game.

HILL: The league and the players union still at odds, "USA Today" reporting several players and staff have tested positive. Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle the timing of this leak is suspicious.


The NBA is scheduled to return without fans on July 31st.

The head coach for the Denver Nuggets revealing he had the virus in March.

MICHAEL MALONE, DENVER NUGGETS HEAD COACH: I got coronavirus and I kicked its butt.

HILL: New York will host America's tennis major, the U.S. open, later this summer.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The tennis authority is going to be taking extraordinary precautions.

HILL: And Nathan's annual hot dog eating contest will also be back this July 4th, though no spectators this year, which may be for the best. As we continue to look for treatments, some interesting news out of the U.K., Jake.

A preliminary finding from a study there found that a commonly used steroid actually did really well for some of the sickest patients, some of the most severe patients. They are reducing their risk of dying by a third.

Now, it's important to point out, these were patients who needed to be either on a ventilator or also have oxygen, but, again, encouraging news there, especially given that this is a common steroid that in some cases can be just $8.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in New York, thank you so much.

Joining me now from across the river is the Democratic governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, who dined with President Trump over the weekend.

Governor Murphy, thanks for joining us.

"The New York Times" obtained audio of a phone call between Vice President Pence and governors yesterday. The vice president said in part, quote, I would just encourage you all as we talk about these things to make sure and continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of increase in testing and that in most of the cases where we are seeing some marginal rise in number, that's more result of the extraordinary work you're doing, unquote.

But, health experts say that's not necessarily the case, that positive tests in many states are increasing more than the testing is increasing so that there is spread.

Were you surprised when the vice president said that?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Jake, good to be on with you.

I have to say I wasn't terribly surprised. I actually didn't read it that way. We lived through hell and back, and we're finally coming out of it. We've got almost 13,000 lives lost.

At the very peak of this, when we were ramping our testing up aggressively, and positive cases were going through the roof, we were very clear that it was both because of community spread and because we were testing more. So I know New Jersey well. I can't comment on the other states. But my gut tells me if a state's cases are on the rise and they are ramping up testing, it's probably partly due to both community spread to some extent as well as wider access to testing.

TAPPER: According to "The Times," the president also told governors to consider any new outbreaks embers, in other words, small issues that can be handled and are not part of a larger problem. This feeds into a perception that the Trump administration is trying to downplay threats that states such as New Jersey are still facing.

MURPHY: Yes. Listen, we're not done -- I know what we're doing here and we're not downplaying it. Again, we've had an overwhelming loss of life.

But the curves, all the metrics that we look at, the rate of infection, the positivity rates in terms of how many folks who were tested are positive, new hospitalizations -- I'm knocking on wood here, Jake -- those are all going dramatically in the right direction allowing us to slowly but now surely open up.

But we've got our eyes wide open. Could this -- by opening up even if we bat a thousand and do everything the right way, could this still come back? And sadly, the answer is, it's probably a question of when as opposed to if.

So ramping up testing and contact tracing and isolation, all of that, to have that in place to give folks confidence that we can quickly spot it, surround it, drive it to the ground, that's where we're spending a lot of our energies these days. TAPPER: And, as you know, New Jersey, even if the numbers are going

in the right direction, your state lost 51 people to coronavirus. Just yesterday with nearly 500 new cases, just yesterday and you have not ruled out shutting down businesses and restaurants and other places -- again if social distancing isn't followed and cases begin to spike, go in the other direction.

What would make you shut down businesses in New Jersey for a second time? What's the standard there?

MURPHY: Yes. I think -- by the way, you're absolutely right. We have to reserve the right to hit the emergency brake here. I hope we don't have to and we went into this with a pea shooter in terms of our capacities for testing, for contact tracing, for isolation, for all of the ICU beds, ventilators, et cetera. We're much better prepared now than we were three or four months ago, not just our state but as a nation.

I think if you saw a sustained increase over a number of days of rate of transmission, positivity rates, and new hospitalizations, if we saw a string that was a real trend, some number of rolling days on average, that would be very concerning.


And we would -- we would need to consider action at that point.

TAPPER: I do want to ask you while I have you here about issues of race and policing. You've said that you support the New Jersey attorney general's decision to publicly identify every officer in the Garden State who's been fired, demoted, or suspended for more than five days for disciplinary issues.

Are you working on any other types of policing reforms?

MURPHY: Yes. So last year, just to put a little history here, I signed an independent prosecutor's bill. And I'm very happy I did that. So if there's any death or shooting involving a law enforcement officer, that must go through an independent process ending with a presentation to a grand jury.

The attorney general's reviewing all use of force. We haven't looked at that in 20 years in New Jersey. He has banned in all but very limited circumstances chokeholds. We are -- we are now going to be a state that licenses and goes through a process of licenses -- licensing rather all of our law enforcement members.

And there's a whole range of other legislation that we're working on with our legislative partners including addressing our criminal sentencing and disposition laws. So, there's a lot of moving parts here, as there should be. Words matter, but actions matter even more. So that's what we're pursuing aggressively right now.

TAPPER: All right. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat -- thank you so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thanks, Jake, for having me.

TAPPER: A new study showing children are half as likely to be infected with coronavirus. What might that mean for going back to school? That's next.