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Vice President Pence Pushing Misleading Coronavirus Claim?; Rayshard Brooks Shooting Investigation Continues; President Trump Defends Police, Issues Executive Order. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 16, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: He was standing there today flanked by lawmakers, Attorney General Bill Barr, police officers. And there he was, President Trump signing the measure during an event in the Rose Garden.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans also believe we must improve accountability, increase transparency, and invest more resources in police training, recruiting, and community engagement.

That is why today I'm signing an executive order encouraging police departments nationwide to adopt the highest professional standards to serve their communities.


BALDWIN: And even as he called for some changes, the president was very vocal in his support and praise of law enforcement officials.


TRUMP: I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defend (sic), dismantle, and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we've achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history.

Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos, without law, there is anarchy, and without safety, there is catastrophe.


BALDWIN: Let's start this hour at the White House with our correspondent there, Kaitlan Collins.

And so, Kaitlan, a dual message from the president today. Walk us through what we saw.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, first, you saw that full-throated defense of law enforcement that the president made there in the Rose Garden before he signed this executive order.

And when you're looking at what exactly is going to come out of this executive order, it's a lot of guidelines for police departments and encouragement to change practices, but it's not necessarily this requirement or immediate call to action for them to do so.

It talks about establishing a database to track the use of excessive force by certain offices -- officers, because the president says he doesn't want officers going from one department to another because they have gotten in trouble.

He also talks about what they need to do going forward by establishing certain thresholds of training when it comes to uses of force. And the president says the way they're going to encourage that is to incentivize funding and basically prioritize funding for those departments that do meet that threshold, money that's coming from the Justice Department, that is,.

Of course, a big question was, what are they doing about choke holds? And you saw the president say in the Rose Garden that he -- that this new requirement would ban them. It doesn't actually ban them, because it's saying that they can be used when the exception is an officer believes their life is in danger.

And there aren't any kind of details on what the threshold for that is, what the standard for that is or how that's going to be enforced. So, really, what you're seeing coming out of this executive order is not a ton of new steps coming from the administration, but it is the first concrete steps the president has taken since George Floyd's death.

But what you're seeing by this is, they relying on local governments to enforce these ideas that they're coming up with. They're counting on Congress to fund some of the new programs, including that one talking about having co-responders to go out with police officers, people like mental health experts.

But really, Brooke, they're turning to Congress to leave it up to them to do the heavy lifting on what actual police reforms there are going to be. And as we have heard from our friends on Capitol Hill, we know it is far from decided whether or not they're actually going to take significant steps on that.

BALDWIN: I want to get some quick analysis on everything you're reporting on.

Kaitlan, thank you so much.

Charles Ramsey is a CNN law enforcement analyst, former police chief both in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, and he had served as the co-chair of former President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

So, welcome back to you, Chief. And then Derrick Johnson is back with us. He is the president of the NAACP.

So, gentlemen, welcome, welcome.

And, Chief Ramsey, let me just -- let me start with you. many of these proposals are recommended. And while incentives are offered, the changes are not mandated.

So, do you see this executive order as a good thing? Does it go far enough? And do you expect departments to actually implement these procedures if they are not told they have to do so?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's a step in the right direction. It's a small step, and certainly not enough, nowhere near being enough.

But I really didn't expect the president to come up with some groundbreaking recommendations, quite frankly. But at least it's a step in the right direction. Policing for the most part is done at the local and state level. So there's a lot of work that has to be done.

But at least there's some acknowledgement that you need to have a national database of some kind. There needs to be some kind of certification. We do need to take a look at having social workers and others working with police and being the lead when it comes to de- escalating situations, dealing with the issue of use of force in terms of a choke hold.

They should be banned, in my opinion. But we need to look at the entire use of force continuum, including use of firearms, and tighten that up, so we can at least start a process where Republicans and Democrats can get together and come up with something.

And at the local, our municipal governments and so forth, working with community leaders, can actually come up with something that's truly going to make a difference.


BALDWIN: To the point of making a difference, Derrick, to you, as part of the NAACP's We Are Done Dying Campaign, you say problems in policing require a federal response. Does this federal response meet your expectations? And what do you want to see?

DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP PRESIDENT: Well, this was a federal photo-op, not a federal response.

Executive orders in this space have very little authority. There is no teeth. There is no funding. That's not a response. It's a photo-op.

The Congressional Black Caucus, they have proposed legislation that we support. The speaker of the House also supports that legislation. It's an opportunity for this administration and the Senate to take serious what the protesters in the streets are saying.

We need a different culture of policing. We need to analyze the budgets of police agencies to ensure that we're providing preventive measures. We don't fund mental health opportunities for our citizens. We are not providing for preventive measures for our young people.

We have militarized the police, in an effort to stop crimes that have been going down for the last 30 years. Political budgets are going up, crime is going down, and we need to change the culture, the nature of policing in African-American communities.

So this was a federal photo-op. It is not a federal response.

BALDWIN: Chief Ramsey, I'm just curious what you think of Derrick Johnson's response there?

RAMSEY: Well, listen, he's entitled to his opinion. And I don't necessarily disagree with him. But it's a step. It's a start. It's at least an acknowledgment that something needs to happen.

I mean, two months ago, you wouldn't have gotten that much. And so I'm just pleased to see that at least there's some level of acknowledgement, but that doesn't mean that the job is finished, nowhere near, if we're going to really see change out there on the street.


BALDWIN: You mentioned choke holds a second ago, so I wanted to come back to that, because the president says the order bans choke holds unless the officer's life is at risk. But is that really a ban? Couldn't any officer in a given situation say her life, his life was at risk, Chief?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, you're not going to be able to totally ban just -- I mean, you can have an extreme circumstance where you're literally fighting for your life. You're going to do whatever you got to do in order to survive.

But you can put it in a category -- you can ban it, but also, if it is used, it would have to be an extraordinary circumstance that you would have to really stand up and you would have to be able to clearly justify, just like if you use your firearm. I mean, you have to be able to just -- it's a last resort, absolutely no other options available, if you didn't do it, you literally would die or someone else would die.

So that's how strict it has to be.

BALDWIN: A week ago, Derrick, the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, he says that he does not believe systemic racism exists in U.S. law enforcement, right?

So this is the top cop essentially in the U.S. saying this. He blames brutality on -- quote -- "instances of bad cops." And then today the president said that it was a -- quote -- "tiny percent."

Do you think the White House fully grasps the issue?

JOHNSON: They have not shown the courage, nor the willingness to grasp the issue.

If these accounts would happen in their communities, they would see it differently. We would see a much more rapid reaction from this administration. There would be legislation moving through the process. We would have adopted something by now. We have an opportunity today to address the problems as we see it. The Senate and the House can adopt legislation. This president can sign it. That can happen within 24 hours, if there was a serious interest, a political will to right-size how we police in society.


BALDWIN: Do you think there is? Do you think -- do you have that faith in Congress?

JOHNSON: The evidence is there -- it isn't. In the Senate, particularly it's not there. The House, we have a better opportunity, because the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have moved the conversation where it is a demand.

Now we have to get the Senate and the White House to actually step up, the same way they stepped up with the stimulus package dealing with COVID. We have given away about $2.5 trillion in no time. Why can't we simply solve a problem that's happened -- happening in streets all across America, where black men and women are being killed by police?

It has been videotaped. It's obvious. It is excessive force. There are no crimes that justify the force. What happens when the police are out of order? You have dead people in the street. We have to change this culture.

BALDWIN: What about the police officers? Chief Ramsey, this is for you.

We have heard about police officers resigning in multiple cities, saying that they aren't supported, that politics have influenced decisions on reforms.


Do you think a majority of officers would support President Trump's executive order? Or do you expect some resistance perhaps as these policies are pushed at federal levels, and not just, as you keep -- you're making the point about local levels.

RAMSEY: Well, I don't think there will be any resistance.

I didn't see anything in it that most cops will look at and say, OK, well -- I don't think there would be much of an objection. And, again, what affects them mostly is at the local level. It certainly isn't at the federal level, unless you happen to be an FBI agent or something.

But I do think, though, that we're -- we need to be a little careful, in the sense that, in some conversations, it's almost as if police are being totally demonized in a way that can have unintended consequences. We have got some police officers who have no business being police officers, but we have also got a lot of good ones out there.

And we have got to strike that balance in our conversation to understand, is there a need for change? Absolutely. Do we need to tighten up a lot of things? Do we need to reimagine what policing will look like? Yes, absolutely, we need to figure that out.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. You don't want to lose the good ones that you have. And we need police. Crime numbers have gone down some, but there are still some areas where we have got a tremendous problem with crime and violence in our communities. People need police.

What they need is good constitutional policing. That's what they need, and that's what we have to strive for.

BALDWIN: I appreciate that. Thank you both so much for the conversation, Charles Ramsey, Derrick Johnson. Thank you.

In Atlanta, officials are releasing records for the officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks. It comes as we get closer to a decision on possible charges there. The attorneys for the Brooks family will join me live next.

And Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly telling governors to push a misleading talking point on the rise in coronavirus cases. We have that for you.

And another big shift from the NFL -- what commissioner Roger Goodell is now saying about Colin Kaepernick.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN on this Tuesday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We are watching and waiting for a decision on charges against those two police officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. The district attorney says there is a decision. It could come by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we are learning much more about Garrett Rolfe. He's the officer who was fired after shooting and killing Brooks in that Wendy's parking lot Friday night. Atlanta police have released disciplinary records that show Rolfe received a written reprimand in 2017 after an incident involving a use of force with a firearm.

So, joining me now are the attorneys for the Brooks family, Justin Miller and Chris Stewart.

And, gentlemen, thank you both for coming on with me.

And, Chris, let me just start with you just on these newly released records.

So, they show that, in addition to this use of force, that this officer, Officer Rolfe, had also face several citizen complaints made against him. And it's my understanding you were not surprised when you heard that. Tell me why.

L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: No, I wasn't, because, typically, you will see a trend of aggressive behavior, prior incidents that end in something like this, because it goes to the mentality of your aggression and use of force.

We even have information that's not contained in those citizens' reports of incidents that Officer Rolfe has had with people in the community, which will be passing on to the district attorney.

BALDWIN: What isn't -- so you have that separate piece of information, and I will leave that be with you, since we can't confirm it because we haven't eyeballed it.

But, Justin, the documents that Atlanta police released don't give any details about that previous use of force incident. How are you pursuing those details? What does this mean for your case?

JUSTIN MILLER, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: I mean, it means a lot. It just shows a pattern. And that's what we have been trying to say. There is a pattern with this specific officer.

And, really greater, there's a pattern with all officers, all of these officers. And we just -- that's why we say that there needs to be a change.

BALDWIN: Perhaps the most imminent would be charges, right, facing this particular officer, perhaps both. I know you're waiting on the DA's decision on that.

You have said, Chris, that the family is going to lead the DA make that decision. But the family has called Mr. Brooks' death a murder. We heard from the Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms. She has now called it a murder.

Tell me, what are the charges you want to see from the DA?

STEWART: Similar to what I said yesterday, we want the DA to do his job. We believe this was an unjustified murder.

But the charges, we're going to wait for him to announce them, because we want to make sure, whatever he announces, it sticks and it ends in a conviction. That's the most important thing than announcing charges that won't work.

BALDWIN: So you don't want to name a specific charge that you're hoping for, that the family's hoping for; you're going to wait for the DA before commenting?

STEWART: Yes, we're going to let him do his job while we keep doing ours.


And then, Justin, what about the other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan? He is the officer who first responded to the call, who spoke to Mr. Brooks for just over 20 minutes, seemed to be interacting with him in a relatively calm way, asks him to move his car.

How do you see Brosnan's role here? And where are you on charges for him?

MILLER: At first, I thought the interaction with Brosnan was going pretty well. And then Officer Rolfe came in, and they kind of ratcheted it up.

So, we're going to let the DA make their decision, like Chris said. But, if anything, that officer, he needs to -- I mean, that's the reason why they're there together, so they can help each other make good decisions. And a lot of bad decisions were made that night.


BALDWIN: So, are you saying that he would be -- even though he seemed to be having a certain kind of interaction, an OK interaction with Mr. Brooks at the time, that he was there with Mr. Rolfe, therefore, you see the two of them as playing similar roles?

MILLER: Well, I just see them as partners. And they should be there helping each other. So they didn't do the same thing. They didn't have the same action or interaction with Mr. Brooks.

But both of them -- and what they did play a role -- or what they also did not do, both things played a role.

BALDWIN: And then, Chris, of course, we were watching you in the press conference, and ended with Mr. Brooks' family with a sobering prediction, where you said -- and I'm quoting you -- "Sadly, I'm probably going to be back here in a few months with another case."

Does -- if you listen to President Trump in the Rose Garden earlier today, right, he's talking about -- he's signed this executive order today. What do you make of, as Chief Ramsey said, maybe a step in the right direction, not going far enough, or lawmakers working on new police reform?

Does it give you hope that things could change in this country?

STEWART: I think that it's only going to change if it is a very detailed plan that covers everything.

Specifics or being general with certain ideas is fine. And, of course, that positive, even the discussion happening, but for it to actually effectually change, it's going to have to be a very detailed plan, with no loopholes, with no gray areas, and with specific things addressed, like, when can you use lethal force?

A specific (AUDIO GAP) and getting word of qualified immunity, very specific things that we just see in every case over and over again that allowed this to happen.

BALDWIN: Understand, though, broad strokes, that you need specifics.

And we will continue this conversation once we hear from the DA in this case in terms of potential charges,

Justin Miller and Chris Stewart, gentlemen, thank you very much.

MILLER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up: Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly pushing governors to repeat this misleading claim about rising coronavirus cases. So, those details are ahead.

And the president and other White House officials were in the Rose Garden today. And, yes, the news is on this executive order he signed, but look around. What is missing in this picture? Masks. Masks, folks, despite the advice of nearly every medical expert.

We got to talk about this next.



BALDWIN: Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the administration's Coronavirus Task Force, is under fire for encouraging governors to make misleading claims about COVID-19.

"The New York Times" is reporting that, during a call with governors yesterday, the vice president downplayed recent outbreaks, saying -- 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 these cases where we are seeing some marginal rise in number, that's more a result of the extraordinary work you're doing."

This comes in 18 states are seeing a rise in new cases. Eight are experiencing increases of over 50 percent. And with the reopening process of so many of these localities accelerating, a key model used by the White House now predicts that more than 200,000 Americans will die from coronavirus by October.

Also, today, President Trump and top White House officials notably seen not wearing masks during the ceremony in the Rose Garden, all of this as President Trump prepares to hold this massive rally in Tulsa Saturday.

So, with me now, CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

And, Elizabeth, just first starting on that scene in the White House, right, where we're told by almost all of the medical experts to wear masks, and President Trump folks around them, just not wearing them.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. They're just blatantly saying, CDC, we don't care what you have to say. Basically, every health expert, we don't care what you have to say.

Why in the world would they do that? The only reason is, it's a political move. It is pure theater. It's saying, hey, look, guys, everything's fine here. Why are you making such a big deal? COVID- SCHMOVID, who cares? Everything's fine.

Everything is not fine, Brooke. you and I both know that hundreds of Americans are dying every day from COVID. I'm going to say that again, because I think this isn't getting through.


COHEN: Hundreds of Americans are dying every day from COVID.

This is not the time to take off the masks or to stand close to each other. So, when he does that at the White House, he puts out this message that's the wrong message. People should be careful.

Also, I think it's important to note that people who come through those doors are tested. So, he -- maybe he has a little more leeway because he knows that they have a negative test. That is not the case in the rest of the world.

When you go to the supermarket, you don't know who has COVID