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Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) Discusses Georgia Hate Crimes Bill; Defense Sec. Looks To Address Racial Inequality In The Military; Revealing New Book On First Lady Melania Trump. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired June 16, 2020 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMIKA MILLER, WIDOW OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: Do they feel sorry for what they've taken away? That's what I want to know, you know. If they had the chance to do it again would they do it the same way or would they do it totally different?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That was Rayshard Brooks' widow calling for change.

Hundreds of others rallying outside the Georgia State Capitol yesterday. Protesters calling for an end to police violence and for lawmakers to officially pass a hate crimes bill there.

Joining us now is Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. Lt. Gov., thanks for being here this morning.

LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA) (via Cisco Webex): Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So it's heartbreaking, obviously, listening to the raw emotion of Rayshard Brooks' family. When you've watched that videotape of what happened the night that he was shot, what do you see on there?

DUNCAN: Well, you know, I watched it this weekend alongside my family. And as we've talked about before, I've got three kids and my wife, and sitting there in the family room watching that play out -- I mean, it's just -- it's so disturbing to watch those series of events happen so quickly.

And, you know, certainly, the mayor has pulled together a task force that's trying to analyze their policies around the use of deadly force. And I think as a state, we can also look for opportunities to create a more defined, more uniform definition of the use of deadly force as we move forward.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that. What police reforms, specifically, would you like to see? DUNCAN: Well look, I think it's a broad conversation. We're watching both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate here. I know that we're hearing word that at the federal level there's going to be some movement and some traction on reforms.

But I think the most important place to start, Alisyn, is a conversation. We've got to start to build trust across all the boundaries and divides and bridges. We've got to start to have conversations and I think that's the -- that's the best starting point for all of us.

CAMEROTA: Look, I hear you, and obviously, we've been having these tough conversations on the program now for at least three weeks since George Floyd's death.

But what the protesters are saying is that they're reading for action. They're tired of this. They feel that they've been trying to have these conversations and that they have fallen on deaf ears.

And so, what they want first, I think, are some charges. Do you expect charges to be filed today against one or both of those officers?

DUNCAN: So, I'm not going to weigh into an ongoing investigation with the Atlanta Police Department. That's the city of Atlanta, and the mayor, and the district attorney, and so I'd point you in their direction.

But I agree with you on the action portion. I mean, folks are ready for action. If we're going to truly build trust it can't just be words, it's got to be actions.

And so for us, the traction is around our hate crimes legislation here in the state of Georgia. You know, I applaud the House of Representatives for presenting an initial piece of legislation and bringing it over to the Senate. And now, we have an opportunity to, I believe, dramatically improve that legislation just like the process is supposed to happen.

Building consensus, Democrats and Republicans -- folks in communities from all over the state my office is working with to develop a strategy around a piece of legislation that -- we believe in powers communities.

You know, we've talked and you and I have talked about this before. I think we need to empower communities. Empower a grand jury to be able to bring forward these charges of hate crimes, not just a sole prosecutor that may or may not think a hate crime has been committed.

Let's empower the communities. Let's give any sort of victim an opportunity to be heard.

CAMEROTA: And when we talked about that last, Lt. Gov., it was last week and you said that you basically predicted the time line and thought that you had 11 days to come up with a plan or some specifics. And so, where are you now with that? DUNCAN: Yes. So, we're right on time.

Today -- this afternoon, we'll be releasing a version of our legislative draft of our hate crimes version of the bill. We have built bipartisan support and continue to just be overwhelmed with the folks that continue to give us great input. We drafted a couple of ideas early and we brought Democrats and Republicans and others together to draft, in my office, what we believe is going to be a strong version of a hate crimes bill.

Because at the end of the day, I don't want my legacy to be that I supported the weakest hate crimes bill in the country. I want to put policy over politics. We're not going to have -- partisan corners isn't going to solve this challenge in front of us. It's going to be policy over politics.

We should see a hearing in Judiciary this week and then we should see it move to the Senate floor quickly. And my hope is that we can send a bipartisanly-supported bill over to the House of Representatives and have them quickly approve it and put it on the governor's desk.

CAMEROTA: And so, since you're announcing some of the details today, can you give us a preview? What's in it?

DUNCAN: Well, yes, certainly. We're going to have a standalone charge instead of just being a sentence enhancement where a sole prosecutor petitions the judge. And sometime between the time of the charge and sometime before the trial they just -- you know, they petition the judge.

[07:35:00]

We're going to do something separately and empower the community and let that charge be a standalone charge of a hate crime. So if somebody's charged with assault and battery, they'll also be charged with a hate crime if it fits within the definition, and then that charge will be -- will be carried out through the courtroom.

And some will have the opportunity to defend themselves, too. I mean, I think that's an important part of the process as we move forward.

CAMEROTA: And why has this been so hard for Georgia? Why is Georgia one of only four states in the country that doesn't have this yet?

DUNCAN: You know, I think that -- you know, I don't know. I'm relatively new to the job. I was a state rep for five years before that.

It has certainly become a priority -- and in my opinion, in my office, it is absolutely a priority. I decided, as we talked about last week, I wanted to become a subject matter expert. I wanted to know what problem this was solving and it -- there is -- there is a problem and we want to -- we want to come right at this.

We want to send a very clear message that Georgia is going to be the worst state to commit a hate crime in and I think that is a great opportunity to start building a strong relationship all across the state.

CAMEROTA: Last time when you were here we talked about Ahmaud Arbery and his mother's desperate plea for justice of some kind and for a hate crimes bill. And now, here we are again just one week later, Lt. Gov., with another family who lost their loved one tragically and way too soon, and they're pleading.

And, I mean, I know it's impossible to say that that will be the last family that experiences that, but do you think that anything is changing in police forces in Georgia right now? Do you think that the public can feel confident that we're not going to be here next week with this same storyline?

DUNCAN: So, first and foremost, I mean, I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would just express a gratefulness for police and for law enforcement officers that keep our communities safe and to keep our families safe and our businesses.

Certainly, there's opportunities to continue to improve. We are having that discussion here in Georgia.

My hope and my prayer is that it continues to be and tracks towards being a peaceful process. An information sharing, a best -- you know, best processes organization. That's where my hope is and certainly, we're hoping to track in that direction.

I think this hate crimes legislation that we're supporting here in Georgia and hopefully going to be able to get across the finish line very, very shortly is a great step in the right direction, but still more work to be done.

A simple bill does not make this go away. It has to be relationships. It has to be reaching out for your neighbor. It's got to be doing more than just thinking about yourself.

As we talked about on the last show, it's not enough to just not be racist. You've got to be anti-racism, which means you're proactive. You're looking for ways to root it out. And certainly, the hate crimes bill is a step in the right direction.

CAMEROTA: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, we really appreciate you coming on with a status report. We'll be watching what happens today.

DUNCAN: Thank you for the opportunity.

CAMEROTA: Are police officers feeling the pressure in this -- in the face of this nationwide outcry? So, what we're learning about resignations in police departments across America. What do they mean?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:42:26]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: George Floyd's killing has led to greater scrutiny of policing nationwide and now, a growing number of resignations in police departments across America. CNN's Josh Campbell live in Minneapolis now with more. And, Josh, do

we know one, how extensive, but also what's behind this?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a great question, Jim.

As police departments in cities like Atlanta and Minneapolis continue to garner international attention, some police officers are turning in their badges. Experts say that as law enforcement continues to face greater scrutiny, a wave of resignations could continue to spread to other police departments across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMPBELL (voice-over): The city of Minneapolis confirming to CNN that at least seven police officers have now left the department since the death of George Floyd last month. And more than half a dozen are now in the process of leaving, departing for unknown reasons.

And it's not just Minneapolis. Other departments around the country are seeing police officers head for the exits, either publicly resigning from tactical teams or leaving their departments altogether.

From Buffalo, where two officers were suspended earlier this month after shoving an elderly protester, 57 officers resigned from the department's Emergency Response Team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your knee --

PROTESTERS: Off my neck.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): To Florida, where the Hallandale Beach SWAT team saw 10 resignations after city officials, including the police chief, took a knee with protesters. Officers there say they feel minimally equipped, undertrained, and restrained by politics.

To Atlanta, where the police department there says at least eight officers have resigned since June first. According to the Atlanta Police Foundation, low morale has taken a toll on the police force.

Earlier this month, six officers were charged and arrested for excessive use of force. That incident followed on Friday by the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, an African-American man killed after officers attempted to arrest him for a suspected DUI. Brooks had taken one of the officer's Tasers in a scuffle and fired at police as he ran away.

The Atlanta police chief abruptly resigned. The district attorney there says possible charges against the officer who shot Brooks could include felony murder.

A police union official warns this climate will lead to more departures.

VINCE CHAMPION, SOUTHEAST REGIONAL DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS: What we're suffering with in Atlanta, I believe is -- we are playing politics. We are bound down, if you will, to try to appease the rioters.

[07:45:04]

If he gets charged without the due process and everything, I think you're going to find those officers who are senior, who have the time in to get their retirement and leave, they're going to start leaving. I think you're going to start seeing officers trying to find another place to go.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Other law enforcement experts say Brooks' killing appearing unjustified, and as a nation remains on edge, have a message for those considering dramatic mass resignations.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I understand the internal workings of a police department -- the emotion and all that sort of thing. But you've got a job to do and we're in the middle of a crisis across the country. This is not the time to quit. And so, I don't have very much tolerance for that sort of thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMPBELL: Now, there remain three hotly-debated issues surrounding policing. On one hand, people want to ensure that bad cops are disciplined. Police unions also want to ensure that any officer charged with a crime is afforded due process.

And in some cities like Minneapolis and Atlanta, elected officials are heeding the call of protesters -- those who are demanding immediate and drastic reform to ensure that those who carry the badge are effectively serving the public -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting, Josh. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

So, CNN has learned that Defense Sec. Mark Esper is consulting senior military commanders on how to improve opportunities for black service members.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live for us at the Pentagon with more. So what's the plan?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, you know, President Trump may now be determined to keep those names of Confederate generals on military installations, but the Pentagon perhaps moving on a bit from all of this.

Defense Sec. Esper consulting with top military leaders on what is the best way ahead. What really needs to be done to try and address racial inequality in military ranks? There's a lot of concern about it.

Now, you know, these guys have served in these senior positions for some time. You would think they would have realized all this -- that they knew they had a problem. But apparently, some of the recent videos and statements being posted by black service members have really taken them aback and have caused them to pause and listen and try and understand what is going on.

We are told one of the ones that really struck the top leadership here at the Pentagon was posted by Gen. Charles Brown who is about to become the first black chief of staff of any of the services. He will head the U.S. Air Force in just a few weeks.

And he posted this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. CHARLES Q. BROWN, U.S AIR FORCE: I'm thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn't always sing of liberty and equality.

I'm thinking about my Air Force career where I was often the only African-American in my squadron or as a senior officer, the only African-American in the room.

I'm thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers, and then being questioned by another military member, are you a pilot?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: The White House looms large over any effort that Esper would try to do. The joint chiefs now have moved very rapidly to try and ban the Confederate flag from public spaces on military installations. Whether this can really be carried out and whether Trump decides to challenge them on this and challenge any moves here at the Pentagon still very much an unknown -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: You could really see his emotion there in that statement. That was just really interesting to hear.

Thank you very much, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

CAMEROTA: A new book out on the first lady Melanie Trump is making headlines. Details about her relationship with the president and her influence on some of the biggest decisions he's made. The author joins us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:50]

CAMEROTA: A revealing new book gives a behind-the-scenes look into the life of first lady Melania Trump. The book depicts Mrs. Trump as far more influential in the White House than we knew.

Joining us now is Pulitzer-prize-winning "Washington Post" reporter, Mary Jordan. Mary, great to see you.

So this is juicy.

MARY JORDAN, AUTHOR, "THE ART OF HER DEAL", CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: You, too.

CAMEROTA: It's making a lot of headlines. And I just want to start by reading your statement on how tough it was to kind of crack the code on Melania.

You write, "In three decades as a correspondent working all over the world, I have often written about the reluctant and the reclusive. But nothing compared to trying to understand Melania. Most people I spoke to would not speak on the record. After interviews with more than 120 people in five countries, a fuller, richer portrait emerged."

Why is she so sphinxlike?

JORDAN: She does it on purpose. You know, her brand is to be mysterious just as Trump's brand is to never stop talking.

You know, there's no such thing as too much publicity. He made his name by putting Trump on everything -- every building, every magazine. Well, you know, she -- her brand really is the most recognized unknown person perhaps in the world.

CAMEROTA: What are the big policy decisions or just big anything decisions that she has been more involved in?

JORDAN: No, she doesn't get involved in the nitty-gritty of policy very often at all. But very critically, there are almost no big personnel decisions in the White House that are made without her. And the key reason is that Trump trusts her. He thinks she's got good instincts.

And he keeps saying everyone around me -- you know, they turn on me. They leave the White House. I give them a good job and then they criticize me. But, Melania doesn't.

So, for instance, she was critical in picking Vice President Mike Pence when it came down to three final candidates. It was Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence. She spent two days with the Pence's and at the end of it, she said to Donald Trump, I think Pence is your guy because he'll be content to be number two and the other two will be gunning for your job.

[07:55:04]

CAMEROTA: That's insightful and really interesting.

And, you know, people try to figure out what their relationship dynamic is because, of course, we're interested. And -- but it's hard to read the tea leaves because at times, we see -- well, we know that they don't share a bedroom. We see her swat his hand away -- we have, at times that he's tried to hold it. At other times they seem to be smiling and connected.

Are they happily married, miserably married? What did you learn?

JORDAN: Well, they've been together 22 years and by all accounts, Donald Trump is not the easiest person to be with for 22 years -- CAMEROTA: Hmm.

JORDAN: -- and that relationship has changed over the time.

I interviewed many people who have been to dinner with them, seen them up close, worked for them, and there is a real connection there, but it has changed. She was -- over time, and it goes up and down. You know, love is complicated and as they say, Trump love is really complicated.

They spend a shocking amount of time physically apart. And yet, the first call he often makes after a speech or a rally is to her. You know, it's a mystery. I don't have a crystal ball about where it's going, but they do have a -- they do have a relationship.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about her relationship with Ivanka because much has been speculated about that as well.

You wrote, "Melania has been heard calling Ivanka 'The Princess' out of earshot. When she was younger, Ivanka privately called Melania 'The Portrait,' telling classmates that her father's girlfriend spoke as much as a painting on the wall."

Do they have as frosty a relationship as has been reported?

JORDAN: Yes, yes. I mean, by all accounts, I spoke to many people and inside the White House there -- particularly at certain times, tense times, there's been team Melania and team Ivanka. And there's a lot of tension there.

The -- when Ivanka came to the White House she really loved it immediately. Melania was up in New York. Ivanka, all of a sudden, said I think we should rename the first lady's office the first family office. And then, of course, Melania put her foot down and said no way.

There couldn't -- they're both former models. They're only 11 1/2 years apart. Ivanka grew up wealthy. Melanie grew up very modestly and worked her way up the modeling world. At 14, Ivanka was already known -- as soon as she started modeling at 14.

They're very different, they don't really get along, and Donald Trump is often the referee.

CAMEROTA: I want to read you what Ivanka -- sorry, what Melania's office -- what the first lady's office has said about your book. They've released a statement to CNN yesterday.

Quote, "The stories and sources in this book are false. Neither the author nor the publisher reached out with a full list of fact- checking. The first lady's office chose not to participate in this book due to the author's dishonest tactics." That's from Stephanie Grisham.

What's your response? JORDAN: I sent -- seven months ago I began sending things to fact- check. I asked, for instance, what day -- could you please just tell me what day did Melania actually meet Donald Trump. No response.

So I have a whole list of e-mails that they just don't respond to. So I don't know why they're saying that. They say a lot of things. But I certainly did try.

CAMEROTA: If President Trump is not reelected in November what is next for Melania? Did you get -- ever get to the bottom of that?

JORDAN: No. She gave a really interesting -- and part of the reason this book took so long is I was trying to find documents, videos, and talk to people firsthand. And I went to Paris where she worked, to Milan where she worked, and I did find some things.

And she talked about actually loving to design things. You know, having her own business someday.

There's a lot of things that she could do. She's actually quite creative and very smart. I think she's wildly underestimated just because she's quiet, basically.

As Anthony Scaramucci, who used to work in the White House very briefly, said -- you know, Donald Trump doesn't do co-stars. There's only one star. And, Melania's genius is that she knows that. She always stays in the background.

But once they leave the White House it will be interesting to see if some of these things that she told people in her 20s and 30s about wanting her own business to design things come true.

CAMEROTA: We only have 20 seconds left.

A lot has been written about the prenup that she renegotiated. Did you find out is it much more lucrative? Are there new rules?

JORDAN: Well, Ivana Trump, the first wife, famously said don't get mad, get everything.

END