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Beijing Cancels Flights; Senate Republicans Press Conference on Police Reform. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: At any moment around that lectern you will see Senate Republican leadership surrounding Republican Senator Tim Scott unveiling their plan for police reform. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will speak. You'll hear them live right here.

Meantime, Beijing is canceling nearly 70 percent of commercial flights in and out of the city because of a new coronavirus outbreak.

Let's go to our colleague, Steven Jiang. He joins us in Beijing.

That is significant. How big of an outbreak is this?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right, Poppy, the hundreds of flight cancellations you just mentioned are the result of a soft lockdown the authorities have imposed on Beijing. Now, it's a soft lockdown because they're not sealing off the entire city like what they did in Wuhan. Instead, they're strongly discouraging all non- essential travel. If you must leave town, you have to present a negative result from a test done within seven days of departure. And if you happen to live in a community where they have reported recent cases, then your entire neighborhood will be placed under a strict lockdown, no in and no out.

There are dozens of such neighborhoods throughout Beijing and the number keeps growing.

For now, though, the authorities' focus remains on this now closed wholesale food market where all the recent 137 cases have been traced back to. Now, that place used to house thousands of vendors and saw huge crowd on a daily basis. So the authorities have been trying to track down anyone who had been there since May 30th. And so far they have found more than 350,000 people in this category.


HARLOW: OK. We really appreciate that update very much.

Thank you. Thank you, Steven.

We -- here they are. Let's listen to Republican Senator Tim Scott with a major announcement on their police reform legislation.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Well, good morning. Thank you for coming out this morning.

And let me just say to Leader McConnell, thank you for the opportunity to have this conversation as I approached you about the importance of this issue and asked that you give me an opportunity to share some thoughts. You were kind enough to give me the chance to move this forward and have a real conversation with America about the importance of police reform, accountability and transparency. And that's exactly what the Justice Act focuses on is police reform, accountability and transparency.

You were also smart enough to put together a really strong group of senators who understand the issue of passion about the issue and also have expertise in different aspects of the Senate. And so this is a great team that you have put together. And I appreciate having an opportunity to discuss the important issue of police reform.

Let me start by simply saying that too often we're having a discussion in this nation about, are you supporting the law enforcement community or are you supporting communities of color? This is a false, binary choice. It -- the answer to the question of which side do you support, it's, I support America.


And if you support America, you support restoring the confidence that communities of color have in institutions of authority. If you support America, that means you know that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation want to do their job, go home to their family. It is not a binary choice.

This legislation encompasses that spirit. It speaks to the fact that we believe that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation are good people, working hard, trying to keep order in the communities. Communities of color and people like myself, I've told my story several times, stopped seven times in one year. That has been said a lot. But I was stopped this year driving while black when I got a warning ticket for using -- failing to use my turn signal earlier in my lane change. And so this issue continues and that's why it's so important for us to say that we hear you. We're listening to your concerns.

The George Floyd incident certainly accelerated this conversation and we find ourselves at a place with a package that I think speaks to the families that I spoke with yesterday who lost loved ones. We hear you. I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who is concerned when he's stopped by the law enforcement officers, we see you.

And so what does this package do? Three major areas. One is on the area we have to have the right information so that we can direct our resources as a federal government to making sure that the outcomes lead to safer officers and safer suspects and the instances of challenges. That data collection or the information is around making sure that when serious bodily injury occurs or death, that all that information is reported to the FBI. Today, only 40 percent of the departments report that information to the FBI. We want all that information because when we hear about the Breonna Taylor case in Louisville, Kentucky, we don't have any information around no-knock warrants. So for us to start a conversation with banning no-knocks doesn't sound like a solid position based on any data because we don't have that data. Once we have the information, we can then turn to the training that is necessary to de-escalate situations. The duty to intervene, not standing there watching an officer with his knee on the neck, but intervening in those situations. We can train our officers better. We can find ways and mechanisms to de-escalate the situation. So we spent a lot of time in the training aspect using the resources of our grants to reduce the situations and violence in those situations.

And then, finally, we look at officer misconduct and the necessity of transparency. We believe that the preservation of records on the local level so that departments within the states have a chance to see, almost like a reference check, what the past history of complaints have been against that officer. We do not create a national database. The president's executive order creates basically a national database for that information to flow into.

We believe that our policy positions are one that brings the communities of color into a position of stronger understanding and confidence in the institutions of the authority and we believe that it brings our law enforcement community to a place where they have the resources necessary to de-escalate some of these situations and, frankly, through James Langford's work on this package, we bring in the opportunity to hire more officers and have more training and have a better perspective on the history.

So with that, there's a lot that could be said, but instead of saying more, I'm going to give it over to Senator McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, thank you, Tim.

Even before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Senator Scott has made it possible for those of us in the Senate Republican conference who are not African-American to understand that this problem still exists. We learned about his being stopped on numerous occasions well before the events of this year. But the witnessing of the murder of George Floyd and the experience in my hometown of Breonna Taylor certainly brings to the forefront this issue for all Americans, including Senate Republicans.

My role as the leader, as you know, is to decide what we're going to do. Floor time is the coin of the realm in the Senate because it does take a while to do almost anything.


So what I'm announcing today is, after we do two circuit judges who are queued up early this week or early next week, we're going to turn to the Scott bill. I'm going to file cloture on the motion to proceed. And our Democratic friends, if they want to make a law, and not just try to make a point, I hope they'll join us in getting on the bill and trying to move forward in the way the Senate does move forward when it's trying to actually get an outcome, rather than just sparring back and forth, which you all have seen on frequent occasions by -- by both sides.

Also, I want to thank the whole team behind us. Everybody has contributed significantly to this product. But without Tim's leadership, it would not have been possible. And without his leadership, I wouldn't be putting this on the floor. But I want you to know that we're serious about making a law here. This is not about trying to create partisan differences. This is about coming together and getting an outcome. We showed we could do that on the CARES Act. We have shown it on the Great American Outdoors Act. And we need to show it on the Scott bill.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): This is about making a law, not just making a point. This is not messaging. This is trying to be able to work in the most bipartisan way we can work. Get it on the floor. Let's have amendments. Let's talk through the process.

Equal justice under the law shouldn't be a partisan issue. A friend of mine and I were talking a couple weeks ago and his comment was, it's not that our founding principles are off. Our founding principles are right. We're still working on trying to be a more perfect union. And we have a ways to go on that. And where we find areas where we don't have a more perfect union, we should engage in those.

So let me just give you a couple of examples.

Senator Scott's gone through multiple, different areas that are in the bill. There's a section of the bill that actually a black police officer in Oklahoma City first raised with me to be able to say, what's the possibility of putting grants out there to be able to help more departments hire black recruiters? And then to be able to help individuals that are coming through the training in the police academy to have that ability? Where communities and the law enforcement don't match as far as ethnicity could the federal government engage into helping incentivize that? That's one of the aspects of this bill to say, how are we encouraging more people of color to be able to engage in the community where that's been a challenge at times to say, let's break through that. Let's find a way to be able to solve that.

We have great assets here. Even in Washington, D.C. The Museum of African-American History is here. It's underutilized to be able to explain the story of what's the relationship between race and law enforcement. It's utilized by some, but not by most. This is a way to be able to incentivize, how can we use that great resource to be able to tell the story nationwide as well.

So this is about transparency. This is about trying to provide information to law enforcement and to individuals. This is about accountability. But it's also about trying to build that more perfect union that we can have. If we're going to have equal justice under the low, then let's work towards actually having equal justice under the law for all people. And as Senator Scott had mentioned before, not to be pro-law enforcement or to be pro-communities of color, but to be pro-American in the process.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): One, I want to thank Tim for taking on this task for all of us. He's the right person at the right time and God has a plan for you and you're fulfilling that plan. You're trying to bring us together as a country.

I spent four hours where John and Ben and others on the Judiciary Committee listening yesterday and it was a fascinating hearing. There's a process in the Air Force called listen, learn and lead. To my colleagues on the other side who said we talk too much, we don't need to listen anymore, where were you for the eight year of the Obama administration? I'm being a little tired of being lectured to by my Democratic colleagues that all this is Trump's fault. You had eight years under President Obama, the Justice and Policing Act, none of it was taking up virtually. So let's knock that off. You're making no points with me trying to suggest that we're bad and y'all are not when it comes to this issue. You had eight years. No attempts to ban chokeholds, no attempts to do any of the things that we all agree we need to do now. So if you want to fight about that, let's fight. If you want to admit that the country needs to move on together, let's to it.

So as to President Trump's executive order, a good start. I appreciate him starting the conversation. He brought families into the White House. They appreciated being listened to by their president.

To my Democratic colleagues, I appreciate putting together your list. I'd like to work with you.


But we're not going to get there if we keep playing this game that we're exclusively to blame here.

Now, their shopping list, for lack of a better term, of what to do compared to Tim's, there's a lot of overlap. But there's some real differences. And how do you hammer out those real differences? You talk to each other.

After the hearing, I had multiple Democratic colleagues come up to me and say, let's try to reconcile our differences.

To the American people, after the hearing, I am more hopeful than I was before the hearing that there's going to be a genuine effort to bring reform to a problem that's been going on well before President Obama. An if we don't do something about it, it's going to go on well past President Trump.

Thank you for your leadership, Tim.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): For me, this conversation is about trust, justice and reconciliation as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee said. It's evident that there are communities in our country who have lost trust in law enforcement based on their experience. And that's where we've had an opportunity to learn from Tim and others who feel like they have been disproportionately focused on by law enforcement for -- sometimes for pre-textural reasons.

But I had an opportunity to talk to George Floyd's family. They're from Houston, Texas. And Rodney, his brother, told me, he said, Senator, we are from Texas and we want some Texas-sized justice. And I said, well, Mr. Floyd, to the best of my ability, that's exactly what we will deliver.

And so thanks to Tim Scott's -- Senator Scott's leadership and the contribution of everybody here, we're all going to have a chance to try to attempt this reconciliation, to restore trust in some of our most important institutions, like our police.

One of the things that is included in this piece of legislation is a bill that may look familiar, which is one that created a national criminal just commission. This was a bipartisan bill that we -- I had introduced with Chairman Graham and Gary Peters, Democrat from Michigan, in 2015. It actually has cleared the Senate previously, which means all 100 senators have had a chance to pass that bill, it died in the House through basically we ran out of time.

But, in my view, we need to do something in the immediate timeframe, then we need to look at, what do we need to do in the long term to reform our criminal justice system. And that's exactly what this commission, bipartisan commission, would do. It would report back to Congress in 18 months with specific recommendations and I think, not like the 9/11 Commission, that would be extraordinarily helpful. It's really hard for Congress, given the day to day things that we deal with, to take the broad view. And this would give -- allow us to garner the recommendations of experts all across the country and then take up their recommendations and pass them, as Congress sees fit.

But, Tim, thank you for your great leadership.

SCOTT: Thank you.

CORNYN: And thanks for letting me be a part of the team.

SEN. SHELLY MOORE CAPITO (R-WV): I want to thank all of you for being here today. And I think our main message today is that the Justice Act is working towards a solution and it's not a political exercise.

I said the other day on an interview I had, and I was just -- I was just sitting there thinking about it, that if this is a pivotal moment in our country's history, and if we, as Congress, as Republicans and Democrats joining together, fail to act because of the crying voices that we hear every day about this, then we're going to be deemed a failure in the eyes of so many, not just our communities of color, but our young people are losing faith and trust in our law enforcement and in our ability to react to situations where we can be helpful and where we should be helpful.

So racial discrimination has no place in this country. I think of a mother who is telling her young black son how to react when you get pulled over in a car, a much different conversation than many other people in this country are having with their young sons talking about how to react. And that's -- that young man doesn't know how he's going to be received by the officer and the fear, really, that you would feel in that situation is very, very real.


So many of us are overwhelmed by what we've seen with the George Floyd situation and what we saw happening in Minneapolis. But we do know that the vast majority of the police officers in this country are good people. These are hard jobs. These are jobs that are -- that people have in their hearts in communities to want to keep their communities safe, to want to have places to raise their families that are safe, and that are dedicated to the rule of law.

And so I think this is a moment to spur us to action so that every American citizen will know that equal protection means that. It means equal protection. And we go back, as James said, to the constitution and the rights that are provided. But it doesn't mean defunding the police. It means improving the police. Improving and restoring the faith in our law enforcement. And that's what the Justice Act does.

One of the conversations that Tim and I had just recently was about the chokehold situation. And I said after watching the George Floyd tape more than a few times, we've got to get rid of these. Many states, many communities, many law enforcement communities already abandoned that as a technique and a tactic. And so I'm pleased that we've gone -- we've gone in that direction and we think the result would be an elimination of the chokehold as a -- as a strategy of restraint.

So I think that there's absolutely no conflict between being pro-civil rights and pro-law enforcement. And I think that's what you see reflected in this bill.

So to my colleagues on the other side, we need to have this conversation in front of the American people on the House of the U.S. Senate -- on the -- on the floor of the U.S. Senate, where we can debate different ideas, debate different strategies, compromise like we do when we need to and we should, and not be a failure to the people and the voices who are crying out daily for us to help.

So, thank you, Tim, for your leadership, and thank all of you on the team.

And this isn't the whole team. The rest of many, many people have weighed in on this, not just within our -- within the Senate, but also throughout the country. And I thank them for that.

Thank you.

SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): Thank you, Shelly, and thanks to all of you for making time for us.

I want to applaud Senator Scott and his leadership in this. As Leader McConnell said at the beginning, this is a topic a number of us have had in the conference repeatedly way too many times the last handful of years. And I am glad that the leader has put this on the schedule to put it on the floor.

I want to underscore three things Tim said.

First of all, it is a false binary to try to set this up as a debate between people of color and law enforcement, communities of color and folks who are trying to maintain the public trust. We need to restore and build more public trust and that starts by trying to narrow the differences and figure out what can we get done to move forward together. So the fact that this is actually on the floor next week is a big deal and Senator Scott and his team and all of our teams, but especially a lot of people in Tim's team, have been working hand the clock the last two weekends to get this to a place where the leader could decide to change floor schedule and put this forward next week. So this should be a chance for us to be moving forward.

Point number two, as Tim said, the vast majority of law enforcement want to support the idea of America, they want to support stable, local justice that is reliable and believable and predictable and improving this -- this union, as James said, is the right creedal aspiration for America and we fail in lots of ways to live up to our belief and to our foundational documents and we want to get better and better at doing that. And the vast majority of police, many of us have spent a lot of time with law enforcement, both in our own states, but across the country over the last few weeks, and you see police that are agonizing about these mistakes and they want better hiring. They want better training. They want improvement. They want accountability.

Well, here's the truth, that the vast majority of cops are really great, but of those bad cops that exist, the single most important thing that's happened to hold bad cops accountable is the last decade is this thing. And the reality of much more pervasive cameras has been the best thing to improve accountability and to expose bad cops. That's good news, but it's a reactive tool.

The point of this exercise is to figure out how we can get proactive. This thing has held more bad cops accountable, but not because government has been getting better, but because there's more pervasive technology. We need to use the opportunity of all that we've seen that's wrong to improve upon it by going from reactive to proactive.


And the third thing is, this bill next week ought to get 100 votes to begin a debate. I think it ought to get 100 votes to end the debate as well. But if you believe this is a time to make a law, not just make a point, if this is a time to improve an issue as opposed to just hold onto it as a political issue, then I think all people of good will and good faith will see that the Justice Act, the legislation that Tim has authored and that all of us have been contributing to.

But the Justice Act is the starting point of a whole bunch of consensus issues. And once you're on a bill, we can debate how to make it even better. There are a bunch of things that a lot of us think need to be done to hold local police unions more accountable and make them on the side of trying to improve local law enforcement, not spend it -- a big chunk of their time, as many -- many unions have done historically, many police unions have done protecting bad apples and sort of moving around folks and hiding their records of folks who got into trouble. There are a lot more debates we could have that are more controversial. There are important debates to be had about qualified immunity. Let's have those debates as debates and let's have votes on some of that stuff. But we ought to be voting 100-0 to get on this bill next week and try to make it better.

And so thank you for all of your interest in this and thank you, Senator Scott, for your leadership.

SCOTT: Thank you, Ben. Appreciate it.

We also have with us -- we also have with us Congressman Pete Stoddard, who is going to lead the efforts in the House. And let me just say a few words about Pete.

Pete and I have had a few conversations about the importance of police reform, the importance of accountably and the importance of transparency. Pete comes with -- comes to us with a unique skill set and 25 years of service as a police officer. I believe you became a commander before you left.

Pete also, unfortunately, had the gruesome experience of being shot in the head in 1993 --


SCOTT: '95. 1995 as an officer. So he understands this issue from multiple perspectives, from a real world, on the streets perspective, which I think adds tremendous value. And the conversation has been said, not a binary choice. We have a law enforcement officer who has been working a long time on this issue. And I am thankful that you have joined the team and you're going to help lead us to victory.

So, thank you.

STODDARD: Thanks for those kind words, Senator Scott.

My name is Congressman Pete Stoddard. And I proudly served as a law enforcement officer in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota.

As someone who swore an oath to serve and protect my community, I was devastated watching the video of George Floyd dying at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer who swore that same oath. What I saw in that video goes against everything I stood for as a police officer. George Floyd's life mattered and the best way to honor his memory is by enacting meaningful and lasting change within policing.

Over the past few weeks my colleagues and I have had healthy discussions about the most effective ways to enact this much-needed change. As one of just a few members of Congress who has worn the local uniform, I am proud and eager to take part in these discussions. I believe that lasting change begins by implementing community policing standards at police departments across this nation.

When community policing practices are properly implemented, you end up policing with your community rather than policing your community. It is a method that builds trust. In order to make real progress on public safety, we will need to restore trust between law enforcement and the community they serve. This legislation will do just that.

I believe with every fiber of my being that law enforcement is necessary and that the overwhelming majority of men and women who serve in law enforcement are good and moral people.

The police officers who I have had the privilege of working with over the years, they head to work every day and make great, personal sacrifices to keep their communities safe from harm. Rather than defunding the police, which will only make our communities less safe, we must work to increase transparency and accountability within policing, with helping our heroic police officers safely perform their jobs.

The communities around this country are not wrong in their calls for justice. However, there is a way forward that brings our law enforcement officers and their surrounding communities together for the betterment of our society.

Yesterday, President Trump took decisive action to foster closer ties between law enforcement and the communities they serve.


I applaud the president for working to restore trust and unite our nation.