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CNN NEWSROOM

Senate Republicans Unveil Police Reform Plan; Decision On Charges In Brooks' Shooting Death As Soon As Today. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


REP. PETE STODDARD (R-MN): Action to foster closer ties between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

[10:00:04]

I applaud the president for working to restore trust and unite our nation. The president has taken action and it is now our turn to act. I am incredibly grateful to be working with Senator Tim Scott and so many great leaders of Congress on these much-needed reforms. Our nation is calling for change, and I am confident that we will rise to the occasion.

Thank you very much.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): We'd be happy to take a few questions. Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: I was going to ask two things. What have your discussions been with Senator Booker and Senator Harris? And if you don't get this through the Senate by July 4th, do you lose this momentum?

SCOTT: I don't think the nation will allow us to lose the momentum. That's good news. I've had multiple conversations with Senator Booker, no conversations with Senator Harris. And I look forward to finding a middle ground where the motion to proceed will have -- as articulated here already, a hundred votes to move forward so that we can actually have a robust debate about how to make the legislation better and serve the American people

And so I hope that he is willing to cooperate on getting us there, but certainly without any Democrat support, that means that this is only a symbolic moment and not a moment for us to make a law.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you open to any national mandates at all, whether it's mandating the use of body cameras, requiring and banning no-knock warrants in drug cases or banning chokeholds? Are you open at all to any of the national mandates that the Democrats are proposing?

SCOTT: We achieved some of the same ends by our approach. Frankly, if you think about the inability to have any grants if your department has chokeholds, that, frankly, is, by default, a ban on chokeholds. The conversation will move forward. And the only way we get to a place where we a law is to work with our friends on the other side. Wwe are willing to have that conversation.

I think there are things that I believe the conference will not support, but they will all support a conversation. I think we'll all support having meaningful dialogue. But whatever comes out of that dialogue will have to in the best interest of the nation.

REPORTER: One of the things that Democrats are talking about is qualified immunity and they say that that's a sticking point. But yet we talk to a number of police officers who say, hey, you're not going to get qualified people. Why should I put myself on the line if I'm going to be able to have something taken away from me in the civil suit? Is this off the table, qualified immunity?

SCOTT: Well, I think different members of the conference have different opinions on qualified immunity. And my position has been when the Democrats start talking about qualified immunity and the bill to aggressively pursue the officers at a higher threshold, that's the poison pill from my perspective.

Is there a conversation that could be had around something different? Perhaps. I haven't heard it yet, but we're open to hearing it. I think Lindsey alluded to the fact that there has been a conversation happening in the judiciary committee that may bring more light to this issue, but I have not had that conversation so far.

REPORTER: I have a couple of questions. First, do you expect to have the endorsement of President Trump for this legislation? And also when you met with the victims' families yesterday at the White House you talked to them about this bill? And if you did, what was their reaction to your approach?

SCOTT: Well, I hope the president will join forces and jump on board. I have had several conversations over several days with the president and his team who crafted the executive order. We were at least a part of the process of understanding and appreciating the direction of the executive order.

I tried to take the information that I had about the executive order, hardwired the bill from mental health aspects of it, as you see the co-responders and the president's executive order.

And then sitting down with the family members yesterday twice. One was at the White House and the second time in my office. We went through the bill and what it does, what it doesn't do, they were, frankly, I think you heard in some of the media reports, they believe the bill is helpful.

Does it take it to the level that every family member wants it to? I think the answer is probably not. Does it get us closer? According to the worst that I heard from the family members in both meetings, the answer is yes.

REPORTER: You said at the top that this is not a binary issue between the police and pushing (INAUDIBLE) Black Lives Matter. But to set record we hear from the president, he'll tweet law and order, those types of things, do you think that he can give a little bit? Because, obviously, he's going have to give -- you had the conversations with the Democrats after hearing yesterday. And he is going to have to give a little bit. Do you think that he is willing to bend?

SCOTT: I'll say this. The president was the most presidential I've seen him talking to the families yesterday.

[10:05:01]

It was not about anything other than finding justice for the victims and their families. If you want to see the president's willingness to bend, so to speak, it's not so much about bending and all about finding justice and the path forward.

His instructions to the A.G. yesterday during that meeting with the families was get it done. Don't tell me you're going to do it, go do it. Start getting closer, involved cases, that is yet the alchemist to undetermined. The president's determined to meet us on this issue, it's clear, his executive order statements about justice for the families, about having this conversation, his -- frankly, his executive order went a lot further.

When you have Van Jones talking about a real executive order, Van Jones and President Trump on the same page, that's almost walking on water in America.

So there's a lot for us to actually celebrate about every lever of government wants change. And most of us want about 70 percent of the same change.

REPORTER: This meant to be not your bill, (INAUDIBLE) bill, (INAUDIBLE) Democratic bill or something we -- how Democrats are putting together today in the markup.

SCOTT: I can't speak to what the Democrats are doing. I would say that what we've done is a bipartisan piece of legislation taken the priorities in the House bill, the words of the president and the executive order and the fantastic minds behind me and crafted it into a piece of legislation. The legislation is already bipartisan. The question is can we get bipartisan support.

Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: Can I just clarify? Was there active and ongoing negotiations with Democrats right now on changes to this bill that would get them onboard before the motion to proceed?

SCOTT: Not with me. There are active conversations going on about Democrats. If we -- let me say it this way. If we don't have the votes on a motion to proceed, that means that politics is more important than restoring confidence in communities of color in the institutions of authority.

REPORTER: On that point, we've seen bipartisan groups of lawmakers get together on big issues, whether it'd be immigration or gun violence or deficit reduction, only to have it fall apart. Why is this issue different? SCOTT: Well, I think we've gone through a lot this year as a country. We started with impeachment and we found ourselves in a global pandemic. And on a global pandemic, I remember sitting and talking to Ben Sasse about some of the challenges that we are facing and working on some of the -- and Lindsey on the unemployment issues.

And I thought to myself there's just no way that we're going to all come together and do something meaningful. Well, 96 votes later to 0, this Congress acted, the Senate, not only in a bipartisan fashion, but just good, old-fashioned Americans, making something happen for their neighbors, for their friends and for people they've never met.

I believe that if we take that same consciousness into this process and we don't make it about bipartisan or partisan politics, we make it about families who have lost loved ones, about restoring trust, about respecting officers, if we can put that on the table and not your shirt versus skins game, we'll get to the finish line. I think this is the last question.

REPORTER: Senator, all throughout yesterday's hearing and throughout the debate after George Floyd's death, we've heard viewpoints. It seems like Democrats and a number of activists are talking about systemic racism in policing. I don't hear any of you saying that. How does that -- I could be wrong. I just didn't hear that yesterday other than Chairman Graham got talked a bit about that potential, but I wonder, how does that -- how does that difference really affect the outcome of this bill? How does it affect your chances to get to a solution if you don't agree on the problem?

SCOTT: Well, I would say that if you look at the legislation, and you look at the House legislation, you would have to come to the conclusion from a training perspective, the importance of de- escalation, the duty to intervene. Chokeholds is a place where you have common ground.

I think if you look at the importance of data collection, you will say without question the Senate wants more information on serious bodily injury and on the use of force that leads to death. The House bill says they want information on all uses of force.

Here is what we're saying, on the issue of data collection, we're on the same page. On training and on grants and on using the resources of the federal government to compel and to encourage behavior in local departments, we're on the same page. On misconduct of officers, we want a department by department database locally.

[10:10:01]

They want a state database. The president and his executive order speaks about a national database. We're on the same page.

So the fact that some people enjoy talking about systemic racism and the fact that some people wanted to find everything from a racism, racist perspective and we don't spend time on the definition of a word, but we spend time on the definition of the problem and the definition of a solution when there is an overlap of 70, 75 percent when you start, you're in the right place.

So I don't know how to tell people that the nation is not racist. I'll try again. We are not a racist country. We deal with racism because there's racism in the country. Both are mutually true. They are both true and not mutually exclusive. So I don't worry about the definitions people want to use. It's good for headlines but it's really bad for policy. We're going to focus on getting something

done. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. A major announcement setting forth what has been called the Justice Act by Republican senators. they're to reform policing in America led by the only black Republican in the Senate, Senator Scott. You heard from Mitch McConnell and a number of others.

Let's talk about what is in this, what is not in it. All my guests are with me. We have our experts here.

I would like to start with you, Chief Cedric Alexander, because you and Chief Ramsey who is also with us, you were both on President Obama's 21st century policing committee. Let's talk about this and look at this proposal, Chief Alexander, through the eyes of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor for a moment. What in this Republican proposal would have prevented their killings?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, first of all, let me say this in terms of what was being presented by the president yesterday. There's certainly something we need to hear. We need to hear from the president on this issue and what he signed in that executive order, I think is a good start, particularly the cease of chokeholds, for example.

But I think in the lives of those who have been lost, we have an opportunity now to do something very different. We have an opportunity now in these no-knock warrants, we have an opportunity now in these chokeholds, we have an opportunity to look at all of those recommendations that were made as we move forward and they become federally legislated at an executive branch.

But that is a great start, but I'm quite sure like you and I'm quite sure my colleague, Chuck Ramsey, would say, there is still much more work that we have to get out there.

HARLOW: So, Chief Ramsey, to that point, there has been a lot of focus on the fact that this Republican legislation does not ban chokeholds, whereas the House Democrat proposal does. But you heard Senator Tim Scott say, essentially, it's the same thing. If you withhold funding from police department, federal funding, if they don't explicitly ban chokehold use by their officers, then it's doing the same thing. Is it?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, what has to happen now because if you just look at the legislation that was proposed, it doesn't go far enough. But that's the whole point now, is for the Senate Republicans and Democrats to sit down and come up with legislation that is doable, is workable, it's going to have an impact. We can talk about whether or not you need to ban choke holds and so forth.

Personally, I think so, but, in reality, if an officer is fighting for his life, guess what, he's going to do whatever he has to do to survive. But you have to have it a level where it's the same as using deadly force. It is the absolute last resort to be used if it comes to that.

And so what's missing here and some things that the government could do immediately. Under Jeff Sessions, they got rid of calligraphy (ph) reform, for example. That was a useful tool. I took advantage of it when I was in Philadelphia to help departments reform, to give recommendations, to implement recommendations. Pattern and practice investigations when you do have an agency that just doesn't see the need for reform, yet there's a pattern of abuse that takes place.

Those are things that can have an immediate impact. I'm not saying that the other stuff isn't important. It is important, but it's got to go beyond just the legislation that was proposed today.

HARLOW: I think, to your point, it is important to fact check. Senator Lindsey Graham got up there and said, the Obama administration had eight years and they didn't do anything. That's not true. It's just blatantly false. Both of you were on the task force.

But outside of that, they set up pattern and practice probes which would oversee departments that weren't self-policing themselves well enough, they had consent decrees for cities that really needed that federal oversight, both things undone by Attorney General Jeff Sessions right before he was fired.

And I should note that President Trump has rolled back in 2017, rolled back what the Obama administration put in in the wake of Ferguson and Michael Brown's killing, which was -- they said we're not going to put military gear in the hands of local police divisions and President Trump has rolled that back.

[10:15:19]

So a number of the Obama changes have already been changed by this president.

Qualified immunity, Joey, this is not addressed in the Republican -- we don't have Joey. He's our attorney. We'll try to get him. But Kalfani Ture is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Quinnipiac University and also a former Georgia police officer. So I'll throw that to you. How is it that qualified immunity, which protects officers from being sued in civil court, that that is not addressed here?

KALFANI TURE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY: Well, qualified immunity is really significant because if you can't penalize bad practices, if you can't penalize officers for engaging in misconduct, then what is your recourse? I actually want to sort of pivot back to the point that Senator Scott raised about banning chokeholds. I think it is really important for the Republican Party and the Democratic Party to, in a bipartisan fashion, state explicitly that chokeholds are prohibited under extreme situations. Because by not doing so, in fact, it creates the ambiguity that is always seized upon when there is a bad practice. Well, it was never established.

And to relate this to qualified immunity, qualified immunity steps up two considerations. One of which is it a constitutional violation, and, secondly, has it been an established, prohibitive act, whether through law or through police policies? And so you need an explicit ban on chokeholds.

HARLOW: Yes, I hear you on that.

Manu Raju is here. Manu, you asked the key question in there, and that is, Senator Scott, are you open to any mandates, and the answer was essentially, well, we don't really need them because withholding funding essentially gets you there. Does it?

RAJU: Yes, that's the key question. Because the Democrats, as you noted, they are moving forward on their bill in the House Judiciary Committee that is different in significant ways by including a lot of those mandates, whether it's banning chokeholds, whether it's banning no-knock warrants in drug cases, whether it's mandating federal law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. None of that is addressed in that way, in the Senate Republican bill.

Instead, they deal with the funding issues, withholding funding on the no-knock warrants, for instance. They asked for a report to be sent to Washington essentially to determine what actions need to be taken on that specific issue. So there are differences and approaches on how they deal with this.

Now, another key question here, Poppy, is how the Senate Democrats deal with this Republican bill. We've heard Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, poured cold water on the bill for days, suggesting it doesn't go far enough. But will he be willing to allow Democrats to vote to proceed and begin debate on the Republican bill? Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, essentially dared the Democrats to vote against this, setting out a process that could vote -- create that vote as soon as next week to bring it to the floor. So that's going to be a key question here going forward. Do Democrats block on the frontend, do rather come up, do they try to amend it and can they reconcile differences? A lot needs to happen before this can become law.

HARLOW: Significant and very clear, McConnell was listening to Senator Scott, Manu, who said a few days ago, look, you can't wait until after July 4th. It would be a mistake to hold on this for a month. You have to move now. And it seems like they're going to change the calendar on the floor.

I appreciate all of you being here. It is a big day, significant news, thank you very much. Also happening right now in the chamber, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a markup on the Democrat's police reform bill. Let's go to our Lauren Fox. She's on Capitol Hill. Lauren, hi to you.

So this is different and the key difference here is that it includes a lot of mandates.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Exactly. I mean, one of the key differences is, of course, that federal ban on chokeholds, as well as an ending of qualified immunity for police officers, making it easier for individuals to sue police officers in civil court. That is something that Republicans say that is going way too far. That's not something they're comfortable with.

We do know that behind closed doors, they had a robust discussion yesterday in the Republican conference lunch about qualified immunity and if there were any reforms Republicans could support, but that was not ultimately included in Tim Scott's proposal.

Now, watching these pictures today in the House Judiciary Committee, there is something else going on in this room. This is the first time that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has required that all members are wearing masks in this room, and that's because of updated guidance she got from the attending physician at the Capitol, saying that when folks are enclosed in smaller spaces for a long period of time, they need to be wearing masks.

[10:20:07]

That's not on the House floor. That's not when members are necessarily walking around the hallways, but one of the key moments we're looking for this morning is whether or not Republicans actually should wear masks. We see in those pictures, Jim Jordan, who is the ranking member, is wearing a mask right now. We'll see if other members, like Andy Biggs and Louie Gohmert, are going to be wearing a mask.

While they may have been walking throughout the hallway, they may not have been wearing one. But when they went into the committee room, they are, and that's because if they don't, they can be removed from that room, according to Speaker Pelosi's office. Poppy?

HARLOW: Lauren, thank you for that reporting on both fronts.

We have a lot ahead this hour. The vice president is in this Wall Street Journal op-ed, again, downplaying concerns over a second wave of coronavirus, as some states are setting daily records for new cases. More on that ahead.

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[10:25:00]

HARLOW: We may get a decision today from the district attorney in Atlanta as to whether charges will be handed down against either or both of the two Atlanta police officers involved with the deadly shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Dianne Gallagher is following this case and joins us again this morning.

I mean, we heard from the D.A. Monday, he was on this show with us, and they haven't decided yet on charges. Is there any indication on which way they're leaning here?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at this point, Poppy. And I can tell you that everybody here in Atlanta, especially the people who keep showing up, you can see them behind me at this Wendy's to pay their respects. They're waiting. They're waiting for the Fulton County district attorney to let the people know whether or not he's going to bring charges against one or both of those officers.

Now, Paul Howard, the district attorney, said that the earliest he would make the announcement was on Wednesday, but said that if he came to the determination, it would likely be announced some time mid-week.

So, today is that first day. People are waiting. The district attorney said that some of the charges that could be on the table would be murder, felony murder or voluntary manslaughter. And he did say he was looking at both of the officers, including the officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks and the officer who was also there as the original responding officer, something that the family has said they would like to see both officers charged.

But, again, right now, we do not know if that's something that's going to happen. People in the community watching, so is the police union that would represent the officers if they were charged, Poppy. They've said to us that if charges are announced this week, they feel like it would be premature because they do not feel that the officers would have had time to have gone under the proper investigative process and did not receive their due process.

HARLOW: Okay. Dianne, thank you very much. We'll keep an eye on when charges come down.

We are seeing a spike, a significant notable spike in coronavirus cases across the country. So why is the vice president saying we're winning the fight against the virus, next.

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[10:30:00]

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