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Senate Unveils Police Reform Bill; Americans Ignoring Guidelines; Friction Between Trump and Military Leaders; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 08:30   ET



CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE: Police officers so no one can slip through the cracks and go from one agency to another because we have 18,000 police departments in this country.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So is that the one things -- if you -- if you had a magic wand and you could change one thing today that would really help the communities, it would help police officers, it would help the country, is that it?

ACEVEDO: Well, the problem is it won't make a difference unless we do -- unless we look comprehensively. I would start with that. I would start with the -- any manipulation of a neck. You should not be touching anyone's neck unless you are in the fight for your life where you -- you're justified in shooting someone. That's something else that has to be done.

So there is no one magic, you know, potion for this. We have to do a lot of things, including looking at the statute of limitations in terms of when an officer commits a violation. Some place it starts (INAUDIBLE) from the day of the event until the date of discovery of the misconduct. And that's something that is not consistent across the nation. So we need -- we need to do a lot of work and I'm hopeful that we'll get it done in a bipartisan or non-partisan manner in this Congress.

CAMEROTA: I really appreciate you talking about that comprehensive view that you see because, obviously, that's what Congress and our lawmakers are trying to tackle.

Here's where the plans stand right now.

So the ban on chokeholds that you just talked about, you think that there should be a ban on chokeholds, I assume unless the officer's life is immediately in danger. The Republicans feel that they would offer incentives to avoid chokeholds. Democrats want to ban them.

Then there's the tracking police misconduct. We talked about that. The GOP wants states to maintain that. The Dems want a national registry.

The change in qualified immunity, which I think you just touched on, no, that is not part of the GOP proposal. Yes, in the Democrats.

And then the no-knock warrants, the GOP want to collect state data. They want -- Democrats want to ban it in drug cases.

But in terms of that qualified immunity for police officers, is it time to end that?

ACEVEDO: I don't think that ending it would -- would be helpful because we don't want to create an environment where police officers are afraid to take action in very dynamic situations.

However, I think that we do have to take a close look to see what opportunities exist to tweak it, to adjust it, to make it easier to hold bad cops, especially cops that act in an egregious, willful and wanton disregard for the rule of law and for the policies, procedures and the training that we provide them. And so there's room to examine it, but we've got to be careful that we don't create an environment where a police officer would become so risk adverse that people -- the American people are going to be -- their safety is going to be greatly reduced. So we've got some work to do in terms of that analysis.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that we are at risk of doing that? With all of this talk -- I mean we heard from Chief Ramsey earlier who said that this is demoralizing obviously for the good police officers out there. These past three weeks of talking about, you know, the police excessive force, talking about how, you know, so many black men are dying at the hands of police, and we've seen some police officers, in a couple of scattered spots, resigning because it sounds like they don't like this conversation and don't like the feeling of sort of being under the spotlight.

Are you seeing that?

ACEVEDO: We haven't. I think that, in our department, we are a -- this is a very special city, and a very special department, where minority/majority department that's very reflective. A home grown department. And we always tell our people, we don't -- we don't get paid, we don't make our money for the good days or the easy days or the normal days. We earn our money and we prove our worth to this community during the challenging times. And this is an opportunity -- an historical moment where history is watching us. We've been telling that to our officers every time that we're about to deal with significant issues. And it's an opportunity for the good police officers to stand up, speak up, and demand action from the Congress and the state legislatures to do everything we can to get rid of our bad officers because it only takes one. And all the good work goes away.

And so we're not seeing it here. I think that our men and women see this as an opportunity to move the profession forward and unify with the community. And I think they're hopeful that change is really actually going to come.

CAMEROTA: Chief Acevedo, great to check in with you. Thanks so much for all of your expertise on this.

ACEVEDO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We know how to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Doctors say you have to wear a mask and must socially distance. Wait until you see how some people are -- well, ignoring those guidelines. We'll show you.



SCIUTTO: Well, you may have seen this yourself. More Americans are ignoring guidelines to wear a mask and be socially distant to avoid spreading coronavirus. It's been proving both those things help prevent the spread. This comes as 21 states are seeing an increase in new cases. Twenty-one.

CNN's Rosa Flores joins us now live from Miami with more.

Florida one of those states. Kind of some denial about the numbers there. What's happening on the ground?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Governor Ron DeSantis maintains that the uptick here in the state of Florida is due to outbreaks in agricultural communities and in prisons.

However, mayors in his state, in the epicenter of the crisis here in the state of Florida, say that among other things people are simply not wearing masks.


FLORES (voice over): Coronavirus cases in Florida jumped by nearly 2,800 Monday, setting a single day record.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): No, we're not shutting down.

FLORES: And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saying he is not shutting down the economy despite the ongoing uptick in new daily cases. Instead, saying Florida is open for business.

Hosting the first Nascar race with fans this past weekend and a portion of the Republican National Convention set to take place in Jacksonville in just over two months.


DESANTIS: Well, I think I mentioned the other day outbreaks in agricultural communities.

FLORES: And while DeSantis claims the uptick is due to outbreaks in agricultural communities, and prisons, mayors in his state, in the epicenter of the crisis, like Miami and Miami Beach, say people are not doing the basics, like wearing masks.

MAYOR DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH: We really have to remind people that they've -- they've got to wear their masks, especially when they're inside. They've got to exercise physical distancing. FLORES: A Florida health care worker says she and 15 of her friends

tested positive for coronavirus after one night at a Jacksonville beach bar.

ERIKA CRISP, HEALTHCARE WORKER: And I think that we were careless and we went out into a public place before we should have, and we weren't wearing masks.

FLORES: Florida International University infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty warns that Florida's case numbers could continue to spike as the state sees the impacts of scenes like these.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just go ahead and shut down eastbound coming over.

FLORES: From Memorial Day in Daytona Beach, Florida, and large-scale protests showing many people not social distancing and not wearing masks.

DR. AILEEN MARTY, FIU INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: One of the ways in which we can help each other, have an economy, and, at the same time, work to get this virus out of the community, is by wearing our masks.

FLORES: Another state seeing an uptick in cases, South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a new life.

FLORES: Governor Henry McMaster acknowledged people were not social distancing and urges residents to do so, but says he has no plans to shut down the economy. Also digging in his heels, President Donald Trump pushing forward on a MAGA rally this weekend in Tulsa. No masks required, despite an increase in cases there and a lawsuit demanding the rally to cease unless organizers commit to following social distancing guidelines.

HOWARD STERN, HOST, "THE HOWARD STERN SHOW": I've made it clear, I can't stand seeing people walking around without a mask.

FLORES: Howard Stern taking his frustration to the airwaves, criticizing people claiming that not wearing a mask is an American freedom.

STERN: Freedom doesn't mean you get to do whatever the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you want.


FLORES: Now, the outbreaks in agricultural communities here in the state of Florida could soon become the problem of other states. According to Governor Ron DeSantis, he says that many of the people infected are migrant workers and the season here in south Florida is pretty much over.

And so, Jim, they're heading to states like Alabama and Georgia and, according to Governor DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health is now in communication with those states because these cases could be crossing state lines.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, remember when Florida was blocking people from other states that had outbreaks from coming into Florida.

Rosa Flores in Miami, thanks very much.

Here's what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 9:30 a.m. ET, GOP unveils police reform bill.

1:00 p.m. ET, Tulsa officials discuss Trump rally.

2:15 p.m. ET, Biden in Pennsylvania.


CAMEROTA: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

During the pandemic, a toddler and a train conductor in Massachusetts formed a special bond. Three-year-old Jake loves trains. So every day he would wait on the platform for the commuter train to come by with his buddy, Troy Thornton, on board. The two would say hello to each other. And the daily drive-byes did wonders for both.


JAKE: Here comes the train and it honks and then it's like -- and then it's like (INAUDIBLE) say, hi, Jake! See you tomorrow.

TROY THORNTON, TRAIN CONDUCTOR: He makes my day more than you know. It knew Jake was there. That was going to cheer my day up and make me and sustain me. You forget all the troubles for that minute and it just carried you.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my God, that is one of the cutest things I've ever seen.

All right, meanwhile, President Trump has seen a lot of dissent from current and former military leaders, particularly after his controversial church photo-op. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has thoughts on this. He joins us next.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

The differences between President Trump and the U.S. military are growing. The Pentagon, of course, clashed with him on the use of force, as you see here, to violently disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House, leading to two top military leaders apologizing for appearing with President Trump at this photo-op with the president outside a church across from the White House.

Joining me now is former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He is the author of the new book, "Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes and a New Path Forward in the post-Cold War World."

Secretary Gates, great to have you on. I always remind people when I speak with you that you served both Republican and Democratic administrations, President George W. Bush and President Obama.

I want to, if I can, begin on these differences between the military and Trump breaking out into the public because, of course, you have the differences over the photo-op, but some very substantive on the use of active U.S. military to respond to protests, on renaming bases that have been named for confederate generals, but also now on a current national security issue of U.S. troop deployments to Germany.


I wonder, are you concerned that there is a rift now between the commander in chief and the military on how to keep this country safe?

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I would divide the concerns between the military and the White House into two categories. The first that was the one that created the greatest amount of anxiety among retired military and probably active duty military was the call for the application of the Insurrection Act, which authorizes the president to use regular Army forces on the streets of America.

And it's important to understand the distinction between the regular Army and the National Guard. The regular Army is basically trained to do one thing, and that's to kill our enemies. The National Guard has other responsibilities there. They're in natural disasters. They're sandbagging. You have them helping with food handouts at food banks right now. They also can fight, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they also have some experience in training and crowd control and relationships with local law enforcement and they take off their uniform and go back home at night. They live in the communities where they get deployed, so they know that their -- it's their neighbors they're going to be dealing with.

And it was the -- it was the threat of using regular Army forces that I think concerned a lot of the former chairman and so on.


GATES: And the second was the appearance of the compromise of the apolitical ethic of the American military with the appearance in Lafayette Park of General Milley and Secretary Esper. And I think in reflect -- I think basically, my opinion, I don't think they knew what they were getting into and that they were being used.


GATES: And General Milley managed to evade the photo-op in front of the church, but he was there in Lafayette Park with the president.

And -- and I think General Milley has apologized for his presence, acknowledging that it was a mistake and underscoring both in his public remarks and in messages to the troops the importance of maintaining the apolitical ethos of the American military. They don't work for one president or another, they don't work for one party or another, they're there for the American people. I think those are two issues.

Then there are the substantive issues that you raise, the question of withdrawing troops from west Germany and so on.


GATES: And there I think those -- I mean those are policy issues that presidents and senior military have all the time. I disagreed with President Bush and President Obama over whether to intervene in Libya. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs agreed with me on that.

In this case, my -- my worry about the west German decision is that it appears, at least, to be a decision to take troops out of west Germany, out of a fit of pique with Angela Merkel because she didn't want to come to the G-7 meeting that the president was going to host.


GATES: There may or may not be a good reason to reduce the number of troops in Germany, whether to re-assign them to Poland or bring them back home or whatever.


GATES: But that decision has to be carefully considered, it has to be in a strategic context, and it has to be in consultation with our allies. If it's not to be seen as something as a fit of pique.

SCIUTTO: But, Secretary, OK, you know from experience that's not how the president makes decisions. We saw that. He withdrew or attempted to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria via tweet with no consultation with the National Security Council or commanders on the ground. He withheld military assistance from Ukraine over the objections of virtually everyone in the national security community who he has now successfully exiled from government. You had a senior Defense Department official resign yesterday after her advancement was blocked.

I just wonder, you know this president's habit is to get rid of people who stand in his way on decisions like this. I just wonder, with the U.S. military here, are you concerned that he will keep firing, keep going forward like a bulldozer until he finds yes men who will do what he wants them to do?

GATES: Well, I think -- I think that he -- he will continue to do what he wants to do.

[08:55:02] The question is whether he will listen, as he has. He did not -- he listened and did not use the Insurrection Act. And so I think that there have been successes where people have been able to persuade him of an alternative course of action.

In the case of Syria, after all, that's what provoked Secretary Mattis to resign.


GATES: So there will be these -- there will be these situations and, you know, the one thing that I will say about the presidents I worked for, and I had some very really disagreements with President Obama, particularly toward the latter part of my tenure. Whether it was going into Libya or the way we handled Egypt during the Arab Spring and so on.

But he never shut me out. He always welcomed an alternative point of view. He always wanted to hear objections so that he could weigh those objections.

President Bush was exactly the same way, as were really all of the other presidents that I worked for. This president doesn't seem to want to have that kind of a dialogue with his senior leaders, although I hear there's some incredibly spirited discussions in the Oval Office. So it's hard to know what goes on behind the closed door.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And you are right, there have been times when his advisers have been able to council him back. For instance, the fewer troops in Syria, there are still troops on the ground in Syria after those two withdraw orders.

Listen, I would encourage people to read your book. I've been through it, "Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World," because it does get at some of these larger issues. What's the path forward to keep this country safe? And some of these questions are broken out in the public.

Secretary Bob Gates, thanks so much for joining the program this morning.

GATES: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

SCIUTTO: And CNN's coverage continues right after this.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Glad you're with us.

The pressure --