Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Felony Murder Among 11 Charges Filed Against Ex-Atlanta Officer Who Killed Rayshard Brooks; Second Officer Facing Charges In Rayshard Brooks' Shooting Has Agreed To Be State Witness; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 117,000 As 21 States See Rise In New Confirmed Cases; Trump Moves Ahead With Indoor Rally Despite Science, Dire Warnings; Bolton Book Says Trump Directly Asked China's President Xi To Help Him Win Re-election. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 17, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The family of Rayshard Brooks is expected to speak any minute after the officer is involved with charged.
Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news.
We're standing by to hear from the family of Rayshard Brooks, the man shot and killed by Atlanta police officer Friday night. The district attorney in Atlanta has just announced 11 charges have been filed against that police officer including a felony murder charge that could get the death penalty.
Also breaking the U.S. death toll in the coronavirus pandemic now tops 117,000 Americans and 21 states are now seeing a dramatic rise in new cases. Texas, Florida and Arizona are all reporting new one day record. So is the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. But President Trump is pushing ahead with plans to hold an indoor rally there this weekend, even as health experts are warning that people attending could be putting lives at risk.
To start our coverage in Atlanta right now CNN's Victor Blackwell is on the scene for us.
Victor, two police officers now facing charges in the death Rayshard Brooks.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. But the announcement of that charge, those charges against those officers did not quell the calls for justice.
And let me show you what happened after those announcements came from the district attorney here in Fulton County. The protesters here outside the Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed on Friday night. They shut down the street here with chance of whose streets our streets sporadically letting through just a few vehicles but appeared that there was a toll that protesters or drivers, I should say, had to throw up a feast of solidarity to get through. Now it appears they're not letting anyone through.
Back to that announcement of charges, though, Paul Howard, the district attorney announced that not only did these officers, ex Officer Rolfe and Officer Brosnan did not render aid for more than two minutes after Brooks had been shot twice in the back.
He says that the ex-Officer Rolfe kicked Brooks while he was there on the ground and Officer Brosnan stood on his shoulders.
PAUL HOWARD, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: These are the 11 charges against Officer Rolfe. The first charge is felony murder. This is a diff that is as a result of an underlying felony. And in this case, the underlying felony is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. And the possible sentences for a felony murder conviction would be life without parole or the death penalty.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): A felony murder charge and 10 other charges for former Atlanta police Officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot and killed 27 year-old Rayshard Brooks after a scuffle outside of Wendy's restaurant on Friday night. Included in those charges are multiple aggravated assault charges.
The other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, also charged with aggravated assault and two other charges of violating police rules.
But the twist announced by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Brosnan is now a cooperating witness and will testify against former Officer Rolfe.
HOWARD: Within a matter of days he plans to make a statement regarding the culpability of Officer Rolfe, but he indicated that he is not psychologically willing to give that statement today.
BLACKWELL: During the explanation of those charges, Howard repeatedly said Mr. Brooks was not a threat.
HOWARD: We've concluded at the time Mr. Brooks was shot that he did not pose an immediate threat of death.
BLACKWELL: It started with a 911 call.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he appear to have any weapons from where you can see him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. I think he's intoxicated.
BLACKWELL: Police were called to a Wendy's restaurant after the caller said a car was blocking the drive thru lane. Brooks was found by police seemingly asleep at the wheel. Police body camera video shows the 20 minute interaction between Brooks and the two officers to be calm. The officers conduct a sobriety test on the 27 year-old.
Brooks failed the breathalyzer test and as Rolfe began to arrest him the struggle began. Brooks' resisted arrest, all three fell to the ground. And Brooks got away taking the other officers Taser with him. A chasing suit and Brooke turned back towards the officer pointing the Taser. That's when Rolfe shot Brooks in the back.
He was hit twice according to the medical examiner.
Disciplinary record show Rolfe received a written reprimand for a use of force complaint in 2016 with several more citizen complaints, but no action was taken on those.
Officer Brosnan has two firearm discharges on his record including Friday night shooting.
BLACKWELL: Some details on those charges against the officers in addition to felony murder, four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one of those against Mr. Brooks, others against those that are in the vicinity of those shots fired, four violations of oath, one count of criminal, destruction of property for shooting into a vehicle according to the district attorney and account of aggravated assault for allegedly kicking Mr. Brooks.
And then against Officer Brosnan, one count of aggravated assault for stepping on Mr. Brooks allegedly and two violations of oath counts.
We know that of course as the district attorney said that there will be the statement from Officer Brosnan who is now cooperating in the prosecution of his former colleague, former Officer Garrett Rolfe. Wolf
BLITZER: And a protest, Victor, continuing behind you, is that right?
BLACKWELL: Yes, let me step out of the way so you can see what's happening here. Some of the protesters have pulled their vehicles into the street. You see now just a third vehicle pulled up to fully block University.
They have been with their bodies blocking traffic through here and occasionally, sporadically letting some people through. But now it looks like they have parked in and blocked off the street completely. It looks like at the other ends of this -- of University that drivers have either gotten the message or can see from there there's not even backed up traffic here.
But the crowd has increased over the last several minutes. But this just started soon after the announcement of charges against these two officers, one ex officer, one current officer, where the protest moved from the parking lot of the Wendy's where Brooks was shot and killed on Friday now into the street here on University.
But yes, this is another night of protest after the announcement of charges against the officers here in Atlanta. Wolf.
BLITZER: Any sign of police at all in the area where you are?
BLACKWELL: No sign of police. There was at one moment, an ambulance they came through with sirens and lights. And just for a brief moment protesters stood in front of that ambulance, and then that person or two people will pulled out of the way very quickly to let that ambulance go through. But no, no sign of police here as this protest continues here outside of the Wendy's.
I've not seen any violence. I've not seen any destruction of property.
There are people here who are very passionate in the streets calling for justice. Essentially saying the announcement simply of charges is not enough. And the signs suggest that we've heard the chance of Black Lives Matter as well. A memorial set up in the parking lot.
They're pretty adamant that media not go over to that side of the street. Anything time they see a photographer or someone getting close, several of the protests just come up and confront that person. There's no violence, but there are confrontation them trying to keep that space, let's say sacred, because that is where this this man Rayshard Brooks, 27 year -- old -- 27 years old, lost his life.
So, again, we've now seen protesters blocking the street here at University. And it doesn't look like they're moving out of the way and the protests will continue for another night. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Victor Blackwell will stay in close touch with you.
I want to get some more analysis right now from our legal and law enforcement experts. Joey Jackson is with us. Charles Ramsey is with us.
Joey, you're the legal expert. Walk us through these very serious charges against the fired police officer Garrett Rolfe that he's facing.
Hold on one second, though. I think there's a news conference that's about to begin with the family. The family of Rayshard Brooks. I want our viewers to listen in.
This is Justin Miller. One of the attorneys for the family. Chris Stewart, another attorney is there as well.
Let's listen in.
JUSTIN MILLER, ATTORNEY FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS' FAMILY: -- were revealed against the two officers who killed Mr. Brooks.
And there are a few things that we just wanted to say. On behalf of the Brooks family at this time. You know, I usually don't write anything down because we want to let you know that everything we say is coming directly from the heart. And we've been dealing with this and living with this tragedy, just like Ms. Brooks and her family from the very beginning.
I want everybody to know that we want you to stay focused. This is not the finish line. This is the starting point.
Yes, we appreciate and we commend the DA's office for charging these officers appropriately. But that's just step one.
Step two is convictions on all charges.
And then after that, we have to find a way to try to make things right for the Brooks family and for those children.
Like Chris and I said before, justice is not something that is going to be easy in this case. It never is. How do you find justice for three little girls who will never see their father again? How do you get justice for a little girl who on her birthday every single year from now, until the rest of her life, she will remember that that's the day she found out that her dad died? How do you get justice for that little girl?
Since this happened, I've talked to several people who have said different things about what went on, about what Mr. Brooks should or should not have been doing, about what the officer should or should not have been doing. And to those people, I say, with these new revelations, again, I implore you, look into your heart and have some empathy for another human being. Because that's what Rayshard Brooks is and was, another human being.
He may not look like you. He may not be where you're from where you're from, but he is another human being just like you.
Tomika Miller is a human being. She's a mother. She's a daughter. She's a wife. And she's a human being just like you.
So when you see Officer Rolfe kick Rayshard Brooks, after he shot him in the back, while he's laying on the ground dying. Think about that before you start to get into things that are -- that don't matter at all, that are completely irrelevant to this case. And, and to generally just to all of us as humans, we should be together on this, not a part.
I was taught when I was a kid that you don't kick a man when he's down. I mean, I learned that playing sports. I was taught that that was a kind of an American thing. You know, that is one of our ideals. We don't kick people when they're down.
Well, what you saw, and what we all saw, is one officer standing on a man who was dying, standing on top of him. And then the other officer literally kicking him while he was on the ground dying, literally kicking him why he's down. What that showed me, as I was watching that press conference is this, America is not America for all Americans. And as we come to the July 4 holiday, in a couple of weeks, there'll be a lot of people celebrating. But there will be just as many people who are not going to feel comfortable celebrating, who will still be in the streets fighting for injustice.
So, again, we ask everyone, continue fighting, keep doing your part, and stand with and support this family because right now they really need you. Thank you.
TOMIKA MILLER, RAYSHARD BROOKS' WIDOW: I just want to say thank you. And I just hope that everything falls out how it needs to fall out and these officers are charged.
I'm really hurt. Father's Day is coming up and all I can do is just think about what if my husband was still here?
L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS' FAMILY: The biggest question is how do we feel about the charges? And with a lot of them, a lot of charges.
This isn't like a celebration, or a victory lap of watching these officers get charged. Nobody's happy, nobody's celebrating because this never should have happened. We shouldn't have to celebrate it African-Americans, when we get a piece of justice like today.
We shouldn't have to celebrate and parade when an officer is held accountable for actions that we saw and actions that we didn't know about until today.
Some people thought that we would be happy and be celebrating and have a fifth in the air but it's more of disappointment that this is the state of policing and this is where we're at.
But I saw a lot of hope today. As the district attorney said, this is the first time another officer have decided to be a government witness and testify against another office. That's what policing is. That's the kind of officers that make these streets safe that stop instances like this from happening.
When you're willing to step up and say that was wrong, even if that's going to risk my career, even if people won't like me and other officers will be angry. That's the reason that always say, not every single officer is out there trying to kill somebody.
But we're also not going to play that rhetoric game that you all felt today of all officers are great. No, we've seen what has happened. It's the same assumption that we don't want officers making about black people, that all people are from the ghetto, that all people are who (ph), that all of us are up to no good, that you need to search every young black male that you see which leads to situations like this. It's both assumptions. So are we watching all these policies that directly affect families like this? All these arguments, Democrats versus Republicans all of this ridiculousness, and they're not starting from step one. How do we actually fix this and not what's best for your political party? Because the things I saw today, we're going to be back here next year.
What's the point of national collection of data if the data is flawed? We have handled cases where the Internal Affairs reports aren't taken properly. So you'll be collecting data that is nonsensical and doesn't hold officers accountable unless you fix the department, Internal Affairs first.
But they don't want reality. They want policies and elections. And that's fine, but we'll end up here again.
So was this justice today? Not yet. We still don't have a definition for it. It was more heartache that families have to go through this and fight the public to try and get justice for a man that was shot in the back twice.
But we do thank everybody in this country for the outpouring of support. The people that are marching for change peacefully, keeping his name alive positively. And maybe one day, this country will get it right with policing and we'll all come together.
Brief questions real quick because she is exhausted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- collaborating with the witness will now be (INAUDIBLE) cooperating that had not agreed with the other officer and has not agreed to plead guilty to anything. Do you have any comment about this update from (INAUDIBLE)?
STEWART: Yes, I didn't believe he'll plead guilty to anything. But the statement and information that they've already gotten so far, has led them to believe that this is going to help secure the prosecution of the other officer.
For him to even come in and meet with the district attorney, as you know, that's rare and doesn't happen often. So we look forward to what he has to say and how this will help with the prosecution of the case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Brooks, I know that -- just decide. Your point is you're trying to find out the full facts, the full truth, everything that happened, and everybody should be accountable here. Is that how you're looking at this now as you take in with the district attorney said this afternoon and try to get your head around? What his presentation is going to be the grand jury wants it, he is able to present it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you react to the information that he was able to help you understand?
MILLER: I was very grateful that he's coming forth with the true. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I understand from the district attorney during his statements, you mentioned that you were taking in this information in real time just like (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you heard some of the details, some of the raw disturbing details about what happened to Rayshard with a more than two minutes been lying to render life-saving aid taking him, stepping on him. When you look at those details, you can only imagine what you were feeling.
MILLER: That was very hard. I can't imagine being there. I would have done -- I would have seen after myself. But I felt everything that he felt just by hearing what he went through. It hurt really bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Very emotional and totally understandable news conference.
The lawyers for the family, the Rayshard Brooks family, speaking out both Justin Miller and Chris Stewart, Tomika Miller, the widow of Rayshard Brooks obviously crying at the end, totally understandable.
I want to get back to our legal and law enforcement experts for some analysis. Joey Jackson is still with us. Also joining us the former Washington and Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey. We're also joined by the President and CEO of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson.
Joey, walk us through, first of all, these very serious charges that have now been filed against this fired police officer, Garrett Rolfe, among them felony murder, which carries the potential sentence of the death penalty.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Indeed, I will Wolf.
But before doing that, though, the general before the specific. This is what accountability looks like, right? We saw the Senate come out today and have a press conference with regard to legislation. We know the House is working on legislation, but this is about accountability.
Accountability comes when you hold people accountable and responsible for their actions. It also comes when you have another officer that says it's wrong and not only says it's wrong, but says I will testify to that.
And to your question what will he testified to? He will testify to the panoply of charges that we saw the prosecutor lay out. Why did the prosecutor lay out the charges felony murder? What does it mean, aggravated assault? What does it mean?
He laid it out, because in the press conference, you saw he went through the law, and there are three important elements he went through. Number one, was the officer who shot in intention, all right, was he in immediate fear of death or serious physical injury? They concluded the prosecutor no.
Number two, was the force used at the time proportionate to the threat posed? Answered no.
Number three, were the actions reasonable? Answered no.
Also when you look at that, so then you question well, what's felony murder? You don't have to establish intent. You don't have to establish premeditation.
I know generally, Wolf, when people think about murder, they think about lying and wait. They think about waiting and shooting and planning. No. What you establish is that you engaged in an assault as a result of engaging in that assault isn't death however unintentional, it may be, some would argue it wasn't. That's a separate question.
But if you could establish the assault and a murder occurs or a death occurs as a result of that assault you have your felony murder. Serious charge carries the death penalty whether they pursue it or not, we'll find out. So that's the most serious we know aggravated assault stemming from the discharge of the firearm.
And very briefly, Wolf, this, I think the prosecutor was also struck by a number of things with respect to violations of policy. The most serious of which is if the policy doesn't permit you to use a Taser against someone that's running away, certainly would not permit you to use a firearm as it relates to someone that's running away.
And then the last point as opposed to rendering aid at the time of the death, what they do or what one officer does, the shooting officer has kicked him and his partner who will now testify against him, he charged with aggravated assault, steps on his shoulder. Inexcusable, will allow a jury ultimately to vetted out and make a determination as to guilt. But today is a big day with respect to accountability. And we'll see what a jury decides when they hear all the facts, all the evidence and the circumstances, as laid out by the prosecutor in the press conference today.
BLITZER: And it's going to play out over several months, no doubt about that.
Chief Ramsey, the other officer who was on the scene, Devin Brosnan, he was charged in the -- in his involvement in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, but he's facing clearly lesser charges including aggravated assault, and he's become a state witness right now. So what message does this send?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think it sends a strong message that you know, just even though he's not the one that fired the shot. His actions after the shooting, were really I think led to the charges that were placed against him.
You know, when we were watching the video, clearly when I saw it, I thought he was outside of policy that shooting was not justified, but I didn't really think that maybe it rose to a criminal level. Quite frankly, I didn't know if it was criminal intent or just a reflex when the Taser went off, he fired his gone. You try to give a benefit of the doubt.
But I'm going to tell you, I mean, after I saw that picture of him kicking the man after he's down, I mean, come on. That's, you know, you look at that, you look at Minneapolis. I mean, it is absolutely horrible. And it's embarrassing, because I've been a member of this profession for so long.
But because I've been a member of it for so long, I realized that, you know, there are more good people than bad, but that I'm telling you, that statement is getting old and it's getting tired. There is racism in policing, just like it is in the rest of society.
You may not fall -- you're not going to find it in policy. You're not going to find it in training, but you'll find it in the actions of some of these officers. I mean, Minneapolis and Atlanta, at least 1000 miles apart, and yet you have this kind of behavior taking place. I mean, it's ridiculous.
If we don't admit we have a problem. We'll never be able to fix it and it goes beyond bickering between Republicans and Democrats and beyond just changing a policy here and there. I mean, we have got to change the culture that exists in policing.
And the good folks the good officers of all races, colors, gender, got to stand up and hold one another accountable. This is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable, and has to stop.
BLITZER: Yes. Very important point Chief Ramsey.
You know, Derrick, when you look at these charges, the charges filed against the fired police officers in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, do you get the sense, though, that police are potentially increasingly being held accountable for their actions? Step back and give us the big picture what's going on in our country right now.
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO NAACP: So first of all, I want to commend the prosecutor in this case, it takes a lot of bravery as a district attorney to actually do your job when it comes to policing.
What he did today is step over the level of courage that the district attorney in the Ahmaud Arbery, she lacked, that the district attorney in the George Floyd case lack, is the district attorney in Lewisville Kentucky still like because Brionna Taylor, murderers have not been brought to justice. But this district attorney understand what it means to serve the people of that community and not law enforcement.
Secondly, the only person that place people in danger was the police officer who shot and killed Mr. Brooks. But not only that, we learned today that another bullet was lashing to a car. What if that bullet would hit someone who was simply going to Wendy's to get a hamburger?
No one was placed in danger. They had already done a search, they knew he didn't have a weapon. They were not in any immediate danger. Unfortunately, he didn't get the best of them in the tussle, but they had his driver's license. They knew where he lived. They had his car.
Had he run away, he couldn't have gotten too far without them simply apprehending him and not putting all of the bystanders around, standing around in the car in danger. Those police officers put other people in danger.
But this is really important for us to see, the nation to see that when you have an accountable district attorney, prosecutors who value the life of individuals who have been murdered, as opposed to try to align themselves with law enforcement, you get a different level of justice. And so we should be commending this district attorney.
We also should be calling on the district attorney in Louisville, Kentucky because the murders of Breonna Taylor, they're still walking around three.
And only way for us to stop this is for law enforcement to know if they commit crimes they will be held accountable. So let's all commend this district attorney.
BLITZER: Paul Howard, the D.A. there in Atlanta.
All right guys, thank you very much. We're going to stay on top of this. We'll continue our conversations later.
Coming up, there's other important news. We're following including a record rise in Coronavirus cases in Tulsa, Oklahoma as President Trump pushes ahead with plans to hold a huge indoor rally with thousands and thousands of people there this weekend.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following here in "The Situation Room". The coronavirus pandemic death toll in the United States has now surpassed 117,000 people. And right now 21 states are seeing a rise in new cases including record increases in Texas, Florida and Arizona.
CNN National Correspondent Athena Jones is joining us. So right now, Athena, very disturbing new numbers tonight.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are indeed, Wolf, and you know, denial and disinformation may be the order of the day at the highest levels of government. But there's no denying the numbers we're seeing, as you mentioned, new cases surging and states across the country, and particularly in the south.
ERIKA CRISP, TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19: It was more out of sight, out of mind. We go out, it's a friend's birthday. It was a mistake. JONES (voice-over): A cautionary tale from Jacksonville, Florida, where 16 friends gathered for a celebration and all 16 contracted the coronavirus.
DARA SWEAT, TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19: My friends were just boom, positive, boom, positive, boom, positive, back-to-back to back, was almost a little overwhelming.
JONES (voice-over): Proof that despite the message coming from the White House and its allies, the COVID crisis in the U.S. has not abated.
DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER: It does seem that the administration wants to move beyond coronavirus, but the virus isn't going to cooperate.
JONES (voice-over): In fact, new coronavirus cases are surging to record levels in several states that reopened swiftly, and experts say too soon or without sufficient precautions.
DR. ALI KHAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF PUBLIC HEALTH PREPAREDNESS AT CDC: We've not changed the basic biology of the disease. The viruses out there. 95 percent of Americans continue to be susceptible.
JONES (voice-over): Reported infections now falling in 21 states and holding steady in eight, but rising in 21 states, with seeing a more than 50 percent jump in new cases, including South Carolina, Alabama, and West Virginia. Florida, Arizona and Texas have set records for new cases in recent days with hospitalizations hitting new highs in Texas, North Carolina and Arizona raising concerns for health care providers.
JULIA STRANGE VICE PRESIDENT, COMMUNITY BENEFIT AT TUCSON MEDICAL CENTER: This week, we did hit our capacity in our COVID designated ICU unit and so we have been participating in that surge line to transfer patients who we believe will need ICU care within 24 hours.
JONES (voice-over): But in the face of these sobering statistics and fresh warnings, Florida's governor has no plans to pause or slow down reopening.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We're not shutting down.
JONES (voice-over): And as the debate over masks rages on, American Airlines asking a passenger to deplane from a flight from New York to Dallas after he refused to wear a mask. In Montgomery, Alabama, a push for masks in the hardest hit city in the state coming up short.
DR. KIM RUDOLPH MCGLOTHAN, JACKSON HOSPITAL: But until you actually mandate because people don't believe the hype. We won't be able to stop it.
JONES (voice-over): The city council failing to pass an ordinance requiring them. Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, urging people to take precautions. GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: COVID-19 hasn't suddenly magically left the state of Texas.
JONES (voice-over): This, as the mayors of Texas biggest cities, call on Abbott to allow them to require face coverings. And with cases on the rise in Oklahoma, a judge has blocked an effort to stop President Trump's plan Saturday rally, which health officials worry could be a super spreader event.
DR. BRUCE DART, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TULSA HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Let me be clear, anyone planning to attend a large scale gathering will face an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.
JONES (voice-over): And then yet another indication of the outsize told the virus is taking on minority communities. A new Brookings study shows blacks are dying at 3.6 times the rate of whites, while Hispanics are dying 2.5 times more than whites, according to CDC data.
JONES: And those figures from Brookings are stunning but they illustrate what we've been talking about for months. Blacks and Hispanics are the most at risk from messaging and policies that downplay the virus and downplay the need for masks, social distancing and other precautions. It's another reminder that truth is never more important than when it can save lives. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, very important indeed. All right, Athena, thank you very much. Athena Jones in in New York for us.
Let's get some more on the President's plan rally in Tulsa on Saturday. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us right now. The President clearly intent on gathering tens of thousands of people for this rally in the city, which now has a record number of new coronavirus cases.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And White House officials are refusing to say whether the President or the administration will take responsibility if people catch the coronavirus at this Trump rally this weekend. And administration official tells us the President and his team are in denial when it comes to the pandemic.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The President Trump expected to hold a rally this weekend in Oklahoma. White House officials are dismissing any questions that the administration might be responsible for exposing the thousands of supporters expected to attend to the coronavirus. In other words, rally at your own risk.
(on-camera): Will the President or the White House take responsibility if people get sick and catch the coronavirus at this rally on Saturday?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So the campaign is taking certain measures to make sure this is a safe rally. Temperature checks, hand sanitizers, and mass so we are taking precautions.
ACOSTA (on-camera): But you're not requiring people to wear masks.
MCENANY: They will be given a mask. It's up to them whether to make that decision. CDC guidelines are recommended but not required.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Trump campaign has already posted a disclaimer for the Tulsa rally telling attendees that the President and other event organizers cannot be held liable for any illnesses. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to compare the potential for exposure at the rally to the dangers posed by attending a baseball game. But hold on, pro-sports events with crowds have been scrapped for weeks.
MCENANY: As with any event, you assume a personal risk on that. It's just what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk. That's part of life. It's the personal decision of Americans as to whether to go to the rally or whether not to go to the rally.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Tulsa, Oklahoma health officials are urging attendees to be tested for the virus before and after the event. Public health experts are warning the White House they could be putting lives at risk.
ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, NYU LANGONE'S DIVISION OF MEDICAL ETHICS: When the people come to the rally, they don't care about them except as a photo op because you're going to kill some of them and some of their family and friends.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The disinfectant knocks it out.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Ever since the President suggested Americans could inject themselves with disinfectants to ward off COVID-19, Mr. Trump is sidelined his own Coronavirus Task Force. An administration official tells CNN they just don't want to deal with the reality of it. They're in denial. Former Vice President Joe Biden is blasting Mr. Trump's handling of the pandemic.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We've lost lives. We've lost businesses, we've lost paychecks. And now thanks to Donald Trump's mangling, we may lose some of the progress we've begun to make. All because he's lost interest.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Asked whether he would attend the Tulsa rally, Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was 79 years old told "The Daily Beast", "I'm in a high risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not".
On the administration's efforts to curb police brutality, White House official said the President would support proposals being pushed by GOP Senator Tim Scott, aimed at cleaning up law enforcement practices.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We hear you. I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who's concerned when he's stopped by the law enforcement officers. We see you. [17:40:09]
ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats insist the Republican bill doesn't go far enough.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We don't need a window dressing, toothless bill. We need to take action that is real.
ACOSTA: And the press secretary was asked why so many White House officials are no longer wearing masks after a brief period when staffers were using them in response to an aide to Vice President Mike Pence contracting the virus. McEnany said the masks are required or should be recommended at the White House but not required. Another reminder that the President and his team are not really interested in being public health role models on the issue. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you tonight.
Tonight, 21 U.S. states are reporting a rise in new coronavirus cases. Let's bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, what's behind these spikes taking place around the country?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a large part because, you know, we're starting to reopen, you know, as it was predicted that as people started to get out and about a contagious virus is still out there that there would be more and more people who would become infected. I think the question has been, how significant would those infections be and how high would the numbers go? And how many, you know, hospitalizations and deaths would it also lead to?
And we're starting to get a picture of that now, Wolf. If you look at the trend across the country, you know, you saw sort of, I guess, mid- April timeframe is when you sort of had the peak. Now you're sort of seeing the plateau that has come down.
Part of that plateau is sort of because of the fact that we've had been in stay-at-home sort of mode up until recently. The concern now is that you may start to see it go back up again. That's not a second wave, that's a peak, another spike within the first wave, Wolf. So I think that's really what it has to do with.
BLITZER: Florida, Sanjay, is on its sixth straight day of record numbers of coronavirus cases right now. What are the biggest problem areas in the state? And is it the responsibility of the governor to say -- is he responsible because he says he's not going to shut down the state anymore?
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, he's been, I guess, pretty clear on that. It is worth reminding people that as a country, when we sort of went into stay-at-home recommendations. There were fewer than 80 people who had died in this country, and between 4,000 and 5,000 people would become infected. So that's when we made a decision sort of as a country to go into the stay-at-home mode. And now you look at the right side of the screen, and we're opening things up.
I think, Wolf, the thing that really strikes me is that you do hear from many people that they're obviously not interested in shutting things down again. And yet there is this middle ground between shutting down and being completely open. Wearing masks in public, physically distancing. People know this now, right? I mean, I think the entire country has been informed of this, and we now have evidence of how well it works.
We know that 450,000 infections according to a new article out of Health Affairs, 450,000 infections were prevented in places that mandated masks. We know that it cuts down on the rate of transmission by about six fold if you're wearing a mask. And yet, as Jim Acosta and others have just been reporting, there is no mandate for these things. There is no requirement. They're just -- they stay recommendations and we're not even seeing people wearing them at the White House.
BLITZER: Yes, that's -- it's a real pity indeed. You know, cases are also rising in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sanjay. The President is still planning to hold a huge indoor rally there this Saturday despite the county health commissioner, they're saying they wish it would be postponed. How likely is it that a few weeks from now we're going to learn that that rally became potentially, I hope it doesn't, a super spreader event?
GUPTA: Sadly, I think there's a high likelihood of that. I mean, you know, a super spreader event basically is having people who may be carrying the virus in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place is a crowded arena where you can physically distance and masks aren't required. You know, and the wrong time is that this is a state where the number of people who are becoming infected is going up. That means the virus is circulating pretty robustly in that area.
And, by the way, the number of tests in Oklahoma have actually gone down. People keep saying, well, the numbers are only going up because we're testing more. Oklahoma is case in point where the number of tests have actually gone down. And the number of cases have actually continued to go up, which really indicates a significant problem. So that makes it the wrong time.
And arena full of crowded people in a carnival like atmosphere where people are shouting and things like that, putting in virus into the environment is the wrong place. And, you know, anybody can be a super spreader. We think that's a unique individual. Anybody who's harboring the virus in their body in an environment like that could become a super spreader.
BLITZER: There's a difference, Sanjay, correct me if I'm wrong, between thousands of people gathering inside a relatively closed environment screaming and shouting, having a good time, no social distancing. A lot of people not wearing masks and a similar crowd gathering outside in the open air.
GUPTA: Yes, there is. And, you know, part of it just common sense. The virus has more room for dispersion, it can move around more and disperse more easily in an outdoor environment. But if you want to start looking at some of the data, we've been reporting on some of this, Wolf, they say it's about an 18 fold difference. Meaning it's 18 times more likely to spread in an indoor environment versus an outdoor environment.
So, you know, I think this is -- I don't think you'll find any public health official, any doctor, anybody who knows has been following this coronavirus story at all who says this is a good idea. This is an OK idea. It should be fine. Nobody's saying that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, at a minimum they could move that indoor location in a huge arena to an outdoor location --
BLITZER: -- in Tulsa and it would presumably be a lot safer as we all suspect. All right, Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much for that.
Coming up, bombshell allegations about President Trump in a brand new book by the -- his former National Security Adviser, John Bolton.
BLITZER: We have more breaking news we're following here in "The Situation Room". Truly explosive allegations about President Trump by his former National Security Adviser John Bolton in his new book obtained by CNN. Bolton suggests the President of the United States committed multiple other potentially impeachable offenses besides seeking Ukraine's help in the election.
Let's dig deeper with our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim, we have the book now. I'm showing it to our viewers. The room where it happened, a White House memoir by John Bolton. In the book, Bolton says the President asked Chinese President Xi to help get him re-elected. Doesn't that amount to foreign interference in our elections?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I know that people watching tonight have heard the word shocking attached to actions of this President before you and I have covered them. We've heard people attest to them under oath during the impeachment inquiry and elsewhere. But what's contained in this book as attested by his former National Security Advisor John Bolton, it floors me. It is truly beyond the pale.
Let's start with what you reference here. At the G20 in Osaka last year, the President of the United States to the Chinese President making a plea for help in the upcoming election. Let me read from the book. "He then, stunningly", this is Trump, "turn the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome." Pleading with the leader of an adversary nation and authoritarian one at that, to help him win the election by directing purchases of foreign products in swing states. Now, Wolf, as you know, in the so- called phase two trade deal. That is something that China promised to do. $200 billion worth of purchases. What did he give China in return for that? What is going to be the response to this country to a President seeking help in being elected from a foreign power?
It didn't -- and there, also with Xi, they commiserated the two of them, the sitting U.S. President of a democracy commiserating with the leader of an authoritarian country where Xi says to him, boy, it'd be nice if you could be elected more than twice, have more than two terms. President Trump saying yes, there are lots of people in this country that would like that to happen. Commiserating on that even with an authoritarian leader, it is truly remarkable, Wolf.
BLITZER: And in your another remarkable thing is that Bolton writes in the book that President Trump even went so far as to agree with the Chinese president on the detention of Uighur Muslims, hundreds of thousands of people in China.
SCIUTTO: There are a million people being held in northwest China because of their faith, because they're Muslims, the Uighurs as you say there. These are World War II like concentration camps. It's a crime against humanity based on purely their faith and their ethnicity.
So here's what the sitting U.S. President said, according again to his national security adviser, "Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang". This is in northwestern China. "According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do."
Wolf, U.S. President endorsing the forced imprisonment in concentration camps in the 21st century of people. Again, it's truly remarkable.
BLITZER: And there's revelation after revelation after revelation, a very disturbing information in this book. We're going to have more on it coming up in our next hour. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.
There's other breaking news we're following as well. We're going to have the latest on the charges filed against two Atlanta police officers in the death of Rayshard Brooks, including one now charged with murder.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". We're following breaking news. The fire police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta was just charged with felony murder and 11 other counts. He could potentially get the death penalty if convicted. The second
officer at the scene faces three charges of Brooks's death and has agreed to be a state witness.