Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Atlanta Police Officers Charged. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 18, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: They are taking action.
And it will be interesting to see how Trump reacts to this. You know, he signed an executive order on social media companies earlier this month.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Donie O'Sullivan, thank you.
Thank you all for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" is next .
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin with breaking news in our national lead today. Two former Atlanta police officers have now turned themselves in for the police killing of Rayshard Brooks over the weekend, of course, following arrest warrants issued for both former police officers.
Minutes ago, a now ex-officer, Garrett Rolfe, turning himself in. He's facing 11 charges, including murder for shooting Brooks twice in the back. Prosecutors also say that Rolfe did not provide medical aid for more than two minutes and even kicked Rayshard Brooks after shooting him twice in the back.
The law firm representing Rolfe argues that his actions were entirely justified.
The second officer involved, Devin Brosnan, also turned himself in earlier today, though he is now out on bond. Brosnan is facing three charges, including aggravated assault for allegedly standing on Brooks' shoulders after the shooting,.
CNN's Ryan Young joins me now live from Atlanta.
And, Ryan, what do we know about the former officer turning himself in, and what happens next?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, you got to think about the speed of this case. It hasn't even been a week yet. And now both officers have had to turn themselves in. And the DA has even talked about all the extraordinary steps they have
gone through to get evidence. They have talked to more than seven witnesses. They have analyzed videos from all over. They have body cameras that they have released to the public.
But when you think about this, the first officer who walked on the inside, we had no clue. They used a back entrance. Then the second officer arrived at 3:18, according to jail records. And we see the list of charges that are laid out here.
And on top of all that, we know that he will not be able to leave the jail. Rolfe will have to stay here for quite some time. And one of the things they were worried about is a security level, because they're going to have to have him to the side. They can't have him obviously with the rest of the population here at the jail.
He walked in the back. We had no idea he arrived. But we were able to confirm through sources, before reaching out to the jail, that he had arrived here to turn himself in.
When you think about the other officer, Devin Brosnan, he came out with his attorney. And he walked -- he basically said no comment as he was walking to the car. But his attorney was full of things to say. In fact, take a lesson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON SAMUEL, ATTORNEY FOR DEVIN BROSNAN: He's disappointed in the system, to be honest with you. He dedicated his life to law enforcement, and he had a lot of faith in the system.
And he continues to. But this would shake one's belief in the integrity of the system. But he knows everything is going to come out right. He knows that the system will work eventually, whether it's the DA's office, or the GBI, or if it has to be a jury eventually.
And it's going to come out all right for him, come out fine for him. But it's going to be a rough couple months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: Jake, it's been a lot of conversation just about the charges he faces as well. Of course, he's been put on administrative duty as of right now.
Of course, Officer Rolfe has been fired, and he's sitting in the jail as we speak.
TAPPER: Ryan Young, thank you so much. Appreciate your reporting.
Joining me now, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates and also CNN political commentator Van Jones.
Thanks to both of you for joining me.
And, Laura, both officers have now turned themselves in. This is, of course, a very unusual case, because not only is one of the cops said to be cooperating with Fulton County district attorney and investigators, but because of the surge in support we have seen for policing reform during this era.
Is there any concern in the legal community that perhaps, feeling some public pressure, the prosecutors, and perhaps understandably so, but moved more quickly and more aggressively than they otherwise would have, thus maybe, perhaps putting the prosecution at risk?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's always a concern, particularly when a DA is an elected official in an election year, that there may be some politicization of the actual prosecutorial decisions.
However, they did lay out a case yesterday methodically about the evidence they felt grounded their decisions. And so you're going to have people looking at this, ironically, having acknowledged how much justice has been delayed, the delay of criminal prosecution typically for police officers, and now questioning the expedience of -- otherwise, it would have been a bureaucratic issue.
And so you're going to have both sides. The question will really come down to, because of the breadth of all the charges, whether this DA has everything he needs to actually prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every instance.
It's one thing to have a public charging call and platform. It can be a very different circumstance about the evidence that comes in and what a jury might receive.
TAPPER: All right, and, Van, let me ask you basically the same question, how fast we have seen charges come forward in this case.
I mean, remember, this just happened over the weekend. Take a listen to what the attorney for Officer Brosnan had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL: Devin is not charged with murder. He's not charged with having anything to do with the homicide.
But he wants to charge him for not rendering aid fast enough? I have never even seen a case like this in Fulton County before or any jurisdiction. GBI is not going to support that.
But the DA's office has just got other things in mind right now, apparently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The GBI, of course, is the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, their version of, on the state level, the FBI.
Van, again do you have any concerns? Obviously, people who want this prosecution to be successful can take concern with the fact and have concerns about the fact that this is being done so quickly and so aggressively in the midst of, A, as Laura noted, an election year, and, B, a lot of public pressure, understandably so?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't have a concern because people get arrested every day for all kind of stuff.
I can't imagine if somebody shot somebody in the back twice over the weekend and was arrested midweek, people would say, well, geez, that's fast. You shot somebody in the back twice. You should get arrested.
The pressure that everybody's talking about has been all the other way for so many years. The pressure is on DAs not to charge. The pressure is on DAs to drag this thing out, to charge as little as possible, to be as lenient as possible. Then there's pressure on jurors not to convict a cop, because, if you convict a cop, then there's going to be anarchy.
So, what you're seeing is a counterpressure getting you back to something that's just normal. If you decide in the course of your job to shoot somebody in the back twice, you probably are going to have to face the jury.
And I think that that's a good thing. What I saw yesterday in terms of the evidence that was put forward, it looked compelling enough for an arrest. Now, beyond -- that's probable cause standard.
Now you got to get to beyond a reasonable doubt standard. In the normal course of a prosecution, some charges go away. There can be some plea deals cut, but this is just the normal process now being applied to law enforcement, which is what we should be wanting.
And the reason you have never seen it before is because there's been so much extraordinary pressure the other direction that we're now used to that as the normal. That old normal has got to go. We got to get back to a new normal that makes more sense, that is more fair to the public.
TAPPER: That's an interesting point.
TAPPER: Well, Laura, I will come back to you in one second.
TAPPER: But Ryan Young has some breaking news out of Atlanta. And I want to go to him, and then I'm going to come right back to both of you.
Ryan, what are you hearing about reports of police officers in Atlanta calling in sick with the so-called blue flu as a way of protesting the fact that these two officers have had to turn themselves in, and also reports that some officers are only responding to calls if another officer needs backup, but, otherwise, they're not doing their jobs?
YOUNG: Yes, so this is the big conversation going on in the city right now.
We do know that there have been several officers who've called out. When they heard the news yesterday, some placed their keys down on the desk and left precincts. In fact, in one precinct last night, we were told they had so few staff members, they were scared that protesters would be able to overrun that precinct.
So they pulled over anything out of the zone that was critical and moved it to another location. I can tell you they have set out 12- on/12-off hours. So officers are working through their normal shifts. And one of the things they have been telling me is, it's not just these two officers.
Let's not forget that six others were fired for the arresting of two college students. So what they're saying is, these officers have not been able to get their due process. So, as everyone is arguing about how things should change in the system, the officers say the standard is, there's an investigation first, there's discipline, and then they could face charges, or even go to a grand jury.
Those skips -- those steps have been skipped. And, in fact, this is affecting a lot of things, including mutual aid. There are other police chiefs in this area who are not lending their services to the Atlanta P.D. because they're scared what their officers could face because of the way business is being done in the city of Atlanta right now.
And so we know for a fact last night there was one point where there were 70 calls that were pending. We're hearing lieutenants and higher- ranking staff are having to join the forces, get in the car, and answer calls.
A lot of the minor calls are not getting answered at this point -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Ryan Young with that breaking news out of Atlanta, thank you so much.
And, Laura Coates, let me go right to you, your response to this. One police officer in Atlanta, a 24-year veteran, telling CNN that he's never seen morale so low on the Atlanta police force as he's seeing it today.
What do you make of these actions that these police officers are taking?
COATES: Well, I, like everybody else, who relies on the police want them to be public servants, not petulant and resentful when people are asking them to be held accountable for what is considered to be criminal conduct or the allegation of criminal conduct.
And so it's unfortunate that they have chosen the idea of perhaps bruised ego over public service. But make no mistake about it. It's very difficult to be a police officer, as it is to be any other public servant in this country and other countries as well.
But it does not excuse you from upholding your oath of office and responding at the very least. And, frankly, it fatally undermines the confidence in police officers if, on the one hand, they'd like the bad apples, so to speak, to be rooted out, and when there is an opportunity for people to point out, especially when an officer has been fired because their conduct was excessive, according to their own standards, that they are going to retaliate in this way, it reminds me of a lot what happened in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.
And, finally, if I can just say, one of the delays that it causes, their idea of what their due process should look like is largely subscribed to -- ascribed to what happens with the unions.
And unions should not be replacing the criminal due process system or thwarting it or delaying it indefinitely. This was a DA who took some action. We will see if he can prove his case.
But to say we won't show up because accountability is knocking on the door is really unfortunate.
TAPPER: And, Van, I want to play this video that you obtained, part of a video, an interview that Rayshard Brooks did earlier this year, talking about his efforts to get his life back together after being released from prison.
Let's play a quick part of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYSHARD BROOKS, SHOT BY ATLANTA POLICE: Some of the system could, you know, look at us as individuals. We do have lives.
It was just a mistake we made, and not just do us as if we are animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And, Van, this is at the heart of an op-ed you just wrote for CNN.com.
JONES: Yes, the story of Rayshard is not just a story about policing. It's also a story about probation.
I think people don't understand, but we will learn, I believe, why this police officer decided to shoot a man in the back twice. But why did he run? Why did Rayshard run in the first place? He was on probation.
And our probation system is so punitive and so entangled, with so many catch-22s, you can go back to prison if you don't commit any new crime at all. Any contact with a police officer means you're going to go back to prison. So he was not just looking at, oh, a little citation for public drunkenness.
He was looking at losing everything, and going back to prison possibly for a year or more over being drunk in public. And he panicked.
If we want real reform, right now, we have police that have too little oversight. And we have people coming home from prison that, frankly, have too much oversight. A nun who has not committed any new crime on probation could still go back to prison just for being late to a meeting or not paying a fine or having any kind of contact with law enforcement, even if it's minor.
And that creates a level of anxiety and desperation in these communities, because we got 4.5 million people on probation and parole, two million in prison. 4.5 million, twice as many, on probation and parole. It is an invisible problem, but it creates that desperation.
And so that -- the need for police reform and probation reform collided on that parking lot. And it cost Rayshard his life. I just wanted people to hear his voice, as a dad, as somebody who was trying to get his life back together, who was trying to get a job, who really, you can see in the interview, he's desperately trying to turn it around and believes that he can.
And he winds up dead on a parking lot. And I would say to police officers in Atlanta -- I'm from a law enforcement family -- please, if you're frustrated with the way the system works, and you're going to abandon the community, don't be so mad at these young people when they get frustrated, and they abandon things you want them to do.
All of us have to stay in this together, let the system work, stick with it, and push it through. But the level of frustration you feel on one day is a level of frustration people have felt in communities for a very long time.
But you still get to have a day in court. Rayshard didn't.
TAPPER: All right, Van Jones and Laura Coates, thank you so much for your time today and your thoughts. We always -- as always, we appreciate it.
Coming up next: There are 10 states that now have the highest levels of coronavirus cases that they have had since the pandemic began. And one state is warning, they're running out of room in the intensive care units.
Plus, the acceleration in cases is just one part of President Trump's tough week. The Supreme Court now blocking one of his efforts against so-called Dreamers, and a former top adviser calling Trump unfit for office.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our health lead today, with 118,000 plus in the United States dead from coronavirus, the number that keeps sadly growing, President Trump falsely told the American people that coronavirus is, quote, fading away.
That's not true. Ten U.S. states are seeing their highest number of new cases since the crisis began and some health experts say one of those states, Florida, could become the next epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.
But as CNN's Erica Hill reports, every state is continuing to reopen. And one source tells CNN that the White House is simply in denial.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Record single day highs for new cases.
Just over 2,500 added in Arizona, more than 3,200 recorded in Florida today.
DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Florida has always made the stuff of nightmares, I think, for me.
HILL: New modeling predicts that state could become the next epicenter. The president dismissing the data.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look, the numbers are very miniscule compared to what it was. It's dying out.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable, they just don't believe science and they don't believe authority. And that's unfortunate, because, you know, science is truth.
HILL: Florida is one of 10 states posting their highest seven-day average for new cases, as 23 states report an uptick in cases over the past week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing is real.
HILL: In Texas and Arizona, governors refusing to mandate face coverings statewide as local officials push to add their own citing the solid science.
DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Wearing a mask or not wearing a mask shouldn't be how you -- how you're going to vote in the upcoming election. It's really about protecting yourself from an infection.
HILL: When it comes to infection, those with type A blood have a higher risk of catching the virus and developing severe symptoms. Type O has the lowest risk according to new research just published in "The New England Journal of Medicine". Football likely sidelined this fall. Dr. Fauci telling CNN's Dr.
Sanjay Gupta: Unless players are essentially in a bubble, insulated from the community and tested nearly every day, it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall.
NCAA just approved plans for preseason practice. College football still slated for kickoff on August 29th.
HILL: And some big news out of California, Governor Newsom saying that face coverings are now mandated across the state. And that would supersede any local ordinances. He said, he's just seen too many people without face coverings, and that, Jake, he doesn't want to risk losing the progress that's been made.
TAPPER: All right. Erica Hill in New York for us, thank you so much.
Coming up next, the focus on Florida. We're going to talk to Dr. Gupta about the alarming signs that the state could soon be the next coronavirus epicenter in the U.S. Is that a fair assessment?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Sticking with our health lead. All eyes are on Florida after new model found that the state has, quote, all the markings of the next large epicenter for new coronavirus cases.
Joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
And, Sanjay, we should note that previous predictions of Florida was going to be hit super hard, did not come to fruition at that time. It was not hit as hard as New York was in March or April. These are new projections from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania showing that they think that Florida could be next.
Give us your best assessment of what might happen.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think the reason New York was hit earlier, it's coastal city, big airport, international airport. They had a lot of people coming in that were probably carrying the virus. That's why some of these places, including Seattle, and California were hit early.
I think there's always been concern about Florida, a lot of travel back and forth. But then you super impose on that they closed late and they opened early. I mean, this is well-known. I mean, if -- as more people are out and about either closing late or opening early, you're going to see the rate of infection increase. I think the real concern from a medical standpoint, Jake, is that the
numbers are going to go up as places reopen. We know that. Florida has a more vulnerable population, a more elderly population. People are more likely to have pre-existing conditions. And remember, flattening the curve was all about trying to keep people out of the hospital. It's harder in a place like Florida, especially when you see as quickly as the numbers are rising there.
TAPPER: Florida joins nine other states, including Texas and Arizona and both Carolinas, that are seeing right now a record high seven-day average of new cases per day. Texas also reported a record number of hospitalizations but none of these statements are retracting in terms of the reopening measures. Do you think they should?
Should they -- I mean, that happened in South Korea. There would be -- there would be -- go to phase two, then there'd be an outbreak, they take a step back, bring it back to phase one. Should these states consider that?
GUPTA: I think they absolutely have to consider that. I think that they may not have -- they may not be able to make that decision in a while. As the numbers go up, you know, significantly higher, the decision may get made for them in terms of just the virus circulating as quickly as it might.
I think the thing that strikes me, Jake, there is a middle ground. It's not just open or shut. And we've talked about this for months now. But the idea of wearing masks and physical distancing, we have plenty of data from around the world that it works. And yet, you know, the people who are so against, I think, shutting things back down are also the people who aren't doing anything to prevent that from happening, right, by actually really advocating and even mandating these masks and physical distancing.
We're seeing a lot of behavior that's just going to cause the virus to spread even more.
TAPPER: One Trump administration official, one -- an individual who is close to the coronavirus task force, told CNN that the White House doesn't want to, quote, deal with the reality of the fact that cases are rising in that country. And there's a "Wall Street Journal" interview in which Trump said --