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Fired Atlanta Officer Faces Felony Murder, Other Charges; Bolton Book Says Trump Asked Xi to Help Him Get Reelected; Trump Accuses Bolton of Breaking the Law; Trump Campaign Says Supporters Attend Rally at Own Risk; Virus Rates Surging in Oklahoma as Trump Rally Nears. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 18, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church live from CNN center.

Ahead this hour, a fired police officer is charged with felony murder less than a week after shooting a black man in the back in Atlanta.

Bolton bombshell -- Donald Trump's former national security adviser trashes his old boss in a new tell-all book.

And rally at your own risk. President Trump heads back to the campaign trail despite warnings that his supporters may not be safe from COVID- 19.

A first, a good first step. That is how the attorney for Rayshard Brooks' family is describing the charges against the fired Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Brooks in a restaurant parking lot last Friday night. The Fulton County Georgia District Attorney announced 11 charges in total including felony murder against Garrett Rolfe. The second officer who was on the scene is also facing charges. CNN's Ryan Young has the latest now from Atlanta.


PAUL HOWARD, Jr., FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: These are the 11 charges against Officer Rolfe. The first charge is felony murder. This is the death 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 is for a felony murder conviction would be life, life without parole, or the death penalty.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fulton County's District Attorney Paul Howard announced charges against the two officers involved in Rayshard Brooks shooting.

HOWARD: At the time that the shot was fired, the utterance made by Officer Rolfe was, "I got him." The city of Atlanta says you cannot even fire a Taser at someone who is running away, so you certainly can't fire a gun, a handgun, at someone who is running away. YOUNG: Brooks' widow was inside the courtroom as the district attorney's team displayed enlarged photographs showing the last moments of his life. It all started Friday night. The two officers responded to a call about a man sleeping in a car and blocking the Wendy's drive through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo! Yo! What's up, my man?

YOUNG: For 20 minutes the officers talked to Brooks, but after Brooks failed a breathalyzer test, he resisted arrest when officers tried to handcuff him for suspected drunken driving. The three are seen here fighting on the ground. Brooks runs away, taking one of the officer's Taser. As the officer chased him, Brooks points the Taser over the shoulder at Rolfe who then opens fire. After Brooks was shot, the DA said Rolfe kicked him.

HOWARD: The possible sentence for kicking Mr. Brooks is from 1 to 20 years.

YOUNG: The other officer, Devin Brosnan, also faces charges for aggravated assault and two counts of violation of oath.

HOWARD: At the time of the photograph, he is standing on the body of Mr. Brooks.

YOUNG: The DA says Brosnan has turned into a state witness.

HOWARD: He has decided to testify on behalf of the state.

YOUNG: Something Brosnan's attorney denies adding that Officer Brosnan has not agree to testify nor plead guilty. Saying his actions were justified and that he feared for his safety around him.

Ryan Young, CNN Atlanta.


CHURCH: Areva Martin is a CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney and she joins us now from Los Angeles. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks has now been charged with felony murder and 10 additional charges. The other officer, Devin Brosnan, faces three charges and the DA says he agreed to be a state witness but his legal team now denies that. How significant is all this in terms of justice and police accountability?

MARTIN: Well, it's a very significant development today, Rosemary.


Because not only did the district attorney charge both of these officers, he threw the proverbial book at both the officers, particularly the one Rolfe who was involved in the shooting of Mr. Brooks. And that again, didn't charge him with a lesser offense, charged him with the most serious offense of felony murder. And in the state of Georgia that offense carries life in prison without the parole and even possibly the death penalty. So these are very serious charges filed against both officers.

CHURCH: Then we also learned Wednesday for the first time that the former officer who shot Rayshard Brooks said, I got him, and kicked Brooks while the other officer stood on Brooks' shoulder. We also learned they didn't provide medical aid to him for over two minutes. How significant are these shocking details from a legal perspective and how big a part did they play in the charges the officers now face?

MARTIN: Yes, Rosemary, those developments today were indeed shocking. They play into the narrative that African-American men who have encounters with the police are not only 2.5 times more likely to end up dead as Mr. Brooks did, but that also certain police officers don't see African-American men as human. They see them as less than human. And to not only stand on his body but to kick him after he's already been shot twice in the back just really shows the lack of humanity, they had for him.

The excited utterance, which is what it was. That's statement, we got him or I got him, will be very significant as the jurors have to weigh his state of mind. And as the district attorney indicated, that comment and the gestures and actions of these officers after Mr. Brooks is laying there dying, you know, those and that's statement doesn't suggest that they were fearful of him or that they had any remorse with respect to the shooting. In fact, they play into this narrative that they were purposefully trying to shoot him or that that one officer intentionally tried to shoot him. Very disturbing details.

CHURCH: And Areva, just finally, African-Americans have been dealing with police brutality for hundreds of years and now through all this video evidence the rest of America and indeed the world are seeing what goes on for themselves. Because of this, of course, there's a possibility that things may be very different this time around. Do you think that's the case in terms of police reforms, accountability and justice?

MARTIN: I think we're having some very difficult conversations, Rosemary, but I'm cautiously optimistic. One thing happens in these cases and it's almost like a playbook. And that is we have intense media attention around these high-profile cases. There're protests that happen in cities and in this case all over the world, and we start to have these very difficult and uncomfortable conversations around race. And just as we get very close, we tend to pull back, we retreat, we recoil because it is so difficult to have these conversations.

And we see that happening with the executive order signed by Donald Trump which is more window dressing. Nothing with any real substance or teeth. We saw that with the GOP police reform bill rolled that was, you know, out this morning again. Not very much substance, you know, not any real consequences to the kinds of actions of the police officers we saw in Rayshard Brooks case. So the conversation has started yet again, but where that conversation

ends up, it's not clear to me that it's going to end in the kind of sweeping and broad criminal justice reform and policing reform that we need to end the kind of violence against African-American men and women that we've seen played out over the last several months.

CHURCH: Areva Martin, I thank you for your legal analysis.

MARTIN: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton is slamming his old boss. Accusing President Trump of asking China to help him win reelection in 2020. In his upcoming book, Bolton claims Mr. Trump is preoccupied with political survival. Bolton writes, I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, just one day after the Justice Department sought to block John Bolton from publishing his forthcoming book, the former national security advisor is releasing several excerpts of his book. Publishing an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" and also providing copies of the book to "The Wall Street Journal," "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times," and now CNN has also obtained a copy of the book.

John Bolton is making a series of explosive allegations about how President Trump has conducted himself as President in office, particularly in the realm of foreign policy.


And amid those allegations that John Bolton is making, one in particular strikes at this issue of President Trump seeking the help of foreign adversaries in the U.S. election. We know, of course, that was the subject of President Trump's -- the impeachment that he faced with regards to seeking help from Ukraine. Now John Bolton is also saying that the President appeared to have sought help from China as it relates to the 2020 election. Let me read you a part of this excerpt that ambassador Bolton wrote in "The Wall Street Journal."

It says: Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility to China among Democrats. Trump then stunningly turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, eluding to China's economic capability and pleading with Xi -- that's Chinese President Xi Jinping -- to ensure he'd went. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybean and wheat in the electoral outcome I would print Trump's exact words, but governments prepublication review process has decided otherwise.

Now what ambassador Bolton was alluding to there is the fact that he did have to submit his manuscript to the White House's National Security Council for review to determine if there was any classified information. There were several edits that were made this book to take out classified information, but the Justice Department and the White House are claiming that there is still classified information in this book. And President Trump in fact is responding to ambassador Bolton by alleging just that. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very simple. I mean as much as it's going to be broken -- this is highly classified. That's the highly stage. It's highly classified information and he did not have approval. That's come out now very loud and very strong.

DIAMOND: Now even as President Trump claims there is classified information in this book that should not be released to the public, he's also saying that what ambassador Bolton is writing in this book isn't true. In an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" the President is also calling John Bolton a liar. So the President, it seems, would like to have it both ways here. Both saying that there's sensitive classified information that shouldn't be out there and also saying that what ambassador Bolton is writing simply isn't true.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Natasha Lindstaedt. She teaches government at the University of Essex in England. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So of all the excerpts released from John Bolton's bombshell book, the one that stands out the most is the one that claims President Trump asked China's President Xi to help him win reelection in the 2020 presidential election. It's a stunning accusation. A U.S. President seeking personal, political benefit from a foreign adversary. What is your reaction to this?

LINDSTAEDT: Right, I mean and it's just one of many stunning revelations. In some ways it's not surprising given what we know about this President who operates like a mob boss and who not only doesn't have an understanding of the rule of law but just doesn't care about the rule of law. Everything is always about him and about furthering his chances for reelection and that's what Bolton said. That he was making every decision based on his own personal needs. So we're seeing huge examples of abuse of power again and again.

So the Ukraine case was just the tip of the iceberg. He was doing the same thing with China, trying to get Xi to intervene in helping him win in 2020 by buying agricultural product from states that he needed support from. So this sets a pattern, demonstrates a pattern of abuse of power and it also demonstrates that he's not knowledgeable. There are a lot of examples of him not knowing basic facts. Like whether or not Finland was an independent country are part of Russia. That he didn't know that the U.K. was a nuclear power. And Bolton also portrays a president that was incredibly reckless. Making comments that it would be cool to invade Venezuela. So this is coming at a time incredibly when Trump is very unpopular and this book is definitely not helping matters.

CHURCH: Yes, certainly a lot of revelations there. And Bolton also wrote this in reference to China's minority Uighur population and I'll read it out.

At the opening dinner of the Osaka G20 meeting in June of 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. 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.

So here we have a U.S. President telling a foreign leader that it's perfectly acceptable to lock up and ethnic minority. Essentially supporting the abuse of human rights. Your reaction to that.

LINDSTAEDT: It is literally the opposite of what any U.S. President has ever done. It is completely insane that he would agree or at least offer some support for this.


But I think it demonstrates his authoritarian tendencies. His proclivities towards authoritarianism and his admiration of authoritarian leaders. And he had also mentioned similar things to Xi about wanting to go after journalists. That he wanted to suppress journalists because they're telling the truth. They're saying things that he doesn't like. And so he's always had a lot in common with dictators and I think that's another example from the book that demonstrates this.

CHURCH: Right, and Bolton's book also claims that President Trump sought to stop criminal probes to give personal favors to dictators he liked.

Saying this: The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life.

And, Natasha, this exactly why critics say Bolton should have revealed this information earlier. Here's what Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said that in a tweet.

Bolton's staff were asked to testify before the House to Trump's abuses, and did. They had a lot to lose and showed real courage.

When Bolton was asked, he refused and said he'd sue if subpoenaed. Instead he saved it for a book. Bolton may be an author but is no patriot.

He does have a point here, doesn't he? All this explosive information being revealed by Bolton would have been useful during President Trump's impeachment inquiry. But as Schiff points out, Bolton chose to hang on to it until he released his book. So what will likely come of all these revelations now, what might be the ramifications. LINDSTAEDT: But I just want to also agree that the Democrats are

right in this instance that he should've come forward. Instead he sort of left it up to the Senate which he knew he wasn't going to get subpoenaed and then he saving it for book sales. And of course this has been a number one best seller in terms of presales we're seeing on Amazon already. So that wasn't very patriotic, I'd have to agree with that.

What it means for Trump, I mean we know that he has this shrinking base that isn't going to be bothered by this much. But I think there are some Republicans that are starting to see the writing on the wall. They're seeing military generals come forward and say they can't vote for Trump. They're seeing expert Republican presidents and also former Secretary of State Colin Powell saying he can't vote for Trump.

So this is just one other piece to the muzzle in terms of the Republicans and trying to figure out are we going to stick with this person who is not democratic in any way, who's completely corrupt, who is not knowledgeable, who's really dragging the country into the ground, who is very divisive, or are we going to vote for a more moderate candidate that the Democrats have offered us. I think none of this is good for Trump at the moment. And we're seeing his disapproval rating is as high as ever at 55 percent.

CHURCH: We shall watch to see what happens in November. Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you so much for your analysis. Appreciate it.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: Well this Saturday thousands of people will gather in Oklahoma for a Trump campaign rally in the midst of a pandemic. How smart is that? We will ask a CNN medical analyst to weigh in.



CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump is holding a 2020 campaign rally this Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where coronavirus cases are rising. Thousands of supporters are expected to attendee despite warnings from health officials to stay home. Our CNN's Jim Acosta reports the Trump campaign will not take responsibility for anyone who might get sick by attending this event.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With 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 has taken certain measures on, to make sure this is a safe rally. Temperature checks, hand sanitizers and masks, so we are taking precautions.

ACOSTA: 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): The 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 post by attending a baseball game. But hold on, pro sports events with crowds have been scrapped for weeks.

MCENANY: As if 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 or not to go to the rally.

ACOSTA: 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, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The people who come to the rally, they don't care about them except as a photo op because it's going to kill some of them and some of their family and friends.

TRUMP: The disinfectant there knocks it out.

ACOSTA: Ever since the president suggested Americans could inject themselves with disinfectants to ward off COVID-19, Mr. Trump has 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, PRESUMPTIVE U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We've lost lives. We've lost businesses. We've lost paychecks. And now thanks to Donald Trump's bungling, we may lose some of the progress we had begun to make, all because he's lost interest.

ACOSTA: Asked whether he would attend the Tulsa rally, task force Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is 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 officials said the President would support proposals being pushed by GOP Senator Tim Scott, aimed at cleaning up law enforcement practices. [04:25:00]

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): We hear you. I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who's concerned when he is stopped by the law enforcement officers. We see you.

ACOSTA: Democrats insist the Republican bill doesn't go far enough.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: We don't need a window dressing, toothless bill. We need to take action that is real.

ACOSTA (on camera): 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 Vic President Mike Pence who contracted the virus. McEnany said the masks are recommended but not required at the White House. Another reminder that President Trump and his team aren't really interested in being public health role models on the issue.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: For more I'm joined now from New York by Dr. Celine Gounder. She is a CNN medical analyst and host of the epidemic podcast. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So more than 117,000 deaths in the United States from COVID- 19 and cases are increasing in about 21 states, including Oklahoma, and yet President Trump is going ahead with a rally in that state, in the city of Tulsa Saturday, that could potentially see 20,000 people packed in tightly together. How concerned are you about this?

GOUNDER: Well, Rosemary, I think it really depends on what additional measures are being taken by his supporters. If they are all wearing masks, if they're practicing good hand hygiene, and to the degree possible in a packed rally, trying to maintain six feet apart, they probably can minimize most of the risk. It is after all outdoors.

But I think the biggest red flag for me is that many Trump supporters, including the President himself, have expressed an antagonism to wearing masks. And that has been shown now in country after country that is practicing rigorous use of masks. Whether it's Japan or Singapore, South Korea, that it really does make a difference in terms of transmission. So I'm concerned that that message hasn't gotten through and that people won't be taking the precautions necessary to protect themselves.

CHURCH: And that's a valid concern because we know that participants at this rally will not be required to wear masks. We even heard from President Trump's press secretary that those in attendance assume a personal risk. So what would your advice be to those potential participants? GOUNDER: Look, you know, I think the data is very clear. We should

all be wearing masks when we're around people who are not from our own household. That's the best way to be preventing transmission of the virus. I think, for example, Japan has not had to implement very strict lockdown is the way many other countries have. And they've actually been able to do a pretty good job of controlling the virus. You know, wearing masks complemented with testing and contact tracing and isolation. But this is clearly a measure that works. The Southeast Asian countries had experience with SARS before this. They know what the risks are, what worked in that context and I think it would behoove us to really take a page from that and learn from that.

CHURCH: Yes, it's such an easy solution and yet so much resistance in this country to the wearing of masks. I wanted to ask you this, because the White House coronavirus task force has been side lined for about a month now. And one White House official close to that task force told CNN that they just don't want to deal with the reality of it. They're in denial, referring to the Trump administration there. And we've seen the images of President Trump and Vice President Pence not wearing masks, not social distancing. Giving the impression that that everything has moved on. What could be the consequences of a leadership that essentially ignores a health crisis of this magnitude?

GOUNDER: Well, to be fair, Rosemary, I don't think it's just the Trump administration. I think government officials, I think the news media, for example, has gotten sort of fatigued with the COVID story. I think my own colleagues at the hospital are really tired and burned out and the general public, too, of course. And I think it's a natural human response, but as we let our guard down, we really are exposing ourselves to increased transmission. And I'm profoundly concerned for what this will mean for us in the fall.

CHURCH: Dr. Gounder, always good to talk with you Thank you so much.

GOUNDER: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Well, some U.S. police officers have had enough and they are leaving their posts. Others are speaking out wanting to tell their side of the story. Coming up, what America's police are saying about the protests and why some think there's a better way.