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Six Trump Campaign Staffers Working On Tulsa Rally Have Coronavirus; Trump On Firing Of U.S. Attorney Berman: I'm Not Involved; Rodney Bryant, Atlanta Police Department Interim Chief, Holds A Press Conference. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 20, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello again, you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin with breaking news out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and with just hours to go before the president holds that massive campaign rally, we have learned six campaign staffers doing advance work on this event have tested positive for the coronavirus. It's coming directly from the campaign, and they say in a statement, no COVID positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today's rallies or near attendees and elected officials.

[16:00:04]

But even before this news about the staffers, health experts had warned that this rally had all the makings of a super spreader. That's because the Trump campaign has invited 19,000 people to be under the same roof in the middle of a pandemic and in a state that has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Here's a live look inside the Bank of Oklahoma Center. Inside the venue, masks are optional. As you can see, social distancing not really happening here. And so, those attending tonight were asked to sign a waiver, promising not to sue the Trump campaign or the venue if they get sick.

For more on this breaking news, let's get right out to CNN's Ryan Nobles, who's inside the Bank of Oklahoma Center.

Ryan, what else do we know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, I can just tell you a little bit about what the process was like for us to get inside the BOK Center just a few minutes ago. Every member of the press had to go through a temperature check.

There were a number of people sitting behind tables with hand sanitizer and masks available to everyone, but once you get inside this arena, there is little to no social distancing practiced at all, despite the fact that there is signage throughout the arena telling folks to take COVID-19 precautions, and that includes practicing social distancing if able to.

But it's just impossible, Ana. This is an arena of 19,000 people. The seats are right on top of everyone. And honestly, many of the people that are inside this arena don't seem to be all that concerned about practicing social distancing.

And they're going to be in here for quite a while. The doors opened at around 2:00 local time. It's not until 8:00 Eastern Time that the actual event takes place.

So even before President Trump takes the stage, many of these people will have been in this environment for more than five hours.

Now, the campaign has said that they are taking precautions, offering hand sanitizer, offering those masks, and that every single person that comes into this building will get a temperature check. Now, they also say that this effort that they took to test every single member of the Trump team for COVID and that it did reveal that six staffers did come down with the virus is an example of taking those safety precautions, and that they immediately removed those people from the mix.

But of course, it is hard to argue, and it's hard to ignore the concerns from public health officials not only within the president's own administration but from those here on the ground in Tulsa, the local director of the health department here in Tulsa suggesting that this rally be postponed to another date.

Ana, that, of course, is not going to happen. The president is expected to be here later tonight along with the vice president and it's expected that some 20,000 people will be here to see it -- Ana.

CABRERA: And, of course, we know asymptomatic cases are very prevalent as well in general.

Ryan Nobles, thank you for your reporting.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is outside. He's joining us now.

Gary, you spoke to some of the Trump supporters who were in line about whether they had any concerns about attending tonight's rally amid this pandemic. Fill us in.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, there's very little concern and to add what Ryan said, this is the line of people going into the BOK Center right now. You were offered masks as you got in here, but you're not mandated to wear them, and therefore, most people are not wearing them. I would estimate 1 out of 10 people have a mask on and you can see out here too, there's little or no social distancing.

What's happening here at this rally site in downtown Tulsa is night and day compared to what's happening at one of the biggest companies in Tulsa, a city that's been hit hard by COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Trump supporters started lining up for his Tulsa rally days ago. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plus, I want to be front row, front and center.

TUCHMAN: The daily number of new COVID cases has skyrocketed in Tulsa County at the highest level yet. Thousands of people will be inside this arena and outside it for many hours. Masks are being given out, but they're not required to be worn, and social distancing is not mandatory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have absolutely no concern whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just doesn't concern me at all.

TUCHMAN: Rally-goers must agree not to hold the Trump campaign responsible if they contract COVID, which is not a red flag to anyone we talked to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I French kiss anybody? No. But I can stand and when I went to a dinner house over in Nebraska, nobody had masks on, and the lady said, you want more coffee? I felt normal. Normal.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So nothing about this concerns you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None. Zero.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But in this very same city --

(on camera): Why did you decide to close this plant?

RODNEY THARP, MANAGER, NAVISTAR IC SCHOOL BUS PLANT: Well, it's for the safety of our employees.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Rodney Tharp is the manager of the Navistar IC school bus plant in Tulsa where about 1,400 people work.

THARP: Last year, we were the number one market share of building school buses in America.

TUCHMAN: Tharp shut down his plant this week, confirmed employee COVID cases have been rapidly climbing over the last couple of weeks.

THARP: I purchased 1,400 COVID kits.

TUCHMAN: And earlier this week, all the employees who are still being paid were told to come in to get tested.

[16:05:03]

Based on the results, the decision will be made how long the plant has to stay closed. When it's operating, nearly 300 buses are made here each week. Lots of money is now being lost, but the plant manager says this was the responsible decision in an increasingly vulnerable city.

THARP: I've got to make sure people are safe.

TUCHMAN: Roberto Pineda is one of his people, a veteran at the plant, a husband and father of three. ROBERTO PINEDA, TULSA SCHOOL BUS PLANT EMPLOYEE: I think it was the

right decision and for our safety, not only my safety but the safety of my family, because I mean, I get to bring that home if I do get it.

TUCHMAN: Bruce Dart is the health director of the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County.

(on camera): With thousands of people in this arena, many of -- most without masks, how worried are you about a dramatic spike in cases in this county?

BRUCE DART, TULSA HEALTH DEPARTMENT: You know, in any event with people not wearing masks, we're concerned about the spike.

TUCHMAN: But this many people, thousands of people?

DART: We're concerned. I mean, people coming together without taking precautions is what causes the virus to transmit. It gives the virus the ability to transmit from person to person. So, of course, we're concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm not going to get it. I'm not going to give it to someone else.

TUCHMAN: How do you know that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the same thing you get a damn cold.

TUCHMAN: One city, two completely different visions, a factory where people are relieved not to be inside because of the health threat and an upcoming rally where people can't wait to get inside despite the health threat.

(voice-over): The plant manager says he's prepared for the possibility of many more of his employees testing positive.

THARP: We take it very seriously and it will continue to drive our energies until we drive it out of this plant.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: All the COVID testing is supposed to be in this weekend, and then a decision will be made when this factory could reopen.

Ana, one more thing I want to mention to you. There is elaborate security here for this event. Tulsa police, state police, county sheriffs, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and firearms, policemen on roofs, policemen in helicopters, lots of money is being spent to try to keep this all safe -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Gary Tuchman, thank you.

CNN's Martin Savidge is also in Tulsa for us.

Martin, the crowd is huge. You, I understand, are at the far end from where Gary Tuchman is. What are you hearing from the people in the crowd where you are? Has news that six members of Trump's advance team tested positive for COVID-19 reached them?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, what we're focused on are the protesters. There are not many of them but there's a group of 75, most of them seem to be associated with Black Lives Matter. But there are other groups as well. They're all opposed to President Trump.

And then they're mixing in with, of course, those that are supporters of the president, so you've got the yellow line that is supposed to be the dividing line on this street between the two groups, but effectively, it's not really working.

I will point out that even the protesters here for the most part are not practicing social distancing, but many more of them are wearing masks than of the Trump supporters that we've seen.

Again, it's been peaceful. They've been parading back and forth. There's been a lot of in your face kind of conversations, but nothing beyond that. And authorities are just out of range here, keeping a very close eye, both the Tulsa police as well as the National Guard.

So they're ready to move in if they have to. But this is the way it's been for about the past hour now, and for the most part, it's likely the way it will continue to be. There's a large group of onlookers as well, but it's peaceful, Ana.

CABRERA: Martin, how close is that to where this event is taking place tonight?

SAVIDGE: Well, it's outside of what you would call the exclusion zone, so in other words, this is public space. It's probably, I would say, less than half a mile. Would the president hear it? I doubt it. Would he see it? I doubt that too.

But the protesters will be heard at least by the people of Tulsa.

CABRERA: OK, Martin Savidge, reporting in Tulsa, we'll check back, thank you.

We are also following additional breaking news. One of America's most powerful prosecutors has been fired. We'll have the latest on this developing showdown next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:09]

CABRERA: Welcome back.

I want to get straight out to the White House where President Trump spoke moments ago just ahead of his Tulsa rally. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a very good decision in the John Bolton book case, and the judge was very powerful in his statements on classified information and very powerful also in the fact that the country will get the money, any money he makes. So I hope a lot of -- well, I probably don't hope that, but whatever he makes, he's going to be giving back, in my opinion, based on the ruling, he's going to be giving back.

I think the judge was very smart and very indignant at what Bolton did. I think it was a great ruling. Obviously, the book was already out and leaked and everything else, but he leaked classified information, so he's got a big problem.

The event in Oklahoma is unbelievable. The crowds are unbelievable. They haven't seen anything like it, and we will go there now to give a hopefully good speech. We're going to see a lot of great people, lot of great friends, and pretty much that's it, OK?

REPORTER: Why did you fire Geoffrey Berman, Mr. President? Why did you fire him?

TRUMP: Well, that's all up to the attorney general. Attorney General Barr is working on that. That's his department, not my department.

But we have a very capable attorney general, so that's really up to him. I'm not involved.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: India?

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: The U.S. economy is doing amazingly well. That's right. Thank you.

I would say that the numbers that we're doing are record-setting numbers. We have record-setting job numbers. We have record-setting, as you know, retail sales numbers that just came out.

[16:15:01]

The U.S. economy is doing very, very well.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) between India and China?

TRUMP: It's a very tough situation. We're talking to India. We're talking to China. They've got a big problem there.

They've come to blows. We'll see what happens. We'll try and help them out.

REPORTER: Mr. President (INAUDIBLE) staffers tested positive for COVID. What do you say about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Again, that was just moments ago at the White House as the president is gearing up to head to Oklahoma now for this rally set to get under way in just a few hours.

I want to bring in Kristen Holmes, who is at the White House for us.

And, Kristen, obviously, he mentioned a few different things. He mentioned John Bolton's book. He was asked about Attorney General Barr, you know, talking in the controversy surrounding Geoffrey Berman at the SDNY office.

He said he had nothing to do with his removal, even though Barr today in a letter moments ago said that the president was firing Berman from his office. He also didn't say anything about the six members of his campaign team who have now tested positive for coronavirus, who are part of the advance team in Tulsa.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, that's right. And just -- we'll take these two things separately and I'll start with the members of the advance team. This, of course, is not a narrative that the White House wants, the campaign doesn't want, president Trump doesn't want.

They have been saying there are no cases in Oklahoma, that the case count is very low. They have not required people to wear masks. They are not requiring social distancing. So any narrative about anyone close to the president getting COVID from being in Tulsa is not one that the president wants to engage, and clearly, that's what we saw there when he was asked that question. He ignored it and continued to walk away.

Now, I want to touch a little bit more on that breaking news there. You mentioned this. President Trump here saying he had nothing to do with it. He wasn't involved. It was all in the hands of the attorney general.

Well, of course, we know that's not what the attorney general himself is saying. In this letter, Barr says that the president was the one that was firing Geoffrey Berman, so this idea that the president had nothing to do with it, well, it's clearly a conflicting narrative as to what is coming out of the Department of Justice, and I do want to note here that President Trump has been weighing replacing Berman since at least the middle of 2018. He got more and more frustrated with the SDNY, with that investigation into Michael Cohen, and believed that the investigation into Rudy Giuliani, which was being done by the SDNY, was really meant to damage him, him being the president, politically.

So, he has been talking about this behind closed doors for roughly a year and a half, if not more. This is just what we know of right now and the SDNY was -- had a lot of investigations going on into President Trump's associates. They also had opened that investigation into the inaugural committee, looking at those financial records, seeing if there was any sort of foreign legal money coming into that committee. So, this had been a thorn in president Trump's side for some time. And

again, president saying he had nothing to do with it, well, that is completely opposite of what the statement said, that said it actually came directly from President Trump, and I will note, there were a lot of questions here as to whether or not this could be done, and this kind of closes that door, because Berman is appointed, there was some questions as to whether or not he could actually be fired.

Obviously, through the statement, through this letter from Barr, we have learned that that, in fact, is not true. He is not protected and he is now fired.

CABRERA: And, Kristen, before I let you go, what do we know about the president's mindset heading into his rally tonight?

HOLMES: Look, this is all about restarting his campaign. He has been holed up here, only taking very few trips. We know he went to Dallas, he went a couple times to Camp David, but he wants to be out there on the road. They need to restart this campaign.

And it's not just the president or the campaign. They're looking at these poll numbers. They know that it doesn't look good.

But aides close to the president say they believe that if he gets out there, starts communicating with his base again, one, he'll get that energy back, get that momentum back, but two, that that's how he's going to, quote, unquote, win. Of course, coming from the campaign, that by connecting with his base, by restarting this campaign, getting out there, that is what's going to help him in November.

And I will note again, the narrative of people getting sick, we cannot stress this enough, is not one that this White House or campaign wants to deal with. They want to focus only on the economy. They want to be done with coronavirus.

So it does not help that these campaign officials, these advance team, and just to note, those are the people who go on the ground early, who help with the set-up, they make sure everything's in place so the president arrives to a seamless event. It does not help them with their messaging when you have six of those members of the team testing positive and now being rushed to quarantine, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Kristen Holmes at the White House for us. Thank you.

Back after this.

(COMMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:24:10]

CABRERA: We are following breaking news.

One of America's most powerful prosecutors has now been fired, according to a letter sent to Geoffrey Berman from Attorney General Bill Barr. This happened just in the last couple hours. It comes after Barr announced last night that Berman was stepping

down, a move the attorney for the Southern District of New York also known for investigating a number of President Trump's associates, quickly denied.

Joining us now, CNN Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, we're learning the attorney general asked President Trump to fire Berman. What more can you tell us?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana.

Look, the -- there was a quirk in the -- in this case. It essentially meant that Geoffrey Berman believed, at least, that he couldn't be fired by the attorney general because he's technically sitting in that office as an appointee of the court. You see, the Trump administration never actually got him confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

[16:25:03]

And so he's been sitting there for over three years doing this job without actually getting Senate confirmation, and so because of that, Berman said last night that he wasn't going anywhere because Barr essentially didn't have the power to fire him, and now, Barr has sent a letter in just the last hour to Berman in which he says that, no, you are fired, and the president is doing it, and I believe, Ana, this will be the final answer.

Part of what happened here is that they had a meeting yesterday in New York, and it appears that the two men left the meeting with different understanding of what was supposed to happen. Berman thought that he did not step down. The attorney general believed that he did. And so, that's why we had this standoff for the last 20 hours or so.

CABRERA: Evan, can you clarify who is telling who to do what? Because we just heard moments ago from the president who said, no, I had nothing to do with this. That was all Barr.

PEREZ: You know, so, getting into the mind of the president is not something that I really am able to do. But according to the letter from the attorney general, he says he asked the president to fire Berman, and that the president did that.

Now, the president seems to be trying to practice, maybe, some discipline, which is not a feature that we almost see with the president in which he's saying, look, this is not me. This is the attorney general. This is his idea.

But it does make for some confusion, the fact that the president is saying, I had nothing to do with it when the attorney general in this letter that was just released to us in the past hour is saying, no, the president did this.

So, I suspect that we're going to have to see whether the justice department is going to produce a letter from the president to Geoffrey Berman, a letter directly from the president, saying we're letting you go. That will -- that might be the final answer here to this saga.

CABRERA: Why? Why do they want him fired?

PEREZ: That's a big question. It's not clear to us, necessarily, what really brought this to a head, Ana, but we know that the president has been unhappy with Geoffrey Berman. I think you pointed out that he's been handling some very sensitive cases going back to the Michael Cohen case and we know he's also handling the investigation into Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney.

These are things that have gotten on the president's nerves constantly and the attorney general, as you know, is somebody who has been essentially trying to be the -- to defend the president, and so Berman has shown a streak of independence that is very uncomfortable for people inside this building. I'm here at the Justice Department, and the attorney general doesn't like the fact that Berman has been essentially doing his own thing without, essentially, acknowledging the chain of command, without acknowledging that essentially, his boss can decide things.

So, I think that's really what is at play here, but there's more story here. There's definitely more to be told, and we're trying to figure that out.

CABRERA: OK. Thank you very much, Evan Perez.

We want to get more perspective now, so let's bring in Elie Honig for our cross exam segment here.

Elie, some important context I also want to include.

"The New York Times" is reporting that Geoffrey Berman is a Republican who contributed to the president's campaign. He once worked at the same law firm as Rudy Giuliani.

You are a former assistant U.S. attorney at the SDNY. What's your reaction to all of this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wow, Ana.

Well, first of all, the one thing that we Southern District folks value above everything else is the political independence of the office. I was raised there. I spent eight years there and I was taught you do the right thing without fear or favor, completely separate and apart from politics.

And this looks to me like an attempted political takeover. But I want to say this, if that's the intent here, they will not succeed, because they can fire the boss, but there's still a couple hundred people who will go in there to the SDNY and do their jobs every day. The SDNY will still do its job, and that office will outlast this administration and many more.

CABRERA: We are getting some viewer questions about this. One person asks, how much independence does the SDNY have within the Justice Department? And how does the removal of the U.S. attorney threaten that independence?

HONIG: So, first of all, let's be clear. The SDNY is part of the Justice Department. They are subject to supervision by the attorney general.

But, as Evan said, there's a long history of political independence here. The joke, I guess, is what passes for a joke in legal circles, is that it's the sovereign district of New York because the SDNY is really an entity unto itself in some respects, and the best proof of that is that even in this administration, which has politicized the Justice Department more than most any ever have -- look at the cases they've brought against Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnes, Jeffrey Epstein, Deutsche Bank, Halkbank, all of those entities are close to the president or right around the president, and they've been indicted or they're under investigation.

[16:30:00]

Now, last night was a remarkable turn of events where Barr announced that Geoffrey Berman had stepped down. Geoffrey Berman issued this statement, that I love.

He said, "Our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. And whether Geoffrey Berman is there come Monday or not, that will be the case."

That is the statement. And that made me proud as an SDNY alum.

CABRERA: In Barr's letter, he says, "It is well established that a court-appointed U.S. attorney is subject to removal by the president." He cites a court case, U.S. v. Solomon, saying, it recognizes that the president may, at any time, remove the judicially appointed United States attorney.

What do you think? Is this firing legally sound?

HONIG: Well, we're about to figure that out, I think.

But I don't think the answer is clear cut at all. Definitely, the attorney general cannot fire a U.S. attorney. Now, the president, the answer is maybe.

As Evan said, typically, U.S. attorneys are nominated by the president and then confirmed by the Senate. But Donald Trump did not go that route with the SDNY and other districts.

Instead, they went this alternate route where they were appointed by the attorney general, Jeff sessions, at the time, and then confirmed by judges.

And because of that, there's a legal wrinkle here. There's one federal law that says, in that situation, the only way to replace a person is by nominating and having a new person confirmed. And that takes months.

Now, there's another federal law that says the president can essentially fire the U.S. attorney any time for any reason.

So there's a conflict here. We could be headed for a legal showdown in the courts. It's really up to Geoffrey Berman now if he wants to fight for this.

CABRERA: And I have to ask you about John Bolton's bombshell book and the fight the Trump administration has been waging to keep it from being published.

The president called him whacko John Bolton, and that he must pay a big price for this as others have before him. That was a quote from the president.

The judge ruled today, the book will be released but could Bolton face any liability when this book does come out?

HONIG: Well, so it was no surprise yesterday when the court ruled that we're in the going to stop this book from coming out.

Our Constitution, the first amendment, strongly favors what's called prior restraint, meaning stopping something from coming out before it does.

But Bolton could be on the line here for potential seizure of his profits from this book, because he went through the classification process but he didn't quite get final signoff.

So, the government has a good case here to take his proceeds. So the money from that book could end up in the U.S. Treasury, not in John Bolton's pocket.

Now he also could face, potentially, but I think very unlikely, criminal charges. It is a federal crime to knowingly disclose classified information.

But given that he went through that classification process, I think that's a really difficult charge.

Legalities aside, let's just remember, John Bolton could have spoken up. He could have testified back during impeachment. He chose to stay silent until now.

And I think John Bolton needs to be remembered as somebody who put himself and his book profits ahead of his country.

CABRERA: Elie Honig, as always, thank you.

And by the way, your haircut looks great.

HONIG: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: I know we're all finally coming out of the quarantine and getting our haircuts.

Don't forget, you can submit your own legal questions --

(CROSSTALK)

HONIG: It felt so good.

CABRERA: I know. I know.

CNN.com/opinion. Look for Elie's "CROSS EXAM" segment. And we'll try to answer those every weekend.

All right, just a few hours from now, President Trump will address thousands of his supporters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And there you can see live images inside as those supporters have been waiting in some cases for days to get in. They'll wait a few more hours before they hear from the president directly.

Six of the president's campaign staffers working on this rally ahead of this event have now tested positive for coronavirus. Stay with us for the latest.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:39]

CABRERA: Welcome back. The Atlanta Police Department is holding a press conference right now. It is the interim Atlanta Police Department chief speaking now. Let's listen in.

RODNEY BRYANT, INTERIM CHIEF, ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: How's everyone? Good.

Good afternoon.

I want to take this opportunity to speak to both our officers who serve the Atlanta Police Department and the community that we serve.

A week ago, I was the interim chief of Atlanta Department of Corrections. As you know, I was suddenly and unexpectedly asked to be your interim chief of police during what is obviously a most you tumultuous time in our department.

I see the challenges very clearly before me. Trust me when I tell you your voices are being heard loud and clear. My focus is on your path forward and work is already under way.

Change will not happen overnight. But together, we will make it to the other side of where we are now.

What must be addressed is the availability of police in this city and the ability to respond to 911 calls. It is factual that over the past few days, we've seen higher-than-average number of officers call in sick, which caused us to shift resources to ensure proper coverage.

The explanation for calling out sick varied and include officers questioning their training, officers being challenged and attacked, and unease about officers seeing their colleagues criminally charged so quickly.

Neither APD leadership nor the administration are dismissive of these notions. I want each of you to know that we are in this together, and we support you.

What is immediately evident is that officers feel ordinary undue process steps and usual investigation of complaints against them have been abandoned. And some are questioning how to execute what has been taught to them.

What is also clear is that the public, as well as the police officers, need to gain an understanding about these matters to properly move forward together.

[16:40:07]

Atlanta police officers are some of the best trained officers in this country. Like any organization, we have room for improvement, and we welcome input in that respect. But there has to be an understanding regarding process, SOPs and training.

My proposal is to stand up teams within our office of professional standards that are dedicated to swift, fair, and thorough investigations of certain complex complaints. We simply cannot have investigations drag endlessly while officers are in limbo and members of the community await answers.

Additionally, we will begin reviewing our training programs for improvement. Expanding in areas of de-escalation, implicit bias, and peer intervention.

It is important to understand that our training and our disciplinary process are in a place for the protection of our officers and the citizens we serve. They must both be adhered to for clarity and understanding.

Make no mistake, I will defend our disciplinary process. And I am committed to fair and thorough investigations and upholding due process.

As for the primary objective, the city -- the safety of this city, that of -- I'm sorry. The safety of our city that our brothers and sisters on this force, though some officers are in a space of concern and choose to sick out due to the fear of protests, many officers continue to answer the call.

Over the past few days, we have stretched our resources to address demonstrators simultaneously responding to 911 calls. This volume of activity can be taxing on any department.

We are the largest police department in the state and have the resources to ensure safety to our citizens. If you call 911, a police officer will respond.

The Atlanta Police Department has not given up on the citizens -- the city that we love. And we ask that you not give up on us. We've made tremendous strides in Atlanta. We are not a perfect department. And are always working towards improvement. But we are not a department known for flagrant abuse, hate, or injustice. We encourage due process for those we encounter as well as ourselves.

We are all upset by the recent events, and we are also concerned for our fellow officers. I implore you to channel the concerns for the fellow officers by having their back.

At this moment, I implore you to remember why you became a police officer. We did not choose this line of work because it was easy. We became officers because we wanted to help people in distress, make a difference in our communities, and simply serve and protect.

We've not given up on this city. Nor will we tolerate lawlessness and injustice. And I wanted to be clear. We will not tolerate lawlessness and injustice in this city. We recognize room for improvement, and we will work quickly to get there.

To my APD family, I'm here for you. I believe in you. You have my support. I want you to know that you also have the mayor's support and remain -- she remains committed to our safety and success of the department and the city.

As the mayor examined ways to help build upon the success of our department, our officers have a chance to speak -- will have the chance to speak directly to her in the coming days.

And now I'll take any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

BRYANT: So that -- that's a great question, Ron.

Listen, we have been working for a number of days, long hours, addressing -- making sure that this city remains safe. And I have been going to every -- I've been going to many of the roll calls.

But I've had the executive staff, the chiefs and the majors make sure that they go out to these roll calls as well so they can hear directly from the officers and bring those concerns back to me so we can come up with a strategy to better address it.

So one of the things we had to incorporate over the past couple of days is to make sure that these officers can get some rest because it is exhausting.

[16:45:03]

I've looked at our disciplinary process. I've had conversations with the mayor to ensure that we can have a different look and spin on how we're addressing these issues.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- political football. How can you let officers know that you're going to be standing between them and politics? BRYANT: Well, see, I'm not getting into politics. That's not my

position. I'm not here for politics. I'm here to lead this police department and from where we are right now. I can't bother with the politics that's going on.

We got a lot of issues in the city of Atlanta right now, as it relates to these demonstrations, and that's what I'm here to do.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many officers have resigned?

BRYANT: So, we have had, since June, the number is nine. And that's the number from our H.R. What may be in the pipeline, I couldn't tell you, because we don't have those numbers.

As it relates to how many officers have sicked-out, that number continues to fluctuate from day-to-day. Again, it is above average. We clearly see the significance in what's happening.

But those numbers are continuing to be calculated so I can have a final number and report it back to you all. I don't have an actual number. It's just not appropriate for me to give you an actual number at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Last night, where protests were going on, there was a shooting. There was a shot. Are there any discussions being had about clearing out the protests now?

BRYANT: We are sensitive to protests. And we recognize that the community is hurting. But I don't want anyone to be misunderstood that our sensitivity will allow lawlessness to happen in this city. We understand that. So, we are addressing those issues as they arise.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Couple that was stopped by the protesters and weren't allowed to pass because they were white and being attacked. Can you update any information on that?

BRYANT: So, I've heard that information as well. I'm not familiar with the actual steps that we have taken thus far because it's so quickly -- I'm just getting that information myself. But I'll be glad to follow up and see exactly where we are. But I have -- I know that we are addressing it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the shooting last night - (INAUDIBLE)

BRYANT: Absolutely. I'm familiar with that one as well. And we are investigating that as well.

Again, I don't want people to be misunderstood. We are sensitive to the community's needs. We recognize that they are hurting. And we're sensitive to that. But we will not tolerate lawlessness.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The GBI, I believe, mentioned that they were not aware that charges were coming for the officer involved in the Wendy's situation. Did the APB -- were you aware that charges were coming from the form the district attorney's department? BRYANT: So, what happened is I got a call right before the press

conference itself, saying that charges were being brought. So, no. I was so -- I was as shocked -- and our administrative process, unless we recognize immediately that there's something before we call in -- that's what we call the GBI in, to investigate this, and we follow their lead.

So I was surprised that the D.A. would get to that conclusion that fast.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you say the relationship with the Fulton County D.A.'s office and the APD is doing right now?

BRYANT: I mean, we have to work -- we're two organizations, two pieces of government that have to work together.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Good, bad? You have to work together?

BRYANT: We have to work together.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Officers are hurting. Reflect on where we are right now, been here for a while. Can you compare it to anything or is this one of the worst situations?

BRYANT: This is probably one of -- I've been here a while. You're absolutely right. This is my 31st and now that I'm back, it appears that I'm working on my 32nd year. And, yes, this is a very challenging time.

But one of the things that I was able to do is go out and talk to the officers myself and some of these very officers behind me to get their input on what was happening, what they were feeling.

And as I stated in my speech earlier, a number of them have concerns about what's going on. This is a unique space. We have not seen incidences where cases have been brought against our police officers and have been brought so rapidly.

We have a number of them that he's not moved on -- the D.A. has not moved on that quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are there officers at home right now? What do you want them to know about coming back?

BRYANT: One of the things I would -- I can't address the issues that have happened. What I can tell you is that we have to have faith in our due process. And if you have faith in your due process and believe that you have done everything appropriately, due process will play out.

[16:50:15]

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Regarding the shooting last night, do you have any knowledge of how that transpired? Do you have a suspect or suspect descriptions?

BRYANT: I don't have that information right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And the second follow-up question related to the arson at the Wendy's. Warrants were out for a -- do we -- Mr. Brooks mentioned a woman by the name of Natalie White when he was stopped by the officers on Friday, the previous Friday. Do we know if this is the same person?

BRYANT: The -- I'm sorry. Atlanta Fire and Rescue is taking the lead on that case.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: During the protests --

CABRERA: We have been listening in to Rodney Bryant, the interim chief of the Atlanta police.

And this is really the first time we have heard him make these public comments. And he seemed to be trying to thread a needle, addressing his officers in his department, addressing city leaders, addressing protesters and members of the community who are concerned about policing there in Atlanta.

And he said, your voices are being heard loud and clear. He talked about the department's ability to respond to calls and how they have been stretched in recent days because of an increase in sickouts.

Police officers calling in sick, and, you know, perhaps low morale being part of what was going on there. He said nine officers have resigned since the beginning of this month.

And he said, we will not tolerate lawlessness.

On the other hand, he also acknowledged that there may need to be changes in that department and they are going to be doing a review. He says, we can't have complaint investigations dragged endlessly. They're going to review training programs and policies.

And he called on his officers to remember why they became police officers. He said it wasn't because the job would be easy, but it's because we wanted to help people.

We're going to take a quick break. Much more straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:56:32]

CABRERA: Welcome back. As we continue to follow the breaking news out of Atlanta. And the interim police chief saying today officers calling out sick is affecting the department's ability to respond to calls for help. You saw his news conference here moments ago.

Our Ryan Young is live in Atlanta with more on this.

And, Ryan, what is your sense of what the interim chief was trying to accomplish with his remarks today?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you got to think about this. Interim Chief Rodney Bryant has been here for quite some time. And you know, he said he's worked here for 32 years.

And at this point, what he knows is they really need those officers who have been calling out sick. You have several different areas of this city that have had multiple numbers of officers calling out. That makes it hard to answer 911 calls.

And when you have a steady stream of protests that are going on throughout the city, they have to be able to support their other officers.

They do have people throughout the city who are upset with the idea, that they're worried about their safety when it comes to the shortage of officers.

I can tell you, we're near the Major Crimes Unit inside this building. They went to those detectives and told them, look, you're going to have to put on a uniform and start hitting the streets, doing, you know, everything they have to in terms of answering 911 calls.

Because, at the end of the day, they can't have as many 911 calls pending as they have had. There's been times that they have had 70 911 calls pending. And that's something that no one here at this department wants to go through on a day-to-day basis.

CABRERA: Ryan, what about officers simply being tired, being exhausted after working so many protests that have now been happening for weeks?

YOUNG: Yes. So, I think you asked a question just about --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: I'll repeat the -- go ahead.

YOUNG: One of the things that we know is here inside the police department -- I'm getting a little feedback. They've been working nonstop, 12 hours on, 12 hours off. They've been doing this for three weeks nonstop. So the idea is, how do you get officers off the clock to give them down time. When you have officers calling out, that puts more stress on them.

And you think about some of the things that happened in the city last night. You had, at the Wendy's where the shooting of Rayshard Brooks happened, someone was shot. Another situation where a protester got into it with someone driving a car. There were shots fired out there. This police department is being stressed at all levels.

I asked the chief, hey, do you feel like this is becoming sort of a political football. He says it's his job to stand between the politics and policing. Because, at the end of the day, this is about the citizens of the city who are being told they're going to try to make sure that the officers understand that as well. So, Ana, a lot of work to do. But they have a police force here that

is very upset about the charges and the fact that they do not believe due process was not followed.

CABRERA: Ryan Young, in Atlanta for us, thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

You are live in the "CNN NEWSROOM." Thank you for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. And we are following a number of breaking news stories at this hour.

We are just a few hours away right now from the start of President Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And we have learned this afternoon, six Trump campaign staffers doing advance work on this Tulsa rally have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Now, this information comes to light as up to 19,000 people who haven't taken rapid same-day tests are gathering under this roof in the middle of a pandemic.

Masks are being handed out, but they're optional. Look closely there. You don't see a ton of people wearing them. And social distancing clearly doesn't seem to be happening.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma, the state where this rally is happening, is already experiencing a surge in new cases, with Tulsa County being the hardest hit. It reported 136 new cases overnight, a new record, bringing the county total to more than 2,000.

[17:00:07]

CNN's Ryan Nobles is inside the rally. And Martin Savidge is outside the rally with protesters.