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Trump Rally Marks Controversial Return to Campaign Trail; Protesters Gathered Outside Trump Rally in Tulsa; Experts Worry Trump Rally could be a "Super Spreader" Event; Top U.S. Federal Prosecutor Says he is Stepping Down. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 21, 2020 - 01:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Thanks for your company. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Controversy and empty seats marked Donald Trump's return to the campaign trail after a three-month lull in campaigning. The U.S. president eager for an overwhelming display of support in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday. Well, he didn't get it. Whole sections of the arena were nearly empty despite the president's claims that up to a million people were trying to attend. Just a handful of people turned out to watch it from on overflow area. Hardly any. They ended up having to cancel that part of it.

A source having to tell CNN the president spent most of his day upset that the rally was overshadowed by the news several of his staffers doing advanced work on the event tested positive for yes coronavirus. He'd been urged to postpone the rally as Oklahoma is seeing a climb in coronavirus cases, a spike really. When it comes to the virus, he made some stunning comments.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, testing is a double-edged sword. We've tested now 25 million people. It's probably 20 million people more than anybody else. Germany's done a lot. South Korea has done a lot.

They called me, they said, the job you're doing ... Here's the bad part. When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down, please.


HOLMES: An administration official tells CNN the president was, quote, "obviously kidding" that he'd ordered testing slowed down because that's something you kid about. Oklahoma is a Republican strong hold making the no-shows especially stinging for the president. CNN political correspondent Abby Phillips tells us the campaign says protesters are partly to blame.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Plans for a blockbuster campaign rally, a campaign kick-off of sorts for President Trump did not go exactly the way that he planned. The campaign had been saying for days that they expected tens of thousands of people to be here at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, not just inside that arena but also outside.

They'd planned for about 40,000 people in the overflow section. They planned to have an entire agenda for them including for President Trump and the vice president to prepare remarks at a stage they had setup. But as the evening wore on there were so few people here that eventually they canceled those plans. There were just a few dozen people standing outside. Most of them being urged to go inside by campaign advisers.

Now, inside that arena it was mostly full and a large rally by any standard. But the 19,000-seat arena was not completely full as President Trump had hoped for. Instead it seemed like many people decided to stay home or perhaps even stay outside.

Now, the campaign said that they blamed protesters saying protesters scared away some of their rally attendees. They also blamed the media saying that the media has been talking so much about the risks of attending an indoor campaign rally during the coronavirus pandemic that some people including families chose not to come to this event.

But we should note we had reporters all around this arena including where we are here, and we saw many people coming into this event freely. There have been protesters throughout the city but none of a significant size that they would have stopped tens of thousands of people from coming into this rally.

Abby Phillip, CNN, Tulsa, Oklahoma.


HOLMES: As the president vilified and blamed protesters for keeping the crowds away, he also said there were some, quote, "very bad people outside." But CNN reporters saw no evidence of that. Martin Savidge was on the ground outside the arena. Here is his report.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are the largest crowds of protesters that we have seen today, actually. And the numbers of protesters actually began building after the president started speaking.

Throughout much of the day, as the rally was being organized and people were starting to make their way in, there were only about 200 protesters. They were greatly outnumbered by Trump's own supporters. But then several hours later, you began to seeing the streets just fill up with protesters, most of them representing Black Lives Matter or causes like those that have been demonstrated against for the past couple of weeks.


We're running right into, of course, many of those who were inside for the president's rally. It's a potentially dangerous mix. But so far it has been peaceful. It's boisterous. It's loud and, yes, there are a lot of face to face confrontations. But the protesters continue to work their way through the street, blocking traffic. But really nothing more so far.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Tulsa.


HOLMES: All right. Let's go back now to probably the most shocking comments Mr. Trump made on that stage where he said he told his people to slow down coronavirus testing. If it was meant as a joke, well, health experts aren't seeing the funny side. Dr. Sanjay Gupta certainly isn't. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked him about it.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You can't think of a better metaphor for burying your head in the sand on this.

"I told people to stop doing colonoscopies, they're finding too much colon cancer."

I mean, it's just a level of ignorance that I -- I'm dumbfounded by, five months into this now. The idea that we're still not doing enough testing and "I told them to slow down testing."

It's the only thing we really have, Wolf. Testing and masks. There is no super effective medicine. Obviously, there's not a vaccine. And yet, countries around the world, you know, there are death counts in the hundreds, not the hundreds or hundreds of thousands like we have in the United States.


Because they tested. They tested early. They did enough testing and they were able to isolate people and stop the transmission of this virus. To suggest, now, that "I told them to slow down testing."

First of all, who did he tell to slow down testing?

Is this the Coronavirus Task Force that was told to slow down testing?

I mean, this is obviously something we're going to want to dig into a little bit. But this is suggesting a complicity in the worst public health travesty of our lifetime.

I mean, it's criminal, from a public health perspective, to say that was the right answer, that was the directive given to people around the country, to slow down testing.

We needed to increase testing. We've done 25 million tests, so far, in this country. We should be doing 5 million a day. We've done 25 million in, what, 4.5 months. We should be doing 5 million a day; now 20 million a day, by the middle of July, according to the Harvard roadmap to global health.


HOLMES: Dr. Jonathan Reiner is a CNN medical analyst. He's also director of a medical lab at George Washington University. He joins me now from D.C.

Let's start, doctor -- it's great to have you, by the way. Let's start with Tulsa. The city had a fifth record in a week for cases. You had several Trump rally organizers testing positive, for goodness sake. And despite that low turn out what do you think could happen in a few weeks as a result of this gathering?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good evening. So, despite the relatively low turnout there were probably 10,000 people in that arena. And from looking at the crowd shots I would say 90 percent of the attendees there were not wearing masks.

So, if you think about it the president had an advanced team in Tulsa probably for about a week, and six people on his events team contracted the virus probably in Tulsa. So, what does that tell us about the likelihood that quite a few people in that arena unmasked and probably asymptomatic had the virus? Probably very likely.

So, I'm very concerned that we'll see in 2 to 3 weeks a big spike in cases in Oklahoma. Takes about 7 to 10 days for a person to develop symptoms if they're going to become symptomatic. Then usually people get sick about a week after that. So, we're looking at 2 to 3 weeks for hospitals to start to see a significant rise in cases.

I'm worried about it. I think it's a very real risk, and I think it was reckless. Earlier in the week I called this rally criminal endangerment and I standby that.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. I mean for a political rally I mean the urgency of which is dubious. You know the U.S. still being criticized for a lack of testing compared to countries that have done it well. There was a remarkable moment at the rally where the president said -- he said testing is a double-edged sword and then he said this, and we'll just play it.


TRUMP: When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down, please.


HOLMES: "I said to my people slow the testing down." Joking or not what is the messaging of that?

REINER: Well, it's clearly not funny. Our lack of testing is one of the reasons why the U.S. has 4 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its mortality.


The first COVID positive patient tested positive in the United States in the state of Washington on January 20th. And it took 51 days for the United States to test the next 20,000 people. 51 days so that's 10 days short of two months. And during that time the virus rode airplanes all around this country, in the New York City, subways, up and down our highways.

And now over 2 million people in this country have been infected. 120,000 people are dead because for a large part how slow we were to test. Many of us have thought that the lack of speed in ramping up testing in this country was not solely incompetence, and now we hear the president of the United States verify that tonight. The president has repeatedly mentioned that he does not like to see the numbers rise. And to articulate that is disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. Thousands of people are dead because of that kind of incompetence.

HOLMES: It's like saying the unthinkable out loud. And when you compare to Japan and South Korea and other countries that tested well and have compared to the U.S. minuscule death rates compared to this country.

I mean one other thing that's been striking and I know you've talked about this, too, Donald Trump has long demonstrated a disdain for science, reason, the advice of experts like you especially if it conflicts with his political goals. Tony Fauci this week lamenting that lack of belief in science among a segment of the population.

How worrying is that in a societal sense? A portion of the population listens to people like you and thinks, yes, I'm not buying it?

REINER: Right, and a significant part of the population listens to the president. So, when the president says testing is a double-edged sword, first of all it's a single edged sword. The more people we find, the more people we can isolate and the less transmission there will be. But when the president says things like that or when he doubts the efficacy of masks, he does great harm, and a significant part of the population believes him.

You know, there was an interesting series of graphs this week that have shown what's happened in this country based on whether the states are primarily Republican or Democrat. And what we started to see over the last month is a substantial rise in the number of cases in, you know, what we would call red states. And my concern is that part of that is due to maybe ill-advised early opening, and part of that is due to the fact that the majority of people in those states have listened to the president who has doubted the need and the efficacy for masks and who has touted debunked drugs like hydroxychloroquine and also doubts the need and efficacy of testing. And that's why throughout Florida and Texas and Oklahoma and now Arizona we're seeing dramatic rises in the number of cases.

HOLMES: We're almost out of time but I wanted to squeeze this in there. Now 20, 25,000 new cases a day in the U.S., hundreds of deaths. Do you get a sense that the administration by painting a rosy picture of sorts is sending the message that that is OK, it is tolerable going forward, two jumbo jets of people dying every day is somehow an acceptable price?

REINER: You know, the man who once said there are 15 cases and there'll soon be zero today at his rally said, oh, if it weren't for him there would be millions of deaths. So, there's a great deal of revisionist history. The truth of the matter is when the truth is finally told years from now we'll see the systematic errors and the president's inability to face reality have resulted in the really needless deaths of tens of thousands of people in this country. And we're not out of the woods yet.

HOLMES: You get the sense history won't be kind on how this was handled in the U.S.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, I really appreciate it. Thanks for your expertise.

REINER: My pleasure. Be well.

HOLMES: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, another political controversy in the Trump White House. The firing of a top federal prosecutor who had been investigating Trump associates. Critics say that is not a coincidence. We'll break it all down when we come back.



HOLMES: After a power struggle with White House officials a top federal prosecutor who has investigated some of those very close to the president says he is stepping down from his post effective immediately.

Now, this saga involving Geoffrey Berman began on Friday after trying and failing to push Berman out of office, Attorney General William Barr then asked the U.S. president to fire him, which the president did. Even though Mr. Trump denies that.


TRUMP: I call 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.


HOLMES: "I'm not involved." Evan Perez with more details for us.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump fired Geoffrey Berman, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, who had refused to resign after Bill Bar, the attorney general, have tried to oust him on Friday.

The attorney general delivered the news in a letter to Berman saying, quote, unfortunately, with your statement of last night, you have chosen public spectacle over public service. Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the president to remove you as of today and he has done so.

Berman was overseeing a number of sensitive investigations, including the investigation into Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney.


Berman says that he is making way for his deputy, Audrey Strauss, who is highly regarded in the U.S. Attorney's Office and he says will be able to protect all the sensitive investigations still that are still ongoing in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Let's talk more about this with CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa. She's a former FBI special agent. She joins me now from White River Junction in Vermont.

Good to have you on. It's been a while since you've been on --


HOLMES: Good to see you.

Asha, you know Geoffrey Berman. OK. He's gone from his post with the SDNY but his deputy in charge not the man Bill Barr wanted so perhaps the power move failed in that regard, but more importantly how does what happened look?

RANGAPPA: Well, it looks very bad precisely because of what Evan just reported that this office is investigating a number of cases in which President Trump would have a personal interest, you know, and a connection including his personal attorney. There's also charges that have been filed against a Turkish bank, and we know from Bolton's book that there's allegations that Trump had wanted to intervene in that case as well on behalf of a request from the Turkish president.

So this looks very bad, and especially because Barr did not give either on Friday or in his follow-up letter any reason for firing Berman, which only raises questions given Barr's actions in a number of other investigations in other U.S. Attorneys' offices where he's tried to drop cases that would benefit the president by doing so.

HOLMES: You know it's interesting. I won't get into the detail of the president said "I'm not involved in firing Berman and it was up to Bill Barr." Yet of course Bill Barr in the letter he wrote said it was Trump who did the firing. He literally says I've asked the president to remove you and he has done so. It doesn't really matter what it is, but what strikes me is that it speaks to the dysfunction of how things are being run at justice. Do you see it that way?

RANGAPPA: Yes, definitely. I mean, Bill Barr has said that the president makes it very hard for him to do his job, and I think this is one of those examples where the president has contradicted and basically thrown Barr under the bus by his public statement.

You know, I think there's also an issue where Trump does not want to be accountable for the actions that are being taken by Barr. And I think we've seen this in other areas. We know that Barr is trying to get the charges against General Michael Flynn dropped. This is for lying about his conversation with a Russian ambassador during the Trump transition.

And, you know, he's achieving there what Trump could achieve with a pardon but probably doesn't want to do directly for political reasons. So I think that there's a little bit of a game here where Barr is kind of, you know, being the shield for achieving what Trump would like to do, you know, but won't do in person.

HOLMES: Yes. You know, it's interesting. I mean -- and you touched on this earlier it's broader than justice. You have schools of Justice Department, former Justice Department officials already calling for Barr to quit over a string of other things. This in many ways is a continuation of what many see as the administration's concerted attack on the justice system and the rule of law, you know, which is being pervasive during this presidency. Is that a fair comment?

RANGAPPA: It's a fair comment. And I would say that what Barr has been doing is even worse than, say, Trump's verbal attacks or tweets on the FBI or, you know, any given justice official. And that's because when Barr does it, he is giving his actions the veneer of legality, and he's obscuring accountability in that process.

So, I gave the example of him being able to do through the courts what Trump doesn't want to do with a pardon and that's because a pardon in that case would be politically inconvenient for Trump. He would have to own it.

But Barr can do these things and make it seem as though this is just how the law works, this is you know the legal system functioning. And it really leaves I think the American public in kind of a smoke and mirrors position of not really seeing where the accountability lies.


So, I think that that is incredibly dangerous to the rule of law, when you can clothe it under a veneer of legality.

HOLMES: And it's another example, too, of Republicans in Congress enabling behavior that may set precedent and come back to bite them under another administration, quite frankly. Do you think Geoffrey Berman should give evidence before testifying in Congress?

RANGAPPA: Yes, I definitely think he should. Now, you know he won't be able to speak about ongoing cases, but in many ways, he'll have more freedom to testify now that he's no longer an employee. There's really nothing the administration can hold over his head.

I mean, what are they going to do? Fire him? He's already gone. So, you know he can go in if he wants and testify and speak to, for example, was he pressured in any way to guide investigations to any kind of decision? Was Barr trying to intervene with any particular cases?

He can speak to those kinds of questions, and I think it would shed light because in the Southern District, which is a highly independent U.S. Attorneys' office, you know, what was happening there would speak a lot for what might be going on elsewhere as well.

HOLMES: Asha Rangappa, a pleasure. Good to see you.

RANGAPPA: Thank you so much.

HOLMES: Thank you. We'll take a quick break. When we come back President Trump back on the campaign trail as we've been reporting. The size of the crowd far less than he wanted. It did not, however, stop the usual litany of controversial claims. We'll be right back.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN Newsroom. Let's update you now on our top story. An administration source says, President Donald Trump was obviously kidding when he said he'd urged officials to slow down coronavirus testing.

The President dropped that bombshell remark at a controversial rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma; mocking his return to the campaign trial. The 19,000 seat arena was not full. It was reasonably full but not completely as you can see there.

Not living up to the tens of thousands of people, Mr. Trump said were clamoring to get in. Some local officials wanted him to delay the rally of course as Oklahoma is currently seeing a spike in COVID cases.

I'd like to go to CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, let's start with the Tulsa optics. What is in the President's mind that makes him forge on with a political rally that virtually every medical expert says, puts lives at risk.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Michael, it actually tells you quite a bit about the way he thinks he's going to get re-elected because by any normal political calculus, you would say a President who is already facing the possibility of the weakest number for a Republican ever, among college educated white voters, would be hesitant about undertaking a rally that every public health official is telling him not to do, when one of his problem with those white collar voters is they believe he disdains expertise.

He doesn't trust science. He thinks he knows more than the experts but I think what you see out of this and - and by the message from tonight with the heavy repeated emphasis on demonizing cities and attacking immigrants and going after democratic women of color and NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

All that says to me that Trump pretty much has given up on the idea that he can win back some of those metro white collar voters who have moved away from the GOP since 2016 and that his one path toward a second term is turning out even more of the small town and non-urban rural voters, non-college whites, evangelicals who are drawn to his message of cultural and racial division.

And I think you saw that very much on display tonight in Tulsa.

HOLMES: No doubt. I mean the President saying that this rally was his election campaign launched. What did we learn in terms of where he is headed? I mean you - you tweeted just after that Trump was quite running to be President of America in 1968.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, they passed the flag but he was talking about flag burning tonight. I believe the first time Congress passed legislation on flag burning was in fact in 1968. There was nothing about this rally tonight that would reassure anxious Republicans or really worry Democrats because what you saw was after weeks of having you know time to kind of think about what his message is going to be to relaunch his campaign, Trump showed us again that there really is no second act to him.

I mean that the core of his vision of how he gets selected is to ferment cultural and racial division and to try to stoke greater turnout among his groups but as I said to you before, his strategy is based on improving his margins, bigger margins among shrinking groups and groups that are shrinking in society at the price of driving away the parts of society that are growing.

Again, I go back to the urban, focused on it over and over again. Cities are out of control. They're dangerous there being controlled by leftists. He lost 87 of the 100 largest counties in America by a combined 15 million votes in 2016. It's entirely likely, given what's happened with the pandemic but also with the post George Floyd protest, he'll lose them by even more.

Are there another non-voters left in small town America to overcome that? He's going to test the proposition. You - you also wrote something to me early today. We - we were emailing back and forth about this interview and I want to quote you because it was so interesting and it refers to what you were talking about.

There you said, "Whatever you do that's extreme enough to motivate millions of non-voters who agree with you is usually also extreme enough to motivate millions of non-voters who disagree with you. It is hard to get a turnout surge on one side without provoking it on the other."

And Ron so you see this as a risk in his strategy, doubling down.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, and we saw it in 2018, right? When you - when you saw this enormous suburban turnout that caused Republicans to lose ground in white collar suburbs everywhere across the country. You know before the 2018 election Michael, Republicans had 43 percent of the House seats where there were more college graduates on average.

After the elections they had 25 percent of them. That's the kind of trajectory that Trump has put the party in and I think again what you saw tonight with kind of a greatest hits of sixties and seventies backlash against all the familiar targets.


Cities, immigrants, Ilhan Omar and AOC and Mayor Bowser in DC and NFL players who protest. You saw you know, kind of his vision of how he stirs up his base but it was very 2018 and I think it is likely to be clear again 2020 is that there are millions of Americans who find that vision deeply offensive.

Whatever they think about taxes or regulations or some of the issues that might normally have drawn them to the Republican Party, he is drawing a different line through the electorate and he is forcing people to decide which side they belong on and right now if you look at the polling, it's pretty clearly, he is playing to the short side of that field.

HOLMES: I did want to get your take on the firing of the Southern District New York attorney Geoffrey Berman. I mean, because this is a man who leads the team that's been looking into cases that directly impact this President, his allies, his business interests.

Now with his deputy in charge perhaps the power move failed but what were the optics of the Attorney General's move to get rid of someone looking into the President?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, you can lay this directly at the door. Susan Collins and 51 other Senate Republicans who decided not to sanction him in any way for his actions in extorting the government of Ukraine to try to help in the election because I think you know Trump, whatever else you say about Trump, he's a student of people, he's a student of power and he took from the impeachment lesson, that there is no line he cannot cross that Republicans in Congress will feel comfortable constraining or rebuking him.

And every time he breaks a window, they obediently sweep up the glass and what we have seen since impeachment is a very steady campaign to undermine any source of independent check and balance that he believes can threaten him.

I mean, you can only see this firing in the context of what he's done with inspectors General, what Barr has done to intervene extraordinarily in the cases of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. These are all the actions of a President who believes that he cannot - that there is no line he can cross that will cause Congress to impose any consequences.

And so if he comes up to the voters because if nothing else, he is giving Americans a very clear idea of how he will behave in a second term. This is the way that he feels he can act when he still has to face the voters in November, what would he be like in the unconstrained environment of a second term?

HOLMES: Yes. And whether Republicans will pay for that obsequiousness to the President? I mean, I keep coming back to this thing about Barack Obama did any of these things, what would be the reaction.

BROWNSTEIN: You know one thing about that real quick Michael, every senate election in 2016 for the first time in American history went the same way as the presidential race in that state so they are bound to him and you may see some of them like Cory Gardner and Martha McSally in our southwest of going down to pretty solid defeats because they've chosen to defend Trump so unequivocally.

HOLMES: Interesting. Yes. Ron, always a pleasure. Thank you so much Ron Brownstein.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks you for having me.

HOLMES: Good to see if. When we come back, investigators have issued an arrest warrant in connection with that fire that destroyed a fast food restaurant in Atlanta at the scene of a deadly police shooting. Two investigators are looking for in how the suspect might be connected to Rayshard Brooks, the man who was killed. We'll have that when we come back.



HOLMES: Atlanta fire investigators have issued an arrest warrant in the case of a Wendy's restaurant fire last Saturday. They say that this woman, right there on your screen Natalie White is wanted for first degree arson. That Wendy's was set on fire after Rayshard Brooks' fatal encounter with Atlanta police in the parking lot.

In body cam video Brooks is heard telling offices that White is his girlfriend. Investigators say more suspects could be involved. Meanwhile the interim Police Chief is reassuring Atlanta residents that police are responding to emergency calls but he says the force has been stretched because of demonstrations and unrest.

He also spoke about why there's been an uptick in police not going to work.


RODNEY BRYANT, INTERIM CHIEF, ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: The explanation for calling out sick vary and include offices questioning their training. Officers being challenged and attacked. And unease about officers seeing their colleagues criminally charged so quickly.


HOLMES: Joining me now from Los Angeles is Isaac Bryan, the Director of Public Policy at the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American studies. Great to see you. I'm just curious. In the - in the big picture you heightened by the push for a change that's come after the killing of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks as well or do you feel that time will pass and actual substantive changes will literally be put into effect.

ISAAC BRYAN, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, UCLA RALPH J. BUNCHE CENTER FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES: First of all it's great to be with you. Thank you for having me and I'm not pessimistic. I'm - I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful. Millions of people across the United States and - and millions more around the world are calling for dramatic change. We're calling for institutional changes and it's unlike any moment that we've had in recent history if ever because of the amplification of social media and these violent videos that we keep seeing.

And so my resolve is strong. My resolve is still high and I still hold out hope despite some of the stone walling from elected officials, I mean those positions to make changes. I still believe the people's will to demand change is ultimately going to overcome.

HOLMES: Certainly does seem to be a public ground swell for change, that's for sure. I mean, when it comes to reform, what to you does that look like? I mean training and body cameras and other tweaks haven't rowed about the change that supporters want. What - what do you want to see change in terms of reform?

BRYAN: I think reform is a complicated question. You know, I think we're past the point of superficial reforms. So we can do things that would have a marginal impact on the rate of these lethal outcomes. We can ban chokeholds, we can implement non-legal tactics, we can standardize use of force threshold.

We can do a number of things. But the sad called racist reality of doing these reforms that nothing's going to end this crisis of black people die at the hands of law enforcement. The reality is baked into the foundational fabric of this institution and we have to dream bigger than reform.

We have to start thinking incremental abolition and redesigning and reimagining a system that we know was built on harm.

HOLMES: Yes and that - that sort of comes to that defund the police, which is you know sort of it's a phrase now, it's a hashtag but you know, to its proponents, it's not a literal thing. Shut down the police forces. It's about diverting funds to social programs to deal with things police perhaps shouldn't be first responders to, whether it's mental health or homelessness or drug or alcohol abuse.


And - and you know sort of stop at you starting by providing sort of grassroots resources. What do you think of that sort of idea of you know, 'Defund the police'?

BRYAN: That's an idea that myself and many others have been calling for a long, long time. I think the phrase, 'Defund the police' has become a popular moniker during this time but the idea of justice reinvestment or divesting from law enforcement and reinvesting systems of care and opportunity is a call that many folks have been calling for I'm - I'm glad that this moment has served as a catalyst for bringing that to the national if not global forefront.

We need to be thinking about that. Our law enforcement agencies eat up over half the discretionary funds of almost every municipality in the United States and there's no reason that should be happening at the same time people are struggling to live survive and thrive.

We need to be investing in alternate forms of care and alternative forms of emergency response for all of the things that you just mentioned. Homelessness, mental health crises and other things that law enforcement could never be trained to adequately handle.

HOLMES: You know, I wanted to ask you about this because it sort of ties into why you - I want to ask you about your - your thoughts on the what's called the militarization of police and - and certainly many police forces. I mean, I saw one example just see how they die. I think we've got it and we can play it for people.

It was tweeted out by a local reporter. You know, you're talking about a town with less than 9000 people in West Virginia that gets a military vehicle. It's called an MRAP. I spent a ton of time in Iraq covering the war. They're designed specifically to withstand roadside bombs. There are a lot of those being handed out to police forces, other staff as well. What - what is the imagery of that?

I mean, I suppose you know, it's difficult to sort of de-escalate when one side looks like they're going to war.

BRYAN: That's exactly it. We are using surplus military grade equipment that's often paid for with asset forfeitures and other fines that police collected off of the poorest residents in a community. Out here in Los Angeles, we birth the SWAT team under Chief Daryl Gates and so we know a lot about the militarization of police and it's not a de-escalation task force.

And I can also tell you right now the SWAT team is housed in the metro division of the Los Angeles Police Department. It's the same division that holds the canine unit that disproportionately bites black and brown and poor folks and it's the same unit that houses the unarmed mounted unit and that particular unit has the jurisdiction of the whole city of Los Angeles, which is 8 percent black but their arrests are 46 percent black, right?

And so we know that the militarization of police exacerbates peaceful protests, it exacerbates tensions in communities and it leads to lethal outcomes and disproportionate arrests. We shouldn't be doing that. Our communities are not war zones. Our communities should be opportunities for people to thrive and grow and live their fullest life.

They shouldn't be met with such a violent reaction by their own governments. HOLMES: Yes, yes. There are many things that need to be done. You

know, for somebody who's spent a lot of time in the Iraq war at the side of MRAP in a small town police force, this is mind boggling. I appreciate your time Isaac. Isaac Bryan, thank you so much.

BRYAN: Thank you for having me.

HOLMES: It is an event in U.S. history, many Americans are not told about in school. The horrific massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma that devastated a thriving African-American community and left hundreds dead. We'll look into it when we come back.



HOLMES: Welcome back everyone. President Trump's rally took place near a neighborhood that recently marked 99 years since one of the most horrific acts of racial slaughter in U.S. history in the area then known as Black Wall Street.

It is a moment, many Americans never learned about in school but CNN's Randi Kaye shows us why they should have and a warning. Some of what we are about to show you is graphic. It might be hard to watch but we believe it is important to bring you history as it really happened.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In 1921, the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Oklahoma was thriving. It was an affluent area, home to more than 300 black-owned businesses that became known as Black Wall Street.

MECHELLE BROWN, GREENWOOD CULTURAL CENTER: It was an amazing time for blacks in Tulsa.

KAYE: Despite all the success, African-Americans were still dealing with segregation and deep racial tension. It came to a head beginning on May 30, 1921 when a 19 year old African-American man was accused of assaulting a white woman in an elevator in downtown, Tulsa.

BROWN: The elevator door was closed and a few minutes - few moments later, there's a scream. The elevator door is opened and Dick Rowland runs.

KAYE: The woman never pressed charges but Dick Rowland was still arrested.

BROWN: By the end of the day, many whites were claiming that she had been raped in the building.

KAYE: By the next day May 31, 1921, a white mob had gathered outside the courthouse where Rowland was being held, promising a lynching.

BROWN: Lynching were often common in Tulsa.

KAYE: A group of African American men went to confront the white mob at the courthouse. There was a struggle between the black and white armed mobs and shots were fired. The African-Americans retreated to Greenwood, hoping to protect their property and families but the white mob followed, killing African-Americans and burning down everything in sight.

BROWN: They called in the National Guard who was told that there was a Negro uprising and negroes were killing innocent unarmed whites so they sided with the predominately white police force.

KAYE: Nearly 6000 African-Americans were forcibly detained. While they were held, the white mobs stole their valuables and burned their homes to the ground. George Monroe was just 5 years old when the massacre happened.

GEORGE MONROE, 5 YEAR OLD WHEN MASSACRE HAPPENED: The thing that I remember more than any other thing is when my mother looked out the front door and saw four men with torches, coming down our sidewalk, into our house.


KAYE: This woman's grandmother lived through it too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really murder. It was a massacre. My grandmother was awakened at night and just told to run. Just get up and run and they ran. She was only 9. They ran for days.

KAYE: By the time it was over at least 300 African-Americans were dead. Many were buried in mass graves or piled on dump trucks and dumped in the Arkansas River, according to the Greenwood Cultural Center.

35 square blocks of property were destroyed too, leaving most black families with only the clothes on their backs.

BROWN: This was about racism. This was about envy. They saw that blacks were - many of them were very wealthy and they were simply envious. They would make comments such as how dare those negroes have a grand piano in their homes and I don't have one in mine.

We will not forget the history of Black Wall Street or the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom and spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes but I will be back after the break with more news right here on CNN.