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THE SITUATION ROOM
E.U. Considers Blocking Americans From Entering Even After It Reopens As U.S. Cases Surge; Trump: I Don't Kid On Slowing Tests, After WH Said He's Kidding; U.S. Coronavirus Deaths At 121,000 As Cases Rise In 25 States; CDC Chief: Virus Has Brought This Nation To Its Knees; Fauci: Seeing A Disturbing Surge In Infections In Parts Of Nation; Sen. Mike Braun Is Interviewed About Police Reform Compromise. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 23, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news, President Trump about to hold his second campaign event in recent days after just touring a section of the border wall in Arizona. It's one of the states where coronavirus cases are surging.
And the President is causing new confusion about his weekend remark that he asked for less testing, now contradicting his own White House aides and denying that he was kidding. Even as top health officials tell Congress, the country needs more testing.
Also breaking right now CNN has learned that as the European Union reopens it's now considering blocking Americans from entering because of the continuing spike of coronavirus cases here in the United States.
Let's begin our coverage this hour with our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. He's traveling with the President in Arizona.
Right now, Jim, testing remains a huge issue months into this pandemic and the President is creating a lot of confusion.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, President Trump is on his way to another event with supporters after visiting his quarter wall earlier today.
President is in damage control mode today trying to clean up his comment that he told administration officials to slow down testing for the coronavirus first aid. So the President said he was just joking about that. Then the President contradicted his own aides by saying he doesn't kid.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Even after more than 120,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. the President and his top aides are having a tough time explaining whether Mr. Trump is just kidding or being serious when it comes to testing for COVID-19
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you just kidding or do you have a plan to slow down testing?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't get -- let me just tell you, let me make it clear by having more cases it sounds bad. But actually what it is is we're finding people.
ACOSTA: President is trying to talk his way out of the mess. He started at his rally in Tulsa over the weekend, when he said he's ordered officials to slow down testing.
TRUMP: So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
ACOSTA: White House officials first claim the President was kidding.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was a comment that he made --
ACOSTA: Asked about Mr. Trump's comment that he does not kid, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Air Force One he was noting he was making a serious point. But he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally.
At a hearing in the House. Dr. Anthony Fauci testified the administration is not dialing back testing.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I know for sure, but to my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing.
ACOSTA: But the President's no kidding claim runs counter to excuses he's used in the past like when he suggested to Americans that they inject themselves with disinfectant to kill the virus.
TRUMP: That I see the disinfectant but not to that in a minute.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump later said he was kidding.
TRUMP: I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.
ACOSTA: Or when he claimed to be chosen by God.
TRUMP: I am the chosen one.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump tweeted the media knew I was kidding, being sarcastic. Contrast all of that with the somber warning from Fauci that the coronavirus is surging in some parts of the U.S.
FAUCI: We're now seeing a disturbing surge of infections. Right now the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surging's that we're seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and in other states.
ACOSTA: That contradicts Mr. Trump's repeated claims the virus is disappearing.
TRUMP: If you look the numbers are very miniscule compared to what it was. It's dying out.
ACOSTA: President is visiting Arizona to tour parts of his border wall, the pen project he turns to when he needs to play to his base. Mr. Trump has only managed to build a fraction of the border barrier he sold to voters instead of Mexico paying for the wall as he promised. American taxpayers are picking up the tab.
TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.
ACOSTA: To rub up his supporters, the President is also seizing on the latest destruction left by demonstrators protesting police brutality with threats of jail time tweeting, "Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism in Lafayette Park of the magnificent statue of Andrew Jackson. Ten years in prison. Beware.
TRUMP: We actually had a nice crowd, despite the fact that we had some pretty bad people waiting there waiting. They shouldn't have been --
ACOSTA: And a sole seeker (ph) why the President is in Arizona poll show former Vice President Joe Biden could win this State. The President loses Arizona. It's hard to see how he wins re-election.
And speaking of walls, the administration is rebuilding its fence around Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. after that skirmish at the statue of Andrew Jackson.
And as for this wall here as you can see, building a fence can be easier said than done plenty of wall behind us. But right where we are standing, Wolf, crews are still working on a stretch that hasn't been built just yet. Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get some more on this European Union considering a possible ban and Americans entering Europe at this time.
Our National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood is working the story for us.
Kylie, this is a truly extraordinary statement on the way the U.S. is handling the pandemic. How seriously is all this being considered by the E.U.?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is extremely serious, Wolf.
We are being told that the E.U. is considering recommending that member countries in the E.U., exclude American travelers, American citizens from entering the E.U. when they start opening their international borders to other countries.
Now, American citizens have been prevented from traveling to the E.U. since mid-March. This would obviously be an extension of that exclusion. And it would come as the E.U. opens its borders to other countries that have done a better job with containing the virus because the criteria that the E.U. is considering, I'm being told, is they are looking at countries and the prevalence of the coronavirus in those countries where the cases are going up.
Obviously the U.S. is a worldwide epicenter of the virus right now. And so that is why they are considering keeping Americans out of the E.U.
Now this would put America in the same bucket potentially, as countries such as Brazil, such as Russia, these are other countries that have not gotten a handle on the increased number of cases. So this is a pretty extraordinary possibility. It's not a final decision, but we do expect a final decision from the E.U. on this early next week ahead of their July 1 deadline. Wolf.
BLITZER: Kylie Atwood, reporting from the State Department, thank you very much.
Let's get some insight right now joining us, our CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood, our CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Sanjay, from a medical standpoint, does it make sense for the European Union to ban Americans right now?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the United States does make up the majority of newly infected patients. And you know, that is I'm sure the overall, you know, what's driving this decision.
I think I think the question also is, you know, how well do travel bans work overall? And that's a -- I think that's a larger question.
I mean, the World Health Organization, as an organization is usually not in favor of travel bans, they think that they are too disruptive and they don't accomplish what you think they're going to accomplish. There are sort of other stopgap measures in these situations where, for instance, someone travels to a country then they have to be quarantined for a period of time before they can actually go into the country itself.
And also, you know, we keep coming back to testing. If you have had better testing, first of all, we wouldn't be probably in the predicament that we're in right now as you look at the right side of the screen. But also testing would I think, give people more confidence, both in terms of not having the virus and psychologically, that they would be safe to travel to other places not perfect by any means, but I think because we don't have that infrastructure in place. That's probably what's driving their decision. Again, it's not a final decision. It's just, you know, we'll see what happens there. But that's probably how they're thinking through this.
BLITZER: You know, Dana, how embarrassing would this be for President Trump? How would he react, do you think?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not great. And it wouldn't be great for anyone in America. But the reason, the underlying reason for it would be exactly as Sanjay described, which is the fact that America is disproportionately higher in cases and unfortunately, in deaths than other countries.
Having covered the President for five years now, the answer is probably that he will take it as an us versus them kind of thing. He will, you know, make it and twisted into the notion that, you know, Europeans, this is, you know, proof that, you know, we're on our own and should be on our own. They don't understand that something along those lines, which worked for him, those kinds of arguments as a candidate and it resonated with people. And my guess is he would play on that and stoke that if in fact, the E.U. didn't make that decision.
BLITZER: You know, John, the President, as we all know, is had, shall we say, a tumultuous relationship with the European Union. If the E.U. does wind up banning Americans from entering those European Union countries, the President, I suspect will want to retaliate in some way, but what do you think?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think there's no question about that, Wolf. And I think as Dana just indicated, the President does not react well to being embarrassed or humiliated. This of course, if the E.U. takes this decision would be a condemnation of his leadership.
The E.U. remembers a few months ago that in addition to blaming China for the virus, the President gave a speech from the Oval Office in which he faulted European countries for their handling of the situation. Well, now Europe has gotten on top of the virus much better than the United States, we have less than 5 percent of the world's population, 25 percent of the cases, 25 percent of the deaths.
And we got a preview of what he might do just a few weeks ago when he was in the White House. He was discussing a dispute involving tariffs on Maine lobsters and he said, you know what, the E.U. has been ripping us off for years. What I'm going to do to solve this problem, if I need to, is to slap a big fat tariff on their cars and they'll come around instantly.
The President's been threatening to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars. That certainly would be terrible news for financial markets, they would react badly because the last thing our country needs right now is a trade war that our economy needs. But I would expect for the President to at least rhetorically lash out in that manner. BLITZER: Yes, he already wants to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Germany. He's had a very tense relationship with a lot of the NATO allies. This presumably could make things potentially worse.
Sanjay after the President claimed he ordered his people to slow down testing at that Saturday night rally in Tulsa, the White House insisted he was simply joking, don't take him seriously off the cuff. But now the President says he wasn't joking at all. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you just kidding or do you have a plan to slow down testing?
TRUMP: I don't kid. Let me just tell you let me make it clear, by having more cases. It sounds bad. But actually what it is, is we're finding people, many of those people aren't sick with very little, you know, maybe young people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The President says that we're only seeing more cases right now here in the United States, because we're testing more. How do you respond to that claim?
GUPTA: Wolf, both you and I covered the rally live. And you know, it certainly didn't seem like he was kidding at the time. It's, you know, the claim is simply not true. I mean, it either reveals a lack of understanding or a lack of desiring to understand how this works.
I mean, if you if you're testing a lot, and you showed the graph between the United States and the E.U., you show the graph in comparison, the United States that just about any other country, really. You know, you'll find that the difference is really driven by testing.
You find people who are infected, you are able to isolate them, you start to break the chain of transmission. Obviously, physical distancing, and masks, some people out in public make a big difference as well. But the fundamental tenet is testing.
The counterintuitive part of this, which I think most people do understand now, is that if you're testing the right amount, then you should see the numbers go down, not up because you're actually able again to break that cycle of transmission.
By the way, regardless of whether the President was joking or not, the fact of the matter is in this country, we're still not doing enough testing. Done some 25 million tests, which is a large number, but that's not really the critical point. We started testing late. There are a lot more cases that spread in the United States as a result. And now we have a harder time sort of catching up.
The Harvard mapped it to recovery, global maps to recovery says about 5 million tests per day should be done now and up to 20 million tests per day by the end of July. And we're obviously nowhere close to that, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Dana, the President completely today undermine those White House officials who strongly publicly came out and said he was simply joking. He wasn't really serious whether it was Kayleigh McEnany, Peter Navarro, several of his campaign spokes people were saying that on television, what's your analysis of how all of this has unfolded?
BASH: Look, I mean, when you are a spokesperson for a President and we know we covered, presidents from the White House, John is there now and Sanjay has done it from a medical point of view. All they have is their credibility. And you know, that is true for a lot of professions, including, including ours.
And when the White House press secretary and the White House economic adviser and others that the campaign, as you mentioned, come out and try to spin that the President is joking or was trying to be sarcastic or however they put it in various ways, you knew that, you know, they were trying to clean up for their boss.
But what made it so much more horrible and frankly, embarrassing for them is that the boss that they were trying to save from himself, threw them under the bus for doing exactly that. I mean, it's almost like you don't believe that this really happened. But it did.
And as Jim Acosta pointed out in his piece, this kind of thing has happened over and over again. And it does make it incredibly hard for us to take them at their word when they're trying to explain something. I mean, in this case, it was pretty obvious he wasn't kidding. But it just isn't an example of things that we've seen so many times before.
HARWOOD: If I could just add, here's the challenge, the statement that the reason we have more tests -- more cases we have more tests is so dumb that people who are speaking for the President have to say it was a joke. You can engage seriously with that. It's like saying, well, if you don't step on the bathroom scale, you can't gain weight. Everybody knows that's ridiculous.
So at the same time, you had the staffers having to say that it was a joke. You had the public health officials today on the Hill saying, well, of course, we're not doing that, nobody would do that, we're doing the opposite, we're doing more testing, that's because they have reputations to protect as public health officials. But what this reveals about President Trump is he is focused on himself rather than the people who might be getting ill with coronavirus.
And to him more cases revealed by more tests is a report card that he doesn't like. And so his concern is not the number of cases, it's the number of cases that are known. And because the number of cases that are known is high, which is what the E.U. is reacting to, that makes him look bad. He knows it and he wants to not look back.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. A lot of politics involved in all of this as well.
John Harwood, Dana Bash, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, guys, thank you very much.
A quick programming note, the former National Security Adviser to the President, John Bolton, he will join me here tomorrow in the Situation Room. We'll talk about what's in his new book and a whole lot more. That's tomorrow during our 6 p.m. Eastern hour here in the Situation Room.
Coming up, will the European Union block Americans from entering because of the surge right now in U.S. coronavirus cases?
Plus, the Texas governor is warning that the virus is spreading in his state at an unacceptable rate. The mayor of Dallas standing by will discuss the latest development right after this.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following here in the Situation Room. The U.S. coronavirus death toll now nearing 121,000 people as cases are rising in half the country right now. Our National Correspondent Erica Hill is joining us.
Erica, 25 states are seeing the number of cases climb summit record levels.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Summit record levels is right. In fact, we're seeing new records set in a number of states today and these are not the milestones that any state wants to be reaching.
HILL (voice-over): As more Americans leave strict shutdown measures behind a stark warning that this freedom maybe shortly lived.
FAUCI: The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surging's that we're seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and in other states.
HILL: Surges that are setting records. More than a third of all cases in California have come in just the past two weeks. Arizona announcing another daily high, nearly 3600 new cases added on Tuesday, Florida not far behind.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: We're really in a worse place now than we were before.
HILL: Twenty-five states trending in the wrong direction over the past week, nearly the entire western half of the country.
In Texas one of the first states to reopen a warning, restrictions may be coming back.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS: Because the spread is so rapid right now, there's never a reason for you to have to leave your home unless you do need to go out.
HILL: In Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, the number of COVID patients in hospitals has jumped 177 percent in the last three weeks. Those in ICU beds up 64 percent.
WILL HUMBLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIZONA PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: This virus thrives on human behavior.
HILL: Moves to change that behavior grow it.
More cities now mandating face coverings, but enforcing those rules and keeping people apart is proving difficult in some areas, especially among young people.
GOV. PHIL MURPH, (D) NEW JERSEY: Don't be the knucklehead who ruins it for everyone else.
HILL: Twenty-two percent of the cases in New Jersey are an 18 to 29 year olds. That's a 10 percent since April.
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: The testings increasing but the percentage of those people who are positive is actually going much higher. So it clearly is being transmitted at a high level in a number of places.
HILL: Novak Djokovic, under fire after hosting a charity event with little evidence of social distancing. The tennis champ apologizing after he and other players tested positive, saying it was too soon.
The University of Michigan scrapping plans to host a presidential debate this fall. Middlebury College will require students to quarantine at home for two weeks before arriving on campus, as the country tries to plan for what's next.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: We've all done the best that we can do to tackle this virus and the reality that brought this nation to its knees.
HILL: Dr. Robert Redfield also sang today this virus has really highlighted the under investment in public health data in this country, stressing how important that is moving forward. And also noting, Wolf, that if funding for the CDC where to go away tomorrow, he said public health infrastructure, infrastructure rather, across the nation would just crash.
BLITZER: Erica Hill reporting for us. Thank you.
Let's discuss what we've learned at today's coronavirus hearings with Dr. Mark McClellan, a former FDA Commissioner. Dr. McClellan, thanks so much for joining us. You just started the CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, testified today that this virus, in his words, has "brought this nation to its knees." This map of the U.S. depicts what Dr. Fauci has described as a disturbing surge of infections.
Is it your assessment that our fight against this virus is as equally grim as we've heard during the sworn testimony today before Congress?
DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Well, unfortunately, Wolf, these are disturbing trends and the fight is going to have to continue. It's going to be harder for a while.
What we're seeing today with this exponential growth in many regions of the country is not going to change overnight. So even if we take some steps tomorrow to use more mask, to do more distancing, these trends and cases will continue for a week, the upward trends and hospitalizations will probably continue for longer. So, very important, before this gets worse, to take some further steps.
BLITZER: Do you think it's going to get especially worse in the fall and winter as we heard from some of these witnesses from the Coronavirus Task Force today?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I think there are some reasons for optimism. As you noted, the cases are shifting more to younger people. So some people, older individuals, those with health problems are paying attention and so the hospitalization rates aren't going up as much as the case rates.
In addition to that the treatments that people are getting in the hospital are starting to get better, Remdesivir to the ascendance available is helping. We learned last week about dexamethasone, a low cost immune modulating drug having some benefits. I think we're going to keep getting better at controlling the serious complications.
But we really need some more progress to -- on testing, on tracing and hopefully it changes in people's behavior. They don't have to change everything, just some of the activities where they're really close to others and trying to wear a mask. Those kinds of steps could really turn that the trends that we've seen recently.
BLITZER: The basics, wear a mess, socially distance, wash your hands and all of that.
Dr. Fauci also told lawmakers today that he still thinks in his words, there's a reasonably good chance we might have a vaccine by the beginning of 2021. Health officials offer differing predictions on a timeline. What's your assessment?
MCCLELLAN: Wolf, there are at least three vaccines getting farther along in clinical testing as testing in people. Now several more that will be in clinical testing in the U.S. in the coming months. So I think that's a not a bad bet. The early results from the clinical studies and the evidence in animals on these vaccines is they do produce an immune response. We still have a lot to learn. We still have to do tests over months in tens of thousands of people, but it is possible it will have some help from a vaccine. In addition, there's some other treatments based on antibodies that may be available in the fall to help as well.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope. Let's hope indeed.
Dr. McClellan, thanks so much for joining us.
MCCLELLAN: Good to talk with you.
BLITZER: All right, coming up the mayor of Dallas standing by to join us to discuss the very disturbing surge of cases in Texas and what can be done to keep the virus from spreading.
BLITZER: We have some more now the coronavirus pandemic and the very disturbing spike in new cases in Texas. Joining us now the Mayor of Dallas, Eric Johnson.
Mayor Johnson, thanks so much for joining us. Your governor is warning he may have to take very strong measures to get the virus back under control. Can this surge that we're seeing in Texas right now be stopped without taking stronger measures?
MAYOR ERIC JOHNSON (D), DALLAS, TX: Well, we're going to try everything we can here locally in Dallas, prevent that from happening. Locking down our economy has come at a tremendous cost, but public health has to come first. We are going to try to get everyone who possibly will, you know, listen to us and take us seriously to wear a mask when they're out in public.
We're going to continue to tell people to stay home if they're asymptomatic and encourage social distancing. So we're going to try everything we can there, we're going to try to beef up our contact tracing and our ability to quarantine those who might get sick and try to contain this situation without having to go that direction, I hope.
BLITZER: Any other measures you think need to be put in place beyond those elementary measures that all of us have been hearing and trying to, except over these past several months.
JOHNSON: I mean, I really do think that that is the key. The key is where mass is very effective at spreading -- preventing the spread of disease from person to person for people who have to go out in public. I still believe that it's the case that if you can avoid going out in public and avoid large gatherings, you should. I'm avoiding large gatherings to the extent that I can, my family is doing that.
We're not doing large Fourth of July events. We're not going to bars right now. We are trying to keep this situation in Dallas from going further down the wrong path which it currently is on. It's on the wrong path right now.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Texas, as you know, is one of the first states to reopen. Did it loosen restrictions, do you believe, Mayor, too quickly?
JOHNSON: You know, it just doesn't do us any good to go looking backward into decisions that were made in Austin by the governor who has the right and the authority to make those decisions here at the local level. Our job is to try to make those decisions work for our communities and that's what we're doing here in Dallas.
And the bottom line is, what we can control is what we can control. What we can control is going forward. We need to not allow mask wearing to continue to be politicized. I can't emphasize enough is the number one defense we have against the spread of this disease. Wearing a mask when you have to go out in public. Do not allow this to become a partisan issue. It is common sense and it's going to save lives. We have to do it.
BLITZER: Or some states and some cities, major cities are making it a requirement that you have to wear a mask when you're on a public, especially when you're in a crowd. Is that the case in Dallas right now?
JOHNSON: The governor recently said that we are allowed at the local level to regulate not the individual but businesses. That is his order. And at the local level here, our county, which is our county health authority. There are official health authority here for the city of Dallas. That order has been issued at the county level.
So all Dallas County is under a mask order in terms of the businesses have to require. So you can't go into --
BLITZER: Well, do you think, Mayor, the people in Dallas should be told they got to take it a step further, that they require they have to wear a mask when they're on in public, especially when they're in a crowded location, for example?
JOHNSON: The governor's order will not allow for individual --
BLITZER: But I'm asking whether you think that should be the case.
JOHNSON: Well, here's what I think. I think my position on mask wearing is very clear, it's been very consistent. I changed my official portrait at City Hall and at the airport to me wearing a mask. I think everyone should wear a mask.
It's not something that can be ordered at the local level. It's something that the governor has made a decision about and we have to therefore rely on everyone doing what's right for their neighbors and for their loved ones. So I've been saying from the very beginning and we'll continue to say everyone should wear a mask. It's not a Democrat or Republican issue. It's a common sense issue. It's going to save lives and we got to do it. BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. And let's hope people are listening to you and listening to everyone like Dr. Fauci and everyone else who says this is truly critical, especially at this moment right now. Mayor Johnson, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Dallas.
JOHNSON: Thank you so much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, today's funeral for a black Atlanta man killed by police brings new calls for police reform. In a moment, I'll speak with a Republican senator who's looking for a way to break the deadlock over police reform bill. Also there's breaking news in the investigation into that noose that was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace's garage. The FBI just put out an update. Standby, we'll have details.
BLITZER: This afternoon in Atlanta, a funeral was held for Rayshard Brooks, the black man shot and killed by a white Atlanta police officer during an attempted drunk driving arrest. Brooks' death came amid nationwide demands for police reform. But today Senate Democrats signaled they're ready to try to block a Republican reform bill, one possible starting point to break the deadlock is being offered by our next guest Republican Senator Mike Braun in Indiana.
Senator Braun, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): You bet.
BLITZER: I know this is an issue you're focusing on very closely. That's called qualified immunity which offers protections for law enforcement officers. It's been a major sticking point in police reform efforts. You're safe to be breaking with your own party to introduce a new bill that seeks to redefine that standard. Tell us why you're stepping out on your own right now, what's at stake?
BRAUN: Well, I've always in conducting my life, running my business, embraced full transparency, accountability, I think it's what makes the world tick. And I have some difficulty when you try to be selective in where you want it to apply. And I also look because I believe law enforcement does such a tough job. Every time you get out there, it's risky.
So -- And I see that by hanging on to this version of qualified immunity, allows too many instances where you see George Floyd's, Rayshard Brooks, it happens to repeatedly. I asked the question, do you think this is going to fix itself naturally, do you think it's going to get better? It was rhetorical, but there's no real response to it.
So, eliminating qualified immunity is a non-starter. And I think that gets confused with reforming it. So what I've tried to do is find the sweet spot that keeps basic immunity in place to prevent frivolous lawsuits. We know that besets all aspects of society and it's not good, but there has to be accountability, when you cross the threshold with what we saw with George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks. And until that happens, the police are going to be stigmatized, and aren't going to be able to prove the point that they do such a great job in general when this hangs over them. So I think it'll be better for them in the long run.
BLITZER: Well, give us a specific example.
BLITZER: Under your proposed legislation, how would protections for police officers change if your bill became law?
BRAUN: So currently, this is all occurred from the '60s through the '80s. The original bill dates back to 1871. It had no component of qualified immunity in it.
That changed when you would have had unions and any interest group wants to protect themselves from bad behavior. And that's OK to an extent. But what this would do is set a very clear definition. Your defense in one of these cases is only that there is a law on the books either federal or state that says what you did is legal, or that there's a court ruling that allows you to perform whatever it is in defense or in executing your job.
If not, you are going to be under review, just like everyone else is when you're not following protocols and procedures to try to keep these horrific cases from happening. And until that happens, I think law enforcement is going to be hampered to where they hurt their day- to-day existence, because this will be hanging over them until it's remedy. So it's as -- it is as clear as you can get between separating the wheat from the chaff, the frivolous from the significant based upon individual accountability and transparency.
And I'm open to anyone that thinks they can fine tune this, but it ought to be discussed at this point in time. It's a watershed moment in my mind.
BLITZER: It certainly is. And good luck, Senator Braun. I know you're working to get some Republicans and Democrats on board. We'll see how that works out. It's really, really important. Thanks so much for joining us.
BRAUN: You bet.
BLITZER: All right, coming up, there's breaking news in the investigation into the noose found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace's garage. The FBI has just put out an update. We have the details.
[17:51:51] BLITZER: There is more breaking news we're following right now. The FBI and NASCAR, they're just out with statements on the investigation of a noose found in the garage of the driver Bubba Wallace. Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is working the story for us. So Evan, update our viewers on the latest.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office down there and says that they found no evidence of a federal crime. They sent 15 FBI agents to interview people to look at video and what they believe they found is that the noose that was identified in Bubba Wallace's garage has been there for some time.
I'll read you part of the statement. It says, the noose found in garage number 4, this is Bubba Wallace's garage, was in that garage as early as October 2019. Nobody could have known that Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week. We also have a statement from NASCAR that says in part, the FBI report concludes and photographic evidence confirms that the garage pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since early last fall.
The FBI says that -- but as a result of looking at some of that evidence including some of the earlier video, it indicates that what looks like a noose, it appears to have been a garage pull that was part -- that was in that location. Well, before anyone knew that Bubba Wallace's team was going to be assigned that place in Talladega Speedway. Wolf?
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting because I'm looking at the NASCAR statement at the end of the statement, it says we appreciate the FBI's quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional racist act against Bubba. And it adds, we remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.
It caused a big stir. Was it unusual that the FBI sent all these agents down there to check it out?
PEREZ: Look, I think it was a big. That's a large number of agents to be assigned to this and I think it indicates, Wolf, the seriousness with which the Justice Department and the FBI took this incident. Obviously, given the times that we're living in, given the environment that we're in and given the controversy over NASCAR removing Confederate symbols, banning those symbols from its venues, there was a lot of reaction there.
And I think that was what led people to think that this was what occurred. And according to the FBI, looking at the evidence and doing these interviews, and we also know that one of the other racing teams has now issued a statement saying that they had team members who remember seeing what looks like a news in that spot, that location sometime in 2019. So it appears that someone might have misunderstood or at least didn't realize what that was when they saw it. And again, it was the context of the recent events, Wolf, I think that made everyone react to this.
BLITZER: And the U.S. Attorney there and the FBI Special Agent in charge concluded their statement by saying the decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws. And that says, we offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.
All right, investigation over with right now. Evan Perez reporting. Thank you very, very much.
There's breaking news next, a possible ban on all Americans entering the European Union as the E.U. reopens and the coronavirus pandemic clearly worsens here in the United States.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. This hour, President Trump is in Arizona, preparing to hold another indoor campaign event.