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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

American Citizen Sentenced in Russia; U.S. Supreme Court Upholds LGBTQ Rights; Tulsa's Troubled Racial History; Criticism Grows Over Trump's Upcoming Rally. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 10, 1997June 15, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:32:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Breaking news: For the first time, President Trump has addressed the killing of Rayshard Brooks by a police officer.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought it was a terrible -- I'm not going to compare things, but I thought it was a terrible situation.

I studied it closely. I'm going to get some reports done today, very strong reports. And we will have a little more to say about it tomorrow, but, certainly, it was very -- to me, it was very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump is expected to sign a new executive order on policing reform soon.

This coming as soon, as Kaitlan Collins reports, as the president faces new criticism over his upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa, as COVID-19 cases there spike.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bowing to pressure, President Trump moved his campaign rally in Tulsa by one day, so it no longer falls on the holiday marking the end of slavery.

But now a top Oklahoma health official is urging him to move it again, this time over growing health concerns.

Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart told "Tulsa World": "It's an honor for a president to visit, but not during a pandemic."

Trump claimed on Twitter that the campaign has seen nearly a million ticket requests, though the venue only holds 20,000 people. Campaign officials say precautions will be taken, but masks won't be required, as coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Tulsa. KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: They're doing

temperature checks, giving everybody a face mask and hand sanitizer.

COLLINS: This comes as Trump is expected to sign an executive order on modest police reforms in the coming days, establishing a national database that would track excessive use of force, but largely leaving most of the heavy lifting to Congress.

JA'RON SMITH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF AMERICAN INNOVATION: There's a better way to do policing, and we have great examples.

COLLINS: Instead of leading the way on police reform, Trump has focused more on stoking culture wars, including his belief that NFL players shouldn't kneel to protest police brutality.

The only black official in his Cabinet, Dr. Ben Carson, suggested that he's trying to change that.

BEN CARSON, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: I think we just continue to work with him. He'll get there.

COLLINS: One day after he turned 74, questions about the president's physical condition are also back at the forefront, now that he's defending walking slowly and awkwardly down a ramp Saturday at West Point Military Academy.

Trump says: "The ramp was very long and steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery." He made no mention of how he also appeared to have difficulty holding up a glass of water during his address.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, the president did just take questions from reporters. He talked about that book from his former National Security Adviser John Bolton that's scheduled to come out on Tuesday.

The president said he believes Bolton will have -- quote -- "criminal problems" if that book comes out as is, as there's been this fight back and forth between the White House and Bolton's camp over whether or not it contains classified information.

The president said he believes every conversation with him is highly classified, though, of course, that is certainly not the case and not how that works.

[16:35:03]

He also talked about that upcoming rally in Tulsa. He said that he's looking forward to it and he thinks it's going to be a big rally. And he also said he doesn't want any empty seats at that rally, Jake, meaning there is likely not going to be any social distancing between those people who attend the rally.

TAPPER: At an indoor arena that has not held events for months.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, take a look at these numbers for the president's rally in Tulsa. The facility can hold a little more than 90,000 people. The president's campaign manager tweeted that more than a million people have requested tickets to attend.

And I want to point out that rally attendees are being told to register for the event early. They must agree to not sue the campaign if they contract coronavirus.

How dangerous could an overpacked rally be in the middle of this pandemic?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, this is the worst-case scenario, Jake.

I mean, if we put this together from the CDC, we can talk about the different levels of risk. This might sort of give people an idea. When you're talking about gatherings of any sort, obviously, the lowest- risk possible thing would be some sort of virtual gathering, where people could stay at home and meet virtually.

After that, the risk increases each step of the way. More risk is going to be small outdoor in-person gatherings. People still coming from different places, they may go back to their homes. They do a good job, hopefully, of keeping physically distanced, wearing face masks. That will help.

The risk increases each step of the way, then. The highest risk sort of scenario would be sort of the situation we're talking about here, indoors, attendees coming from all these various areas, difficult to practice physical distancing, and who knows about what the mask sort of wearing is going to be.

So there's no question. I mean, this is a contagious virus. Indoors is going to be far worse than outdoors, not wearing masks a lot worse than wearing masks, not keeping distance if they're filled to capacity.

I mean, there's no magic here. There's no scientific proclamation where you're going to have some sort of revelation about this. This is -- that's the worst-case scenario. That's basically, if there is a person there who has the virus, the idea that it could spread and turn into a super-spreading event would be a big concern, Jake.

TAPPER: And speaking of concerns, what did you make of President Trump? You see the video of him walking down that ramp at West Point really slowly, really haltingly, kind of.

And then you also saw the video of him seeming to have difficulty lifting a glass of water to his mouth, needing the help of his other hand. Obviously, it's always tricky diagnosing somebody, and I don't want you to do that. But what are your -- and I'm not making light of this. These are issues to be concerned about.

What goes through your mind when you see this?

GUPTA: Yes, I get a lot of calls from my colleagues in the neurology, neurosurgery world, just sort of like, hey, did you see that video? Sort of a little bit of concern. People pointing out certain clues.

But, to your point, Jake, no conclusions can be made, I think, by looking at a 20-second video of him going down the ramp. If we can play that, I can tell you what some of the folks -- again, these are just conversations that are happening, no conclusions whatsoever.

He is looking down at his feet the whole time. Is he -- is this a balance issue? Is -- does he have a hard time feeling his feet? That's a type of neuropathy. He said the ramp was slippery, so maybe he's just being careful. Maybe his shoes are slippery.

Who sort of knows in that situation? It's hard to say. I would want to know, how is he doing an hour after that, the next day? And by all accounts, he was fine.

So, I think it's really difficult to read into that. But I think it's against the backdrop of, we don't know a lot about his health history. So there's not a lot of context to put that in, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, and also the background drop of the president being rushed to Walter Reed Medical Center with little explanation in November. We still don't know the full story on that.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks, as always, for your expertise.

President Trump's planned rally in Tulsa is not only highlighting the city's troubled, tragic history, but also a new police confrontation there, the video obtained by CNN -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:57]

TAPPER: In our national lead today: As President Trump gears up for his rally in Tulsa this week, originally scheduled for Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of legal slavery in the U.S, but since rescheduled, the spotlight is on that city's longstanding issues with racism -- pardon me -- and police violence, especially given the horrific Tulsa massacre of black Americans 99 years ago this month.

A Human Rights Watch study from 2018 finds that black residents of Tulsa are more than twice as likely to be arrested than white residents of Tulsa.

And, as one activist tells CNN's Abby Phillip, who's in Tulsa for us, many blacks in Tulsa feel as targeted now as their ancestors did 100 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. TIFFANY CRUTCHER, SISTER OF TERENCE CRUTCHER: We're twins, yes, three minutes apart. He came out first, and he calls me his little big sister.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before George Floyd, before nationwide protests against police brutality swept the country, Tiffany Crutcher's twin brother, Terence, was killed by a Tulsa police officer in 2016.

CRUTCHER: Terence just needed help that day.

[16:45:00]

PHILLIP: Crutcher was unarmed, and the officer who shot him was charged with manslaughter, but later acquitted.

For Tiffany, the anger in Tulsa over policing dates back to 1921, when her great-grandmother was one of thousands of black residents who ran for their lives as a mob of angry whites killed hundreds and burned down the black neighborhood of Greenwood, known then as Black Wall Street.

CRUTCHER: Same culture that burned down Black Wall Street and killed innocent people and ran my great-grandmother from her home, it's the same culture, the same policing culture that killed Terence.

PHILLIP: Now President Trump is coming here, at a time when black Tulsa residents still feel like their voices aren't being heard.

TRUMP: The fact that I'm having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively, as celebration.

PHILLIP: Most of the city's black residents are concentrated in North Tulsa, literally divided from the rest of the city by train tracks. A 2018 Human Rights Watch report found that black Tulsa residents are 2.3 times more likely to be arrested than white residents.

The report also found traffic stops are more likely to happen in the black poor parts of the city, tend to last longer and are more likely to result in search, questioning and arrest.

But it's not just drivers.

DAMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS, ATTORNEY: My clients who are 13 and 15 had been walking on this road, minding own business.

PHILLIP: Earlier this month in Tulsa, two black teenagers arrested for jaywalking in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, their story getting national attention when police video of the incident was released.

Donna Corbitt lives just around the corner and also recorded what she saw, the video showing both teens in handcuffs, one struggling with officers and at one point and officer kicking him inside of the police car, and later the teen demanding they call his mother.

DONNA CORBITT, WITNESS: It really made me very sickened to myself, and it's a great burden to see such brutality on a child like that.

PHILLIP: Tulsa police say the arrest is being investigated. Corbitt and the younger teen's mother returning to the place where her son was arrested.

TAWANNA ADKINS, MOTHER: It just broke my heart that they felt comfortable harass him, abuse and humiliate him.

PHILLIP: Echoes of countless other viral videos that have laid bare the pain of black America.

CRUTCHER: I just lost it. That's all I could think about, is that baby thinking he was going to be the next George Floyd or the next Terence Crutcher.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Now, recently, a Tulsa police major, Travis Yates, said in a radio interview that he believed black residents here probably should be shot more based on the crime being committed.

Those comments were widely, widely denounced, and he's now being investigated. But the black residents I spoke to here in Tulsa fear that that kind of mentality is far more pervasive. The Tulsa Police Department say that they patrol to stop crimes before they happen.

But black residents here believe that that feels a lot more like harassment to them -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip in Tulsa all week for CNN, thank you so much for that excellent report. We appreciate it.

He's one of the court's most conservative justices, appointed by President Trump himself. But, today, Neil Gorsuch joined with the liberal justices, writing an opinion protecting employees who are LGBTQ.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:52:43]

TAPPER: In our national lead today: a historic day and a major milestone for the LGBTQ community.

The Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ employees cannot be discriminated against at work, not legally anyway.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the 6-3 decision, joined by the courts four liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Gorsuch writing -- quote -- "Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee's sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice. An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law" -- unquote.

CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, former senior adviser to President Clinton and longtime LGBTQ rights activist Richard Socarides join me.

Now, Richard, let me start with you and the basics. How big a deal is this?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, Jake, I think it's hugely -- it's a hugely consequential decision.

I mean, I would say, for 50 years, the right not to be fired for being gay has been at the center of the gay rights movement, especially here in the United States. And yet this right has proved completely elusive until now.

So it's really hard to overstate the importance of the decision to today.

TAPPER: And, Jeffrey, it was a 6-3 opinion written by Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Trump, joined by Chief Justice Roberts.

Roberts voted against the court's gay marriage decision in 2015. How do you make sense of that? And how significant is it, do you think, that Gorsuch and Roberts supported this ruling?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Roberts -- I think Chief Justice Roberts' vote is a bigger surprise than Neil Gorsuch is.

Neil Gorsuch gave a hint about how he felt about this at oral argument. He calls himself a textualist. And this whole case was about one word in the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, discrimination on the basis of sex. Well, what did sex mean?

Does it mean just, I won't hire you because you're a woman, or does it mean also people who are gay and transgender? And the court said sex also means discrimination the basis of sexual orientation and being transgender.

[16:55:03]

And that was something that Neil Gorsuch, he just came at it by analyzing that one word.

I just would offer a brief word of caution. Don't think that Gorsuch and Roberts have become born-again liberals. This was not a constitutional decision. It was only about this meaning of this one word in this one statute. It's a very important decision, but I wouldn't overstate its significance for the future of the court.

SOCARIDES: Can I say, Jake, to Jeff...

TAPPER: Go ahead, yes.

SOCARIDES: ... I mean, I think yes and no. I think that I was surprised that -- I wasn't necessarily surprised by the decision, because I agree with what Jeff said. It was a simple matter of statutory interpretation. I was surprised that we got six votes, both Roberts and Gorsuch.

But I do think what this is about also is that the rights of gay people are kind of becoming a lot more mainstream and more widely accepted. Gorsuch when he went on the court, he's a younger person, he has a bunch of gay friends. Roberts is kind of considered a modernist, even though a conservative.

I think that a lot about what this decision was that it just -- it was kind of head-scratching, right, that you could be married in this country everywhere, but that you could still be fired simply for being gay. So I think that they -- the court did really today what a lot of conservatives have urged.

They said, take a look at the statute and interpret it in its plain meaning. And I think that's why we were able to get Gorsuch and Roberts. But I also think it's symbolically a major milestone, in that I think it's -- it can be a turning point, right?

Because coming out is such a fundamental thing to the gay rights political movement, right? It's often said that the most important political act you can take as a gay person is to come out. But in many places, you couldn't come out because you could lose your job for half the states simply for being gay. That changes today.

TAPPER: And, Jeffrey, I just want to get your quick take on what Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his dissent.

"The court's opinion is like a pirate ship. It sails under a textualist flag, but what it actually represents is a theory of statutory interpretation that Justice Scalia excoriated, the theory that courts should update old statutes so that they better reflect the current values of a society."

Your response, quickly, if you could, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Well, Justice Alito has been perhaps the single most hostile to gay rights on the Supreme Court. So it's not surprising he wrote that with Chief Justice Clarence Thomas.

Interestingly, the other dissenter, Brett Kavanaugh, almost apologized for his vote in his dissenting opinion. And I think that reflects a little bit of what Richard was saying, that the notion that you can discriminate against gay people in 2020 America is becoming increasingly intolerable.

And even though Kavanaugh voted against protecting gay people's rights, he felt obligated almost to apologize for it. And I think that is indicative of the way the wind is blowing, at least on this one issue.

But, remember, Jake, there are a lot more controversial decisions coming from this court in the next few weeks, and don't look for necessarily more liberal decisions as they talk about abortion and the dreamers and the president's tax cuts.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Jeffrey Toobin and Richard Socarides, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate your time today.

In our world lead, a -- quote -- "mockery of justice," that's how the United States ambassador to Russia is describing the trial of American citizen Paul Whelan, sentenced on espionage charges in Russia today.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as he was sentenced, Paul Whelan protested his innocence, holding up a sign calling this Russian espionage trial a sham and appealing to President Trump to intervene.

After the 16-year prison term was imposed, the U.S. secretary of state expressed outrage, "A secret trial," he tweeted "with secret evidence," demanding the U.S. citizen's immediate release.

There was criticism from U.S. diplomats in Russia too of what's become yet another sore point in relations with Moscow.

JOHN SULLIVAN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: It's a mockery of justice. I can't say I'm surprised.

CHANCE: It was at this upscale Moscow hotel in December 2018 where the former U.S. Marine was arrested for accepting a USB flash drive, which Russian security officials say contain classified material.

Whelan has always denied any wrongdoing.

PAUL WHELAN, DEFENDANT: I'm a victim of political kidnap and ransom.

CHANCE: Dubbing himself a political hostage to be traded, something that Kremlin vehemently denies.

But the idea has been floated by Russian officials in the past. And Whelan's own lawyer now says the sentencing could be used to push for an exchange with a Russian in U.S. jail.

At this point, a cold war --

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