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At This Hour

America Reckons with Racism 1 Year After George Floyd's Murder; Congress to Miss President Biden's Deadline to Pass Police Reform; GOP Leaders Condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene's Holocaust Comments. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here are the things that we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Remembering George Floyd. His murder one year ago ignited protests and a racial reckoning in America. Will Floyd's killing lead it too lasting change? I'm going speak to his family.

Denouncing hate. The Republican leader in the House finally condemning Marjorie Taylor Greene's gross comments, vile remarks on the Holocaust. But is there going to be any consequence at all?

And Moderna says the vaccine is highly effective in teens. The impact a second vaccine will have on getting America beyond this pandemic.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here, everyone. Let's begin.

Today is a somber day for our country and a very important day, a day to remember a man who has become a symbol in the fight for racial equality and police reform in America. One year ago, a white police officer in Minneapolis murdered George Floyd. His killing sent shock waives throughout shock waves throughout the country.

But America's reckoning with racial injustice is far from over, far from solved. A jury convicted Floyd's murderer Derek Chauvin last month. He will be sentenced. He is set to be sentenced next month.

But will there be lasting change after Floyd's killing?

CNN's Omar Jimenez is joining me now from Minneapolis.

Omar, what's happening there today? How does it feel there to mark this anniversary?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, celebration of George Floyd's life and legacy is going to kick off a day of remembrance and reflection on this anniversary. That's going to start a little later this morning. And it's going to be highlighted by art, music, stories from speakers who in some cases have been devastated by police violence themselves.

But even this year later, after the protests and the energy on the streets has subsided, leaders are hoping to turn that into meaningful policy. There is disagreement on how to move forward. There is no perfect solution. Many of the issues have been issues of contention for decades now.



JIMENEZ (voice-over): They were unforgettable images, born from if an unforgettable video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put that before us at this time.

JIMENEZ: Now a year later, activists meet in this the basement of this Minneapolis church with a singular mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief Arradondo's vision reform.

JIMENEZ: The unity community mediation team has been working directly with the Minneapolis Police Department in hopes of turning night a better one.

What is different here in the Minneapolis and what is different in the fight that you all are trying to wage?

PASTOR IAN D. BETHEL, UNITY COMMUNITY MEDIATION TEAM, NEW BEGINNINGS BAPTIST MINISTRY: The difference now is that there is more awareness of the atrocities that the Minneapolis Police Department has been getting away with. That's the difference.

JIMENEZ: Back in 2003, this group negotiated a federally mediated memorandum of agreement detailing concerns over use of force, police community relations and more. The document then sergeant helped negotiate.

AJ FLOWERS JR., CO-CHAIR, YOUNG PEOPLE'S TASK FORCE, UNITY COMMUNITY MEDIATION TEAM: The future is what matters. We all have children out here. Even 7 and 8-year-old that's afraid when they see police.

JIMENEZ: But strategies over how to proceed with police have been divided at times. City Council President Lisa Bender and others have led attempts to dismantle the police department in favor of a wider encompassing community safety department.

LISA BENDER, PRESIDENT, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL: We have invested like so many cities for years for decades in policing as basically the only way we're investing in keeping people safe. So, people think of policing as synonymous with safety. But it isn't working.

JIMENEZ: The mayor of Minneapolis sees it differently.

MAYOR JACOB FREY (D), MINNEAPOLIS, MN: The programs need to operate as supplemental to the work that is under way already in our police department. You need law enforcement and you need the community driven approach working simultaneously to see safety.

JIMENEZ: Frey pointed to changes they made in the past year -- bans on chokeholds, requiring intervention on unreasonable uses of force by officers and more. But overall, it's been a process that's been on going for decades.

Meanwhile, names, hashtags, Jamal Clark, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, black faces begin to run together.

JOHN THOMPSON, MINNESOTA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: A kid runs to me like, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Thompson, they just killed someone in Brooklyn Center.

JIMENEZ: State Representative John Thompson's friend, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer in 2016. That officer was never convicted on any charges.

THOMPSON: We could have saved George Floyd's life, in 2016, when Philando was murdered.


We could have saved Daunte Wright's life when George Floyd was murdered, have we just like look at police accountability pieces seriously and say, we're going to put an end to this right now.

JIMENEZ: The stakes after decades of attempts are as high as human life.

BETHEL: We have to be serious about being at the table and making some concrete decisions about reform that will last generationally.

JIMENEZ: A year after one video shook the world, the effort to bring about long term change continues, so future generations won't have to watch new ones.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And family of George Floyd is expected to meet with President Biden later today. It won't be the first time they met with him before George Floyd's funeral in the Houston area last year. Including with their young daughter with George Floyd's judge daughter, Gianna, who was on video in the immediate aftermath of her own dad's death saying, daddy changed the world.

The symbolism of George Floyd is unquestionable but now comes the hard part, catching policy to reality -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's right. Omar, thank you very much.

In just minutes, members of George Floyd's family will be meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington and then they're set to meet with other members of Congress this afternoon just as lawmakers are still negotiating a police reform bill that bears George Floyd's name. Negotiators have told CNN that they have made meaningful progress but they are missing the hope for deadline to reach a deal, to reach an agreement by today, by this anniversary.

The two sides will still do remain pretty far apart it appears on several issues, including the sticking point of qualified immunity for officers.

CNN's Jessica Dean is joining me now on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, how do you describe where negotiations stand? They have been optimistic that they could reach a bipartisan deal for quite sometime. They are not there.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are not there. Now, look, all of these people who are involved in these negotiations and those are three key members of Congress, that's Democratic Senator Cory Booker, Republican Senator Tim Scott, and Democratic House of Representatives Member Karen Bass of California, they have all maintained that they were never adhering to any deadline. They said over and over again to me, they don't want a rush bill. They want the right bill.

They acknowledged for a while it was unlikely that they were going to get anything accomplished by today. But I did talk with Senator Booker and Senator Scott in the last 24 hours. And they definitely did express a sharp turn in their optimism. I had talked with them just last week where they had both said we're still far apart. We still have a long way to go. That was some of the language they were using.

As of yesterday, Senator Scott told me he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They were beginning to see the framework here and Senator Booker said something similar. We know that they have -- they and the staffs are working on the weekends, at night. They continue to meet together.

But as you mentioned, Kate, they're not there yet. And there are still some big sticking points, the biggest one right now is likely qualified immunity. They just have not come to a compromise on that. Will they compromise on that? That's what they're trying to get around right now.

But with we do know that Senator Scott will be meeting with the Floyd family. Senator Booker is meeting with the Floyd family, as well as Representative Bass. So they're certainly talking with the family.

But, Kate, a couple things to keep in mind as we keep an eye on this, they all like and respect each other. There is a lot of respect with the negotiators. They all also have the backing of their respective leadership. So if they can come to a deal, the hope is that deal will get done -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: They've got everything working in their favor if it's going to happen. If it can happen, it will happen, because they've got everything working in their favor now.

Thanks so much, Jessica. Appreciate it.

Joining me now are members of George Floyd's family. Paris Stevens, his cousin, and two of his aunts, Angela Harrelson, Emma Howlett Jones (ph).

It is really special and wonderful to see your face on this anniversary. Thank you so much for being here, guys.

Angela, what are you feeling in this moment today?


BOLDUAN: I'm having just little a hard time hearing you guys. Is there -- could you move just a little bit closer o to the camera? I don't know. It sounds like the air-conditioning is on, because I'm sure it might be a warm day, some -- there's a little bit of a noise that I hear that I'm having a hard time hearing you.

But let's continue and hope I can hear you better. Paris, you told me the last time that we spoke on the day of the verdict that -- we're going to try to fix the technical issues, guys.


We're going to take a quick break and then we're going to be right back hopefully to reconnect with George Floyd's family to talk about this anniversary on the special.


BOLDUAN: After days of silence, Republican leadership in what seems like a coordinated move now were speaking out finally to condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Kevin McCarthy putting out a statement saying this: Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling.

The statement coming from Steve Scalise's office saying this: Representative Scalise does not agree with these comments and condemns these comparisons to the Holocaust.

Speaking out against vile comparisons like what Greene offered doubled down on and then tripled down on this morning should be the most basic expectation of anyone considered a leader in America.


So, are they leading here? Or are McCarthy and Scalise and all of other Republicans who you'll now probably see put out similar statements, are they not leading at all anymore, simply following, I don't know, the polls, fear or something else?

Joining me now is CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, what is behind this -- what's behind the statements, driving the statements this morning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, we saw a flurry of the statements coming from House Republican leadership a few minutes ago, Kate, and then, as Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, was heading to the Senate floor to give his opening remarks, this is something he does every day the Senate is in session, I asked him specifically about Marjorie Taylor Greene's comparison of the Holocaust to wearing masks and getting vaccines.

And this is what he told me, quote: Once again, an outrageous and reprehensible comment. Now, McConnell rarely speaks in the hallways and I think that's really important to underscore here, because clearly he was making a strategic decision whether it was coordinated or not, with House Republican leaders, we don't know at this moment. But it's important to point out that McConnell clearly thought it was important to try to make some kind of comment about this. We should note, of course, this is five days after Marjorie Taylor Greene initially made those comments -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. Yeah, it is very rare for everyone out there. For Mitch McConnell to say anything in the hallway other than kind of smile at you and then look away. So, this was important, as Lauren points out.

Thank you, Lauren.

Joining me now is David Chalian, CNN political director and co-host of the podcast "Politically Sound".

So, David, what do you think is behind the statements from Republican leaders now after five days?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, what's behind it, clearly, is that they realize they were in an untenable position staying silent. That was not going to work. You can't have a member, even a rank and file back bencher like Marjorie Taylor Greene say these kinds of hateful and quite frankly dangerous anti-Semitic comments and not comment.

So, that just wasn't going to be a tenable position. I didn't think took them this long to get to that statement today, this morning, Kate, I don't -- we don't know the answer to that yet. Clearly, it shouldn't have taken this long.

BOLDUAN: CNN political commentator and former Ted Cruz's spokesperson Amanda Carpenter said something that I've been thinking a lot about. She said it yesterday about kind of who is following who here and who is in charge anymore, when you can let Marjorie Taylor Greene's statements linger out there for so long and not do anything about it. She says that Greene has a tie to the Trump base, that Republican leaders think they need. And now she is more powerful than Kevin McCarthy.

What do you think of that?

CHALIAN: I would imagine that for a lot of the Trump base of the Republican Party, which by the way is the base of the Republican Party.

BOLDUAN: That's right. That's exactly right.

CHALIAN: That's not from small slice, that is the Republican Party base at the moment. Marjorie Taylor Greene probably gets higher marks than does Kevin McCarthy.

So, in that sense, I understand Amanda's point that she has more clout, more sway as sort of true believer with the Trump base. I don't know she has more power in the halls of Congress.

But what you saw is that Kevin McCarthy, I don't, you know, I don't know if there was a heads up down to the former president before he came out with this statement or not, but clearly, he couldn't bring it on Friday as soon as he saw the comments to just completely out of hand dismiss it. It seemed that there needed to be a little more thought here, perhaps more concern about alienating the base of the party who tend to be supportive of folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

BOLDUAN: And it gets to kind of like what had had to be done to push him to do this, right? Because one person who has spoken up, and I know you took note of is a major fund-raiser for Trump's re-election, someone that is close to Kevin McCarthy, a man named Jeff Miller.

He put out a strong tweet this morning saying basically, I mean, not basically, well, you see it in your screen: WTF is wrong with you? You need to pay a visit to the Holocaust museum which he would be happy to arrange. Then maybe you would stop making disgusting ignorant and offensive tweets and remarks.

Do you -- I mean, why is that significant? Coming from -- you know, most people out there don't know who Jeff Miller is. But he does have very close ties to the people we're talking about?

CHALIAN: Well, let's just give a little context to that, right? I mean, Jeff Miller I think was a co-chair of the finance committee for the 2020 Republican convention. Donald Trump's reelection convention, right? He is the closest political adviser to Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and then cabinet member inside the Trump administration.


And he has very close ties to Kevin McCarthy. This is a long time adviser to Kevin McCarthy.

So, this isn't just a random Republican operative. This is somebody who is very much a part of bringing the Republican Party to the moment that it is in. And him speaking out about this clearly is an important voice in this.

And I think probably indicated to a lot of folks that tolerating Marjorie Taylor Greene's comments even tacitly by your silence for another moment wasn't going to be tenable for a large swath of the establishment Republican Party.

BOLDUAN: And not unrelated, I think, David, is George P. Bush, Jeb Bush's son. He is -- announced, let everybody know very publicly that he is consulting Donald Trump about his political future. He spoke to the "Dallas Morning News" and put out a tweet.

Here's what he told "The Dallas Morning News": We talked about the importance of putting the right team on the field because the Democrats are targeting our state. We talked about my race and the vision that I had for the state in Texas.

He also put up a picture of him on the cell phone saying it is great to talk to president Trump to discuss the future of Texas and how we're going to put America first. I appreciate the words of encouragement and support.

Talk about break from your family and your father specifically. What is that -- what is this about? Maybe it's a statement of the larger.

CHALIAN: It is, Kate. I think it perfectly encapsulates sort of where the Republican Party is right now. What is the difference between George P. Bush at the moment and his father Jeb Bush and his uncle George W. Bush, neither of whom, you know, voted for Trump and made their feelings known?

I mean, we saw Donald Trump spend a year taking Jeb Bush just apart piece by piece. Here is George P. Bush on the phone with them why? Because George P. Bush is still involved in Republican Party politics. His name is going to be on a ballot, in a primary.

And so, he is keenly aware he has to keep the Trump base engaged with him if he's to have a prayer as an elected official in today's Republican Party politics. So, he takes a different route than his father and his uncle. And he tries and maneuvers with keeping the Trump base engaged.

One way to do that is get on the phone with the former president himself and taking the temperature to see if he can avoid any kind of bombshells from Donald Trump throughout the course of a potential primary campaign for the attorney general slot in Texas.

BOLDUAN: But just for everybody, just as a point of context, I know the control room is going to yell at me, George P. Bush is happy to have the encouragement and support from Donald Trump, his father after the insurrection tweeted, tweeted out about the insurrection and put at the feet of Donald Trump, saying that the president, Donald Trump, had provoked these disgusting events.

I mean that is who George P. Bush is happy to get the support and encouragement of? That's where we're in this moment?

CHALIAN: Clearly, a future in Republican Party politics is nor important to him than his -- than siding with his dad on the believe of what instigated and who is responsible for that insurrection.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, David.

CHALIAN: Take care, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, he's call -- he is called him a killer and now, President Biden has set a date to meet face-to-face with one of his biggest adversaries, details on that next.



BOLDUAN: On this anniversary of George Floyd's murder, members of his family will be meeting with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in just minutes.

Now, joining me now from Minneapolis, Paris Stephens, George Floyd's cousin and two of his aunts, Angela Harrelson and Emma Howlett Jones (ph).

HARRELSON: It's a very special day. It's hard to believe that we have made it, this one year today, since all that happened. But it seemed like yesterday it's been an emotional roller coaster. It's been hard, frustration.

But today, I just feel a day of relief because -- especially ever since the verdict, you know? The support that we received around the love, to get to this day, and I'm just overwhelmed with joy and hope and I feel like change is here.

There used to be a song that says change is going to come but change is here. I'm excited about that.

BOLDUAN: You know, Paris, you told me the last time that we spoke on the day of the verdict after the verdict that you said that you will continue. You said there is more work to do. You said that to me a couple times, I remember that.

Are you hopeful that the moves towards racial justice will be enduring? Are you -- do you have any fear that as time passes that the momentum, the push, the fire that drove this, that it fades?

PARIS STEVENS, GEORGE FLOYD'S COUSIN: I'm not worried. I'm not worried at all.