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Trump to Speak with Governors as Anger Rages; Protests for Justice Seen in All 50 States; Source: WH Reaching Out to Black Leaders for a "Listening Session"; President Obama on Nationwide Unrest: "Let's not Excuse Violence". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2020 - 11:00   ET



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I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to stay on it everyday. I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump is speaking to governors and law enforcement leaders from around the country this hour after a weekend in which he raised the prospect of deploying the military to stop rioting and looting across America.

Check out this map. Not a coronavirus map. This unrest, like the virus now found in all 50 states. Many protests peaceful, but many anything but savvy. Police squaring off with citizens. The pictures have been inspiring and troubling at the same time.

26 states as well as here in Washington D.C. activating the National Guard to help with crowd control and policing. These protests started, of course, as a demand for justice over the killing of George Floyd at the hand and knee of Minnesota police officers. To this point, since Floyd's death, 4,000 arrests in those protests across the country.

Here's some of what we've been seeing in cities across the country from Philadelphia to New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and of course Minneapolis. But the protests have not just been confined to big cities. People in communities large and small finding their voice. But for all the violence, tear gas and looting, there have also been some compelling stories of compassion, like this one, Shreveport, Louisiana. A police officer there stepping in to support a protestor overcome with emotion. Some police dropping their batons and riot gear, joining the march for justice and peace, finding common ground. Like in this picture from Nashville, Tennessee, a protestor and a police officer sharing their thoughts, their prayers and their fears over a country now in crisis.

And here maybe, the most powerful limits. The police chief of Minneapolis kneeling in his respects at the makeshift memorial for George Floyd, the man who died at the hands of his own officers. Officers now at the center for this call for justice. A call echoed by the mayor of neighboring St. Paul who says justice in this case is the only way forward.


MAYOR MELVIN CARTER (D-MN), ST. PAUL: There is a culture of policing that we all know is a too ugly part of our history. There is a culture of abuse, there is a culture of violence, there is a culture of escalation in policing that cannot continue to be a part of our future. Holding these officers accountable is absolutely critical for turning the page on that culture.


KING: Let's get straight now to our correspondents in some of the cities hardest hit by this. CNN's Jeremy Diamond in Washington, CNN's Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Minneapolis where this all began. Omar, we begin with you. Take us through what you're seeing right now and connect it to a very troubling weekend.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, over the course of days, we seem to wake up and show you the destructive aftermath of protests. What you see behind me is the aftermath of peaceful protests. This is actually the site where George Floyd was seen on a cell phone video down on the pavement under the knee of the former officer Derek Chauvin. Now outlined in arch here and has become a makeshift memorial.

Now, we knew officials here were going to step up their enforcement tactics to try and stem what at one point the governor here described as 48 hours of anarchy. Those enforcement tactics went into effect over the weekend.

Saturday was probably the turning point in all of this where we saw the strongest law enforcement response yet in regards to they pushed into the protestors rather than waiting back and allowing them to come forward and they used a lot of dispersible tactics as well to, again, try to prevent the protesting they had seen during the daytime from turning into some of the violent rioting, looting and buildings on fire.

Then, yesterday seemed to be a manifestation of that. Largely peaceful protests including here. This is where the Minneapolis police chief came to pay his respects and be with and stand in solidarity with some of the protesters. And even overnight, there's a curfew that goes into effect here at 8:00 p.m.

Well, there were peaceful protestors in the intersection over here. They came just after 8:00 p.m. and stayed until 6:00 a.m. Throughout the night even though officers were waiting at bay. They decided to let them stay here in peaceful protest.

Now, that doesn't mean we're not going to see more protests. People here are still waiting to see if more charges will be filed against these officers, how things are going to proceed with the officer already charged, Derek Chauvin, in this. And also, later today, we do expect to hear from the Floyd family through their attorney over the results of an independent autopsy as well, John. So, a lot of factors to keep an eye on moving forward.

KING: Omar Jimenez on the ground for us in Minneapolis.

I want to go to Stephanie Elam now.


First, showing this, the frontpage of "Los Angeles Times." Looters rampage across the region. Stephanie, one of the many places where the National Guard also involved. What's the latest?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very much the case here, John. And we saw in three different places in L.A. over the last three days. Friday night it was Downtown, L.A., and then on Saturday it was here in the Melrose Fairfax District where you can see they're still out here cleaning up and painting up, covering up some of the graffiti that's still out here. There is a building down there that we can every now and then still smell it smoldering down there, so the fire department still here.

And then Santa Monica yesterday where we saw a faceoff. We know that there were hundreds of arrests there yesterday. Overall, there's like 500 arrests on Friday, same thing for Saturday. So, a lot of arrests as we see these protests change tone later in the day.

Also just noting what they're planning on doing here today. We know that in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, they're planning on having the business districts a curfew implemented at 1:00 p.m. And then, the rest of the city areas at 4:00 p.m. That's what they're planning on doing here locally.

Now, we're also getting word that the state is looking to shut down any of their state buildings that are in downtown areas. They notified their staff last night to make it clear. That they should just stay away, some of these offices beginning to reopen here as we're still very much dealing with coronavirus which seems to have been almost forgotten a bit.

I took a tour out here yesterday walking through this very area in the morning, and there were a lot of people out here very close together. Not everyone was wearing masks. And you've seen some of that happening throughout some of these protests here, which is still a very big concern for a lot of the health officials as we're watching these two issues play out here on the streets of Los Angeles, John.

KING: Stephanie Elam, thanks so much from the West Coast in Los Angeles.

And just one more headline for you here. This is the "Washington Post" in the nation's capital. The "Washington Post" using the term precipice. The country at a precipice. The protests here have included a protest very close to the president's house, the White House.

Jeremy Diamond has the latest for that. Jeremy, there have been chaos across the street there. At one point, the president taken to the secure bunker beneath.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. On Friday evening, President Trump actually had to go to the underground bunker at the White House for nearly an hour after protestors began approaching, coming close to the North Lawn fence of the White House.

For the last couple of days, John, we have seen the Secret Service push back those protestors beyond Lafayette Park, expanding that perimeter, but that certainly did not stop some of the violence that we saw as a result of you know or in the aftermath of some of these more peaceful protests during the day here in Washington.

The question, though, John, is also one of rhetoric and how President Trump can go forward and address the protests and the unrest that we have seen over these last several days. And the president's aides, John, are divided over how the president should address the nation, and whether or not he should more formally address the nation at this time of crisis in this country.

There are different camps, though, John, some of the aides believe that the president should be focusing on how he can calm the situation, how he can address the grievances of these protestors and call for calm in the country. Other aides to the president believe that he needs to forcefully condemn and forcefully respond to the riots that have sometimes evolved out of these protests over the last several days.

What's clear, John, is that the president is kind of trying to do both things. We heard him on Saturday give a more comprehensive response to the protests, say that he respects the right of the peaceful protests, but that he would do everything to stop what he called mob violence.

But on Twitter, John, which is sometimes the best way to get a sense of where the president's head is at, the president has been far more forceful and really focused on attacking Democrats and also threatening protestors in a way where he says that police should be really clamping down much more forcefully on some of these protests that we are seeing across the country.

So that discussion is certainly still evolving at the White House, John. There are also discussions about whether or not the president could begin to meet with some members of the African American community and hold some listening sessions. We'll certainly be monitoring to see if that is the path that the president chooses. John?

KING: We will watch in the hours ahead. Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Appreciate that. As Jeremy noted, law and order is the president's focus today.

There is a spirited debate among the president's advisers about how he should handle this tinderbox moment. A national address is one idea, listening sessions, we're told, with black leaders as Jeremy just noted is another. Either way, his press secretary today says an Oval Office address is, these are her words, quote, "not going to stop Antifa."

Atlanta's mayor among the African American leaders who called the president's recent statements unhelpful and are skeptical any words from this president can help.


MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: None of his statement will be similar to the one that he gave during the Charlottesville uprising. No, that would not be helpful. Unless he is going to speak unity and respect and reconciliation and reform for our communities, then I don't think he should make a statement at all. It will only make matters worse.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think President Trump is capable of making a statement calling for unity?

LANCE BOTTOMS: I think that he is capable of reading one.


KING: With me now is Jesse J. Holland. He is an author and a political analyst with the Black News Channel. Jesse, I'm grateful for your time. It's always great to see you. I wish the circumstances were different.


When you listen to a mayor of a major American city, it is just striking and put in context, help me put it in context. When you have a mayor of a major American city, and there are many of them, saying they think it would be unhelpful for the president of the United States, this president of the United States to speak out and try to unify the country at this moment.

JESSE J. HOLLAND, POLITICAL ANALYST, BLACK NEWS CHANNEL: Well, out of all the things that we're hearing the president's advisers telling him to say, for some reason I'm not hearing them suggest the president should speak out against police violence on African American men and women. I mean, that's what we need to hear. We're trying to fight a fire without looking at the cause. And one of the things that we're seeing over and over, and unfortunately, we're learning, is that we can't depend on national leadership to speak up and help solve some of these problems. We're now having to look at local and state leaders hoping that they're going to step up.

We're no longer waiting for a national savior to come help us, John. We need to have our local leaders and our state leaders speak up and step up to stop the violence, not just the violence of the looters, which should be stopped, but the violence that is coming from our police departments. How many times do we have to talk about this?

KING: Well, to the point - to the point you're making, Jesse, just a short time ago, the former president of the United States, the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, published on medium his thoughts. He said he wanted to. And among them is the point you were just making. He says, people need to get out on the street.

Let's read a bit of it here. "...let's not excuse violence or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate at a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves. If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn't between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."

Jesse, it was interesting. The former president also urging these protestors. Number one, he said stop. Stop the violence. Stop the damage. But he said, be as specific as you can be, making the point that police reform in Minneapolis might look very different than police reform in a rural area as well. Those are things we have not heard from the current president of the United States.

HOLLAND: That's right. I mean, once again, we're not going to wait to hear from this - from the current president. It's too late. Those comments should have been made from this president days ago. In fact, the day that George Floyd died should have been the day that we heard from our president to say to our police officers, not all of them are bad police officers, but for the ones who are, he should have been saying to them, stop the violence.

Now, there -- nobody ever says that looting should be done. Looters should be arrested. But we have a constitutional right to petition our government for better treatment, not just our federal government, our state government, our local government. The president doesn't control anyone's police force. It's the mayors, it's the governors at our states. They are the ones who need to step up to our police departments, to our police chiefs and say, this is unacceptable, and we have to stop it.

And you know what? We should get out there and protest. We should get out there and vote. We should not think so much about the presidential race, but let's think about our mayor races, let's think about our sheriff department races. Those are the people who are on the ground with us right now, and they need to be held accountable for how they treat our communities.

KING: It is hard to believe. In my case, it was 28 years ago. I was in Los Angeles with then Governor Bill Clinton in the wake of the Rodney King riots and the verdict. You had this playing out, unrest in America in the middle of a presidential campaign. A little bit of a flashback here.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As an American citizen, I was mystified and disappointed in the jury verdict in the King case. I was outraged by much of what followed, innocent people being killed and burned out and looted and maimed. I want to hear from you, what you think we ought to do together, what you want from a president, what you want from your national government.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand to defend decency and honor. We stand to defend and protect the honest men and women in this country. And that's the message that I think has gone out.


KING: You have there - you had there. I remember very well, a bit of a contrast where Bill Clinton was, I want to hear from you. I want to listen. He went to the streets of Los Angeles. He went through the neighborhood where that happened. George H.W. Bush a very decent man but deciding in a campaign statement in context there, you saw the pictures behind him. Military, police officers, law and order.


HOLLAND: One of the things that I'm looking for as I'm out and about and watching these things, I'm looking to see if our mayors, our governors, are out there in the streets talking to their constituents instead of hiding behind in their offices and telling their spokesmen to go out and talk to them. These are the people you're supposed to be representing. Our mayors, you're supposed to be representing these people out in the streets. Our governors, you're supposed to be representing these people.

Why aren't you out there? Why do you have to sit back and watch when you know this has happened over and over. I was on the streets in Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown died. Where are our leaders? And you know what? I'm so sick of people asking, where are our black leaders?

This is not an African American problem. This is an American problem. Where are our American leaders? Where are our white leaders? Where are our leaders who are going to be out there and help us solve this problem instead of sitting back, worried about property instead of lives?

KING: Excellent points and insights. Jesse J. Holland, appreciate your time today. I'm grateful.

HOLLAND: Thank you.

KING: Take care, Jesse.

And as we go to break, a reminder most of the protestors want their message delivered peacefully like this outside the White House.



KING: A key demand of the protestors is that all four officers who were right there when George Floyd died face charges and those protestors want those charges filed immediately. Only the officer who pinned Floyd down to - with a knee to his neck has been charged so far. The "Star Tribune" in Minneapolis noting here among its headlines that the Minnesota's attorney general was just appointed by the governor as the lead prosecutor in this case, Keith Ellison asking for patience.


KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are moving as expeditiously, as quickly and as effectively as we can. But I need to protect this prosecution. I am not going to create a situation where somebody can say this was a rush to judgment. In the Rodney King case, the Simi Valley jury acquitted. So, we have got to be careful, methodical, and we got to make sure that we're playing the long game.


KING: Joining me now is Don Lewis. He is the special prosecutor in the case of Philando Castile who was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota back in 2016. Sir, thank you so much for being with us. You know from a painful memory, the officer charged in the Castile case was acquitted.



KING: When you hear Attorney General Ellison -- when you hear the attorney general say, please give me time to build a case so that it is airtight. Do you agree with that philosophy, that approach to law enforcement?

LEWIS: Well, I do agree that you've got to make sure that you have the evidence that supports the charges. I do also agree that you have to act urgently. So, I suspect that the attorney general, who is now supervising this case, will do his best to collect the relevant evidence. I'm hoping he can do it within -- within 30 days. There is just tremendous public pressure and urgency to move forward.

KING: As we move forward, one of the unique elements of this case is that often police departments retreat into a cocoon, if you will, when this happens. The brother protects itself, if you will. In this case, I want you to listen to my colleague Sara Sidner that the Minneapolis police chief show at the makeshift memorial yesterday. Listen to his words.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They want to know if the other officers should be arrested in your mind and if you see that they should all four be convicted in this case.

CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: Mr. Floyd died in our hands. And so, I see that as being complicit. So, that is about as much and I apologize to the Floyd family if I'm not more clear, but I don't see a difference in terms of the ultimate outcome is he is not here with us.


KING: The chief saying he's trying to be careful in his words, but he also said the department, and I assume he means those other three officers on the scene, are complicit. How important could that be in a criminal case?

LEWIS: Well, that is indeed a difficult statement for those who are going to be defending the officers. These officers will very likely be charged with aiding and abetting Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.

But in order to prove that, they're going to have to prove some element of intent that in their actions, these officers intended the same result that Derek Chauvin intended. And I think Keith Ellison is very, very aware that that is -- you know, there is some strong evidence but there is also some -- there is also some weak points that the defense can take advantage of.

KING: And so, in the case of Officer Chauvin, who has been charged, and he is the officer whose knee is pinned to Mr. Floyd's neck for nine minutes, he ignored the gasps, the pleas for help, so you have compelling video evidence there. Listen to the attorney for the Floyd family saying he has been charged with third-degree murder which they seem to be saying they don't believe it was premeditated -- did we just lose the shot there with Mr. Lewis?

Try to fix that. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.



KING: President Trump blames the Antifa movement and says he wants to label it a terrorist group. St. Paul's mayor had to backtrack from a statement he says he was briefed with the wrong information. That those arrested in his city were not from the area. There is a lot of finger pointing going on right now about who is to blame for all this protest and the violence.