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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Eighth Night Of Protests Over George Floyd's Death; Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); Curfews In Effect For DC And NYC; Eight States, D.C. Hold Primaries Amid Protests, Pandemic; Biden: I Won't Fan The Flames Of Hate. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 2, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But this demonstration throughout the day, peaceful, up and down as thousands -- tens of thousands marched through the streets of Houston, and this is really poignant here because George Floyd is from Houston, and many people here tell you that this is the city that feels that they know him best -- Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, thank you very much, Ed Lavandera. And thanks to all of you for joining us as the New York City curfew begins. Let's hand it off for our continued coverage with Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks. Good evening.
All day, in cities and towns all across this country, people took to the streets, filling parks and gatherings at national landmarks, peacefully protesting the police killing of George Floyd eight days ago in Minneapolis.
Tonight in some of those places, curfews are in effect or about to take effect. New York's curfew begins right now and as you can see there are still people out on the streets and on the move there in Brooklyn where we'll go live in just a moment.
Philadelphia's curfew starts at 8:30, in half an hour, and in Los Angeles curfew starts in one hour.
We want to emphasize throughout the day, we have seen huge crowds of people marching peacefully.
In Washington, the curfew began a little more than an hour ago. We're going to be watching to see how authorities handle the protesters there and elsewhere.
We'll also going to be watching to see as the night progresses if there is a repeat of what happened last night in New York as peaceful protesters who largely went home and other young people broke into stores and destroyed property.
We also have new reporting on who gave the order for authorities to move aggressively on peaceful protesters last evening outside the White House that's what happened then, so that the President and his hangers on could cross the street for a photo op outside a church which he was neither invited to nor welcomed to exploit the way he did.
We'll be joined again tonight by the Bishop of Washington's Episcopal Diocese who we spoke to last night, who condemned his visit.
We'll talk about his visit to a Catholic Church enshrined to Pope John Paul II. Today, the Archbishop of Washington said the late Pope who has been canonized, quote, "Certainly would not condone the use of teargas and other deterrence to silence, scatter or intimidate for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."
Or presumably, use the down wash from military low flying choppers to disperse crowds as happened last night in Washington. Tactics normally seen in war zones being used against American citizens protesting peacefully in the Nation's Capital.
As we said at the top, a curfew is now in effect in New York City after a day of large and peaceful daytime demonstrations. Last night, it gave way to vandalism and break-ins at retail establishments including Macy's flagship store in Midtown Manhattan.
Earlier today, the President lashed out at New York's governor for his decision to leave responsibility for protecting property and lives and enforcing the curfew to the New York City Police Department and not bring in the National Guard.
Quoting now from the President's tweet, "New York was lost to the looters, thugs, radical left and all other forms of low-life and scum. The governor refuses to accept my offer of a dominating National Guard. NYC was ripped to pieces."
New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo also criticized the Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio for his handling of last night calling it, quote, "inexcusable."
CNN's Jason Carroll has been covering the protests throughout the day. Jason, 8:00 p.m. curfew is now in effect. Talk about what you've seen throughout the day, what you're seeing now on the streets.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, we're in Downtown Brooklyn in front of the Barclays Center where thousands of people have gathered, Anderson, much like we saw last night and are defying this curfew.
They're just starting to march now, so we're going to march along as they go.
As I fill in what happened out here today, where we had again, thousands of people who gathered and said that they wanted to honor George Floyd.
A number of the speakers stood up and spoke out against the looting, spoke out against the vandalism and said they wanted to honor a man who lost his life in Minnesota.
Now, when we were out here last night, Anderson, we had thousands of people who defied the curfew. They continued to march until about 1:00 a.m.
Throughout that whole time, there were a number of police, as you can imagine, and the tactic was to hang back and to allow the demonstrators to voice what they wanted to, but not to interact with them as much as they could, and that worked last night.
That was last night. Tonight is a different night. We now have the curfew again in place. Last night, it was at 11:00. Tonight, it's at 8:00.
And again, you have thousands of people who are, again, marching the streets calling this, again, an act of civil disobedience.
The question is what happens tonight? What will the police tactic be tonight? And it's anyone's guess, really. I mean, obviously, the police are going to look at the crowd, feel out the crowd, and see how things develop.
But as for now, this has been a peaceful demonstration throughout the day, and a number of people that we've spoken to say that there is a real worry, Anderson, with all of those images of the looting, all those images of the vandalism that people are going to lose track of the fact that thousands upon thousands of people have been demonstrating in New York City and throughout this country peacefully and they're just hoping that message doesn't get lost -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's such an important point to make and we've been making it, I think throughout the day, and certainly, on this program. Jason, thank you.
I want to check in now on the scene in Lafayette Park outside the White House. We also just want to get a quick reality check on the U.S. Park Police's claim late today that they only moved against protesters last evening after various objects were thrown.
Alex Marquardt was there and saw what happened. He is there once again for us tonight. What have the crowds been like today? And what do you make of what the Park Police is saying?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we are now just over an hour into this curfew. As you can see here, there are still a lot of protesters who remain.
In fact, they have chanted, "We are not leaving." They have chanted other things about defying this curfew. I've been speaking to a number of people who said they are going to stay.
They are pressed right up against this new fence that has been erected outside the White House. That was put up overnight. It's about eight feet high, made out of steel. Those panels have been locked together so protesters can't push through.
There have been a few people who sort of started rocking them back and forth and then, they were reprimanded by other protesters, and that just goes to show that the vast majority of people here want to keep this peaceful.
This has been an entirely peaceful protest today. We have not seen anything that was thrown, no projectiles that were thrown at the police, and that is the claim, Anderson, for why they cracked down last night.
We did hear from the United States Park Police today saying that there were agitators among the protesters who started throwing frozen water bottles, bricks, what they called caustic liquids at the forces inside the park, and that is why they say at 6:35 p.m. yesterday right before the 7:00 p.m. curfew, that they launched that crackdown that emptied out this exact area where we are standing.
Now, our CNN team, we did not see anything like that. It was an entirely peaceful protest as far as we could tell. We didn't see anything thrown. What we did see, Anderson, was right as the President was walking into the Rose Garden to say he was the President of Law and Order, we saw forces from the U.S. Park Police sweep down H Street right here, firing all kinds of projectiles that made protesters cough and choke.
They fired pepper rounds, flashbangs to push people out of this area, and that's where we spoke to you from last night, from those streets that had been emptied of those protesters.
We would later find out, as you know, Anderson, that that was because the President was disappointed, angered by the coverage of him having to go into a bunker on Friday night as protesters started up here in Washington, D.C. He wanted to be seen outside of the White House.
So, the Park Police cleared this entire area last night and walked -- he walked across Lafayette Park right here from the White House, you can see it right there, walking the length of Lafayette Park over to St. John's Church which is right there, for that photo op, in which he held up the Bible.
When asked whether it was his Bible, he just said, it was a Bible.
So now, this curfew is in effect. People -- this crowd has dramatically thinned out, Anderson, in just the past few moments. Around half, I would say, have left. It's unclear where they went. I don't think it was in response to this curfew. They wanted to march.
But there is still a significant crowd here, and we will see whether there is any -- whether law enforcement decides to enforce this curfew.
Of course, it is a city curfew, so that would be the D.C. Police whose decision it would be to clear these people out. I imagine they are in these streets around us, but I haven't seen them.
But anyway, the Mayor of D.C. said that what she saw last night, she was outraged by, she was stunned by, and the Chief of Police here said it made his job much easier -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Alex Marquardt. Alex, thanks very much. MARQUARDT: Much more difficult, I'm sorry.
COOPER: Much more difficult. Yes. That's what I thought. Much more now on what we're now just learning about who is behind the publicity stunt at the church.
CNN's Jim Accosta has those details, he joins us now. So explain, I understand you have new reporting about exactly how this surreal idea to visit St. John's Church last night came about.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson, hearing from two senior White House officials who say it was President Trump who came up with this idea to visit St. John's Episcopal Church and that some of the top members, the very close people who are in his team helped him hatch this plan.
People like his Communications Adviser, Hope Hicks; Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump; Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, all essentially helped the President implement this plan and put it into place.
ACOSTA: The decision came down about 1:00 yesterday afternoon, I'm told, and that initially, the planning was for the administration to simply establish a security perimeter around the White House, around the White House neighborhood.
This was largely in part -- these officials are saying because of the church fire over at St. John's Episcopal Church, but then, the President added the idea of a church visit yesterday afternoon, and then administration officials jumped into place so start putting that plan into action.
Now, Anderson, the other thing we should point out is, there are some inconsistencies in what we're hearing from officials. You heard Alexander Marquardt say a few moments ago that Park Police are saying, well, they implemented -- they used some of these harsh tactics yesterday because protesters were being violent.
Obviously, many journalists out there, including reporters from CNN are saying, they didn't see any acts of violence against these police officers.
But, Anderson, obviously if the President wants to visit a church outside of Lafayette Park, that park is going to have to be cleared. And I think the question has to be asked, well, what did they expect to happen when they try to clear a park so quickly so the President can have a publicity stunt, a photo opportunity outside of that church?
I talked to one white house official earlier today who was doing some second guessing and saying, listen, this should have been done hours earlier in the day. Had they gone out hours earlier in the day and established the security perimeter, you would not have had the ugly scene potentially that we saw later on in the evening when more people show up.
COOPER: Jim, it's interesting, though. I've been following some coverage among the President's supporters on Twitter and stuff, and there, it is being portrayed as he is this tough guy who is -- he's not cowering in a bunker. He is this tough guy who decides to meander over with his gaggle to this church, and so they clear it out, and that just shows how tough he is.
I find it fascinating that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are involved in this decision. She apparently actually carried the Bible over in her purse, which she was clutching, and then handed it had to the President for the photo op.
I noticed that they were smart enough not to actually get involved in the photo op itself. When the President is sort of trying to get people to come in from -- to help him out and stand with him, they're nowhere to be seen. They clearly, you know, have their eye on the future.
ACOSTA: That's right. You know, our understanding is that the President was sort of motioning people to come over and stand together with him for this photo opportunity, and --
COOPER: And there is Mark Meadows, the Chief of Staff --
ACOSTA: There were members of the President's entourage who were reluctantly moving in place.
COOPER: Mark Meadows there on the right, the Chief of Staff is kind of looking at the church as if there is a point for them to be there, when there is no point other than that photo.
And I know Kellyanne Conway has denied that this was a photo op. That is the definition of a photo op.
ACOSTA: That's right.
COOPER: And the fact that they encouraged the President to say something, you can see the President going, shh, because he had nothing to say.
ACOSTA: That's right. And I will tell you, I talked to a Trump adviser who advises the White House and the campaign earlier this evening who questioned the idea of even going to the church for this photo opportunity.
The President is not known to be a man of faith -- of deep faith. He occasionally gets things wrong when it comes to references to the Bible. Now, you don't want to question anybody's religious feelings and their faith, and so on, but, you know, this Trump adviser was essentially saying sarcastically, why would the President go to a church?
Talk to White House officials, they say it's because he was disturbed by the scene at the church. But, of course, as you know, Anderson, the President's Christian conservative evangelical base is a huge part of their plan to get re-elected come November, and so, it does make sense that he would make that journey out there.
COOPER: Let's not dance around it. It's the most obvious political -- you know, it's the easiest political play for him to make. He is the law and order guy and he is standing outside a church, you know, holding a Bible that his daughter carried over for him and handed him and then probably took back in her purse and who knows where that Bible is now.
ACOSTA: And if you talk to these officials this evening, they say they still feel good about it despite that scene, that ugly scene out there last night, they still feel good about it. In the words of this one White House official, they feel good that they quote, "restored law and order."
The President is tweeting tonight that Washington, D.C. was the safest place on Earth last night. Not for the protesters -- Anderson.
COOPER: You know, the idea that they restored law and order, again, we had mentioned this last night, but you know, the President talks about himself as law and order.
Law and order is what peaceful protesters are actually asking for. It's what black Americans are actually asking for, equal treatment under the law. That will bring about law and order.
It is not law and order when one group of people is being dominated and repressed and treated differently by law enforcement on a routine basis.
That is not law and order. That is disorder. That is unlawful. I just find it ironic that the President is claiming the mantle of being our, quote-unquote, "our law and order President" when, in fact, that is what peaceful protesters are actually wanting. They are wanting equal justice under the law.
ACOSTA: And that law and order, too, a lot of people last night felt like getting pummeled by police officers and getting gassed out of an area in a very violent way. It didn't feel like law and order to them, that's for sure.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Former President George W. Bush weighed in late today with a statement. It does not mention President Trump by name, but it minces no words, one passage reads, quote, "This tragedy in a long series of similar tragedies raises a long overdue question," he is talking about the killing of George Floyd, " ... how do we end systematic racism in our society?" The former President asked.
"The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurt and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America or how it becomes a better place."
He went on to say, and I quote, "The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country still threaten our union."
Just before airtime, I spoke about those issues with Democratic Congressman and House Majority Whip, James Clyburn.
COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, you've been involved in the Civil Rights Movement your entire life. When you see the images of protesters across the country today, we saw in city after city, people peacefully by and large protesting. What do you think? How does this moment feel to you?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): A little bit surreal, and you know, when you look at what we're doing back in the 1960s and 1970s for that matter, we really thought that were we to succeed, that it would be moving on to the next chapter.
And I thought that for a long time, but the more I studied history and the longer I lived it, I began to see the realization that in this country, things move like a pendulum on the clock.
They seem to go to the right for a while, then back left for a while, then back right. And I think that what we saw is when the country moved to the left and elected Barack Obama, there was this rush to get the country going back to the right. And, boy, did it go back to the right, and we elected Donald Trump.
I don't believe that anybody realized at the time that the country was being pushed over the cliff. And I'll tell you, what I feel today is that the future of this country is really at stake.
I think that what has gone on, not just in the streets, but what's going on in the White House leads me to believe, from my study of history, that this country is at a crossroads, and if we don't choose wisely between now and the end of this year, I think that we are seeing the demise of the greatest democracy ever on Earth.
COOPER: You believe the stakes are that high? That that is the alternative?
CLYBURN: Yes, I do believe that, and one of the reasons we study history is hopefully to understand what to do and what not to do going forward.
I think it was George Santayana who admonished that if you fail to learn the lessons of history, you're bound to repeat them. So, the question is, have we learned any lessons of our history? We seem not to be learning any lessons.
And if we don't learn them, then we're going to repeat that. Anybody who studied history long at all will know that no matter how great the power gets, if you are not careful, you can lose that.
Now, I don't know if Thomas Jefferson ever said it, but they always say that he said -- and though, I've done research and I can't find where Thomas Jefferson ever said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Whether or not he said it, it is a truism. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. We are losing that.
COOPER: Last night, you know, when there was a curfew in New York, for the first time since 1943, I wondered -- I wonder what that curfew was back in 1943? So, I looked it up. It was August 1943, and the reason there was a curfew in New York then was because a white police officer shot an African-American man, a soldier who had fought in the war and shot him in the streets, didn't kill him, but shot him and that led to days of protests and what they call rioting and curfew happened.
So when somebody looks at that and says, well, look, there have been peaceful protests for a long time, and the problems still remain. What do you say? What do you say to give hope to somebody that change is possible?
CLYBURN: Well, I will say to young people, you shouldn't give up on the system. Do like John Lewis asked us to do a couple of days ago. You know, I tell people all the time, I met my wife in jail. So, I know what this is all about. We stayed married for 58 years. It worked pretty good for us.
I think that we have to always remember that we have to make sacrifices to make this country work, and if we work together, maintaining solidarity with each other and do not allow yourself to play your opponent's game, violence is not our game. That's our opponent's game.
The President used violence last night, the unjust use of force. It's just as violent as the unjust use of power. So, power the president used unjustly, and sometimes people in the streets are using force unjustly. Both of them are misuses of power. Both of them are violent acts which must come to a close.
COOPER: One of the things that I find stunning about what the President said yesterday is, he now says, I'm your law and order President.
But to me, it seems like the peaceful protesters, people who are calling for systematic change, who are calling for equal rights, who are calling for equal treatment under the law, those are people who want law and order.
Law and order is not a police force dominating a group of people. Law and order is a police force treating everybody equally under the law. That's law and order.
CLYBURN: Well, you know, George Will has just written about this President and he has also written about the Republican Party, and I find it kind of interesting.
When I call for this country to use the CARES Act to restructure things in the vision of this great country, with liberty and justice for all, it's there in our Pledge of Allegiance, I was mocked on the floor of the United States Senate by the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
And all kinds of tweets went out over the airwaves about me using that term of reshaping things, restructuring things in the vision of this great country.
We've got to restructure healthcare. We've got to restructure the judicial system. We've got to restructure our educational system. I'm not backing away from that. And I'm not going to stop because people mock that.
When I called for investing in low-income communities, I came up with my 10, 20, 30 formula. Spend at least 10 percent of this money for 20 percent of the population that is stuck beneath the poverty level for the last 30 years. I've been mocked by people for doing that.
Yet some people say, that's a good way to address the question of reparations. If we stop mocking people and just look at the substance that people are trying to pursue, that's what this President is doing. He mocks people. He insults people.
And know, he is using violence against peaceful protesters. This President is taking this country to a place that none of us ever thought we would see, and I would hope the Republican Party will wake up. I would hope the people of this country will wake up before it's too late.
COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
COOPER: Another voice that has just weighed in on the President's threat to send active duty troops into American cities in which Defense Secretary Esper said in a call on Monday, quote, "to dominate the battle space." Talking about American streets, the battle space. First just let that sink in.
None of this is sitting well with Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents W. Bush and Barack Obama.
In an op-ed for "The Atlantic," he writes, quote, "Our fellow citizens are not the enemy and must never become so." He adds, " ... even in the midst of the carnage, we are witnessing, we must endeavor to see American cities and towns as our homes and our neighborhoods. They are not battle spaces to be dominated and must never become so." That's the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Much more ahead tonight as curfews take effect across the country.
Coming next, the attorney for George Floyd's family joins us to talk about possible charges against the other three officers. They have already been fired, but not charged. We will talk about that with Mr. Crump.
Later, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington on the President's exploitation of one of the churches she oversees and the President's equally unwelcome visit to a Catholic shrine today. That and more, as we continue.
COOPER: I want to show you the scene right now, that is in New York City live, 8:26 p.m. The curfew began about 26 minutes ago. It looks like Park Avenue -- well, yes -- well, I don't know. We will find out exactly where that is. I've lived here all my life. I should know, shouldn't I?
Curfew in effect here since the top of the hour. Memorials will be held for George Floyd on Thursday in Minneapolis, Houston and North Carolina. That's a scene in Boston.
We learned today from Floyd family attorney, Benjamin Crump who also says he has been assured charges will be filed against the three other fired officers involved in addition to Derek Chauvin who has already been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
We also heard the first public comments from the mother of George Floyd's daughter. Roxie Washington stood with their six-year old daughter and gave a heartbreaking talk about how this will affect Floyd's little girl for years to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROXIE WASHINGTON, MOTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: Gianna does not have her father. He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle. If there's a problem she is having and she needs her dad, she does not have that anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Benjamin Crump joins us now along with Gloria Browne-Marshall, she is a Constitutional Law Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice here in New York and author of "Race, Law and American Society: 1607 to Present."
Mr. Crump, do you have any updates on if and when authorities may charge the other officers? And do you have any sense of what they would be charged with?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY TO GEORGE FLOYD'S FAMILY: Anderson, w George Floyd e believe that there will be charges of the other three officers before is laid to rest.
We think that these officers were complicit, but not just complicit based on our independent autopsy, the knees in the back of the other officer was just as significant to the knee in the neck. And so we think all of them should be charged with some type of felony
murder for participating in the killing, the horrific killing of George Floyd.
COOPER: And, Mr. Crump, I know you and the Floyd family want officer Chauvin charged with first-degree murder, which he wasn't.
First-degree murder requires planning, premeditation, and I understand the idea of wanting a tough charge in order to gain leverage perhaps in a subsequent deal, but do you believe there was planning and premeditation in the killing of Mr. Floyd?
CRUMP: Well, all we know is this. Based on the video, when you look at the video for yourself, he is on his neck for nine minutes.
There is the audio now, Andersonb that we know one of the officers proclaims, he doesn't have a pulse, maybe we should turn him on his side. Officer Chauvin says, no, we'll keep him in this position.
And then after he is unconscious, they stay on him for more than three minutes. So, how is that not intent? A person is telling you he doesn't have a pulse. People are telling you, you're killing him. He needed to take a breath and they didn't have the humanity to allow him to get air.
It is first degree murder. That's how George Floyd's family sees it. That's how many people who watched this video see it all across the world.
COOPER: Professor Browne-Marshall, prosecutors all the time, you know, charged people with very, very tough charges knowing that there will be some sort of discussion down the road of to basically to intimidate people who, you know, don't have the resources to fight back against this. What do you make of prosecutors using third already going for third degree murder?
GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: That's -- I think that and many instances Anderson, I just want to say that in many instances this reasonable standard and the standard we have as reasonable for an officers behavior when it comes to a black person is not the standard that you see that's reasonable when it comes to a white person. And I'll give you these three quick examples.
One, the Boston bomber. This is somebody who killed and was chased and was found and was then asked to come out of hiding. They knew where he was. They didn't kill him. They didn't shoot him. He stood trial, and now he's standing for his life on death row. We have that the case for example of Eric Frame, Eric Frame, assassinated a state trooper in Pennsylvania.
He was -- there was a man hunt for him for weeks to remember that. And then he was captured. He had one bruise on his face. And they asked, well, what did they do? They beat him up. He didn't -- he wasn't shot. He wasn't killed. I mean, I want us to think about this. The fact that Eric Frame now is the been on death row. He's going to be executed this month. He lived to stand trial. These were heinous crimes.
The Aurora shooter who went into that darkened theater and shot out all those people lived. He came in, in handcuffs. So when we talk about something like a fraudulent suspicion of a fraudulent $20 bill, then we have to understand that what we consider reason to a person of African descent is nowhere near the standard is used for white people.
COOPER: Mr. Crump, we heard more about Mr. Floyd today from seeing meeting -- seeing his daughter, hearing from his daughter's mom. How's the family doing and as you prepare for, for sending Mr. Floyd home for his funeral?
CRUMP: Where -- Mr. Floyd's family, his other children are arriving in Minneapolis tomorrow is very painful for them. They are very aware of what's happening in America. And what they're asking everybody to do is to take that was not allowed for George to take a breath for peace. Take a breath for justice. Take a breath to help heal our country. But most importantly, let's take a breath this week for George Floyd and remember his legacy. So all of his children will know that his life matters, and that we all as a world will know that black lives matter.
COOPER: Benjamin Crump, Gloria Browne-Marshall, I appreciate your time. Thank you and I apologize for the audio issues we were having.
Just ahead, Republican reaction or lack thereof to President Trump's photo op to church last night. The bishop who oversees St. John's Church joins me again to talk about that along with the role religion plays during times of intense division in this country.
COOPER: The protests in Washington D.C. tonight are far cry from last night when authorities broke up a peaceful crowd so President Trump could have a photo op in front of the church holding a Bible that he was handed.
A few Republicans say like senators Tim Scott and Ben Sasse were willing to criticize the move against protesters to clear a path for a photo op. Many Republican senators were not, some claim they knew nothing about it, others avoiding answering altogether. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said quote, I'm not going to critic -- critique other people's performances. It was certainly something of a performance.
Back with me again tonight, Bishop Mariann Budde who oversees the church, the President used as that photo op last night.
Bishop, thanks so much for being with us. We spoke last night you were very upset or angry, I guess you could say disappointed in what the President did. Today, he went to the National Shrine of St. John Paul II on the heels of the photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church last night. I'm wondering what you make now 24 hours later of what the President is doing.
MARIANN BUDDE, BISHOP, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: It's good evening Anderson. Great to be with you again. I have to defer to my colleague and friend Archbishop Gregory who spoke on behalf of his church expressing the same confusion and outrage that the President would use religious symbols to, to make statements that are antithetical to the faith, and he can't, he couldn't understand why the President would go two weeks after John Paul's death to pay his respects and to place himself before the shrine of the former Pope. So I actually I can't speak to that at all. It is it strikes me as perplexing.
Similarly, they had no idea that he was doing, what he was doing as neither did we. It didn't seem to be an expression of faith or of solidarity with faith, it seemed to be, as we've said before, and opportunity to clothe himself in the mantle of spiritual symbols and locations to in some way, bolster or reinforce his own authority and message and that is where we of course, have separated ourselves, making the distinction that we have no part in that and we reject that association.
COOPER: I mean, it's one thing if, you know, a politician goes to a church service or --
COOPER: -- goes to confessional or, you know, interacts with a religious with the pastor and has an actual conversation or, you know, talks about their faith as a way of connecting and reaching out with the faith of many other Americans in all its different forms, and yet that -- this was not any of that it was clearly political designed to send a message to voters.
I mean, it's the only way to, you know, the, you know, I should point out, you know, just like last night, the President stopped for the cameras today. And I mean, it's not really obviously did any praying. He certainly didn't last night.
BUDDE: Well, and you know, my the people who have crossed the spectrum of faith who have criticized me for my lack of welcome to the President, as if to imply that we were not welcoming of his presence in the church. And when I was very clear that the President is always welcome to pray, the President is always welcome to do the things that you described, which is all what we all do when we gather in Christian community or pay our respects, in spiritual, in a spiritual context.
But as you said, he did not have those things, he didn't open and read from the Bible that he held, he did not engage us in with a spiritual message of consolation or of expectation. He did not greet us. There was no interaction whatsoever.
And so it's impossible to interpret. From my perspective, it's impossible to interpret what he did, in light of an expression of faith, but more as a, as I said before, as a way to clothe himself in symbols that had been appropriated for a different purpose.
COOPER: And if you have to trample on people's bodies in order to get to a photo op, that obviously adds a whole other layer to it. I mean, you're trampling on people, hitting people with sticks dispersing what was a peaceful crowd?
I mean, you know, and I, let's just talk just in general bigger picture because I thought you were very eloquent on this on this last night about where we are as a country, the faith community has played such an important role in the civil rights movement and that continues.
Can you just speak to those who are watching you know in their homes tonight who maybe have been out protesting or maybe don't understand why people are out protesting or fearful that there's going to be looting tonight in their community and view that as the same as what the protesters are doing which is not?
BUDDE: Well, you've put a lot on the table there.
COOPER: I know, I'm sorry, it talks that all of you.
BUDDE: Let me take it bit by bit. First of all people of faith. We show up everywhere, right? We show up on every spectrum, we show up on every side of every struggle, yes, we were involved in civil rights. Some of my predecessors were some of the strongest resistors to civil rights.
And so you can't just say because we're people of faith or because we're religious, we're going to take things one way or another. Each of us are broken people, each of us are struggling to interpret our traditions in our own way. Each of us bring our own humanity to that cosmic and epic life struggle.
Having said that, when you walk the path of faith, the goal is to become more, more fully human. And for Christians, that means more Christ like. And so we look to Jesus, and we try to emulate our lives on His. And we try to ask ourselves, OK, you know, in that, that that meme of a question, what would Jesus do or as our Presiding Bishop would say, what would love do?
What does sacrificial love look like in this moment? What does the heart of God want to say to us, a God who is unconditional Love and complete justice and universal compassion. What would that God ask of us in that moment?
And so for some of us, we look at the struggle we're in right now and the agony we're in. And we see Golgotha, we see the struggles of humanity depicted in our most sacred stories. And we say, yes, that's, that's where God would want us to be.
That's where God would ask us to show up in solidarity with suffering, in solidarity with those who are struggling for a better day, to build what Jesus called the kingdom of God on earth, which is a place of universal unconditional love and respect for every human being, regardless of faith or lack of faith, because of our inherent dignity as children of God.
And so in that Shalom, there is no place for racism. There is no place for white supremacy, there is no place for police brutality, there is no place for rioting and violence. We all are held to an accountability of that highest standard. We all fall short. We all have our blind spots. But we are called to, to account and to show up.
So I would say to anyone watching, that's what, that's what we're trying to do. And we don't always get it right. But we want to be on the side of right. And we want to be on the side of goodness. And we want to be on the side of hope for rising generations who are looking at this world wondering where in God's name is this future taking them.
And we want to say to them, even in the midst of this, even in the midst of what you're showing on your screen right now, there's hope. And there's love, and there's joy to be had in this world. And we are going to stand for that. And stand for you.
COOPER: Bishop Mariann Budde, thank you. Appreciate it.
BUDDE: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next former Vice President Joe Biden spoke out today about what the President did last night in front of St. John's Episcopal Church and had a message for protesters, what he said and how the protests might impact the November election.
COOPER: For the first time since these protests began, they coincide with a major point in the 2020 election cycle. Today's primary day for eight states plus Washington D.C voters choosing House and Senate candidate to compete in November, including in swing states like Pennsylvania and Iowa. Today in Philadelphia, Joe Biden spoke about the death of George Floyd and the protest.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't breathe. I can't breathe. George Floyd's last words, but he didn't die with him. He's still being heard. Echoing all across this nation.
A country is crying out for leadership, leadership that can unite us, a leadership that brings us together. But I promise you this. I won't traffic and fear and division. I won't fanned the flames of hate.
COOPER: CNN senior political commentator and former Obama administration senior advisor David Axelrod joins us and Charlamagne tha God radio personality. He recently had the headline making interviewed Joe Biden in a fascinating interview with Rush Limbaugh. He's the best selling author of Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me.
Charlamagne, the Joe Biden that's recently emerged after being mostly his home in Delaware for the last couple of months. I'm wondering what you make of the contrast he's attempting to draw with President Trump?
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, AUTHOR: Well Anderson first, thank you for having me. The contrast he's trying to make with President Trump, I think he did very well today in Philadelphia, you know, he said a lot of that I wanted to hear and I know his dream selling season and politicians say what they need to in order to get elected, but I really enjoyed it.
But I need some action. Like I need him to really lean into blackness now like, like, to me, it's like this, if Barack Obama was JFK, then Joe Biden needs to be Lyndon B. Johnson, you know, he has the opportunity to be as progressive as Lyndon B. Johnson. And it means Lyndon B. Johnson may have been, you know, labeled a racist, but his record doesn't reflect that. You know, LBJ record shows that he has, like the most effective progressive record on race in class of any Democratic president of the past 80 years.
So I think, you know, Biden's record in the Senate actually reflects very racist legislation, but he had the chance to correct that by doing right by black people.
COOPER: David, do you think Joe Biden do that?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he I think he can and I think he has to because I think the situation in the country, the things that used to be called progressive now appear pragmatic, there have to be answers to some of the really serious problems that have been laid bare by this virus and the economic situation that is going to continue to plague this country into the next administration.
So I would expect that you'd see his campaign to begin to unravel or unfurl, I should say, plans that are large in scope and ambitious and get to some of the root causes of the problems that have drawn people to the streets this, these historic problems.
COOPER: Charlamagne, I mean, I think there's a lot of Democrats who maybe see these large crowds of people protesting peacefully in the streets day after day after day, and think, well, you know, this election, it's it's obviously going to go for the Democrats. A lot of people thought that obviously in 2016, do you see these crowds? And do you --
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: Exactly.
COOPER: -- and do you think, oh, this translates into what happens on election night?
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: No, it's not a short thing at all, because we still don't know how Donald Trump won in 2016. A lot of people will say Donald Trump is a legitimate president, you know, just like how Joe Biden is leading in all the polls now Hillary was doing -- Senator Clinton was doing the same thing in 2016.
You know, and I think that that's why it's very important for Joe Biden to like, really lean into blackness like I think he needs to announce one of these overly qualified sisters as his running mate. Whether it's Senator Kamala Harris, (INAUDIBLE), Keisha Lance Bottoms, Stacey Abrams, has already committed to putting the black woman on the Supreme Court which would be his, you know, Lyndon B Johnson, Thurgood Marshall moment, like if this country wants to get his soul right, wants to get it so right, like he said, he said that the soul of the country is at stake.
He really has to lean into the black community. He has to be the white guy who's willing to relinquish some of that power privilege allows him. As long as there's a system of white supremacy, there's going to always be oppression.
And if we don't have elected officials who are willing to dismantle the mechanism of white supremacy, if we don't have elected officials who are willing to change legislation that disproportionately impacts black folks, it won't matter and you're going to have trouble in November.
COOPER: David, do you see your former boss, former boss, former President Obama getting? Or what kind of role do you see him? How vocal role do you see him having moving forward?
AXELROD: Look, I think he'll play an active role he did in 2018, he feels obviously feels strongly about the importance of this election. I don't think he's going to jump out in front of the candidate. Ultimately, Joe Biden's the man who's running for president and he's going to have to carry a lot of the load here.
And this was a -- this was an important moment today, Anderson because he stepped out at a time when the country really needed to hear from him. And he and he made a very powerful speech, and it was made more powerful in juxtaposition with what we saw last night where the pre -- you know, it's very hard to be the president of law and order, when you're holding a can of rhetorical kerosene in your hand. And that's what we saw last night.
And we saw Biden step forward, not as someone seeking to be the candidate of a base of voters, but as someone who was seeking to be President of the United States and honestly, searching for healing and understanding. And I think that's very powerful, but he's going to have to do it repeatedly. And he's going to have to be there to counter some of the negative energy of Donald Trump.
COOPER: Charlamagne when, you know, when people hear the President saying, I'm your law order president. The thing I don't understand is, it seems to me the one of the things that the protesters at their core are asking for is law and order.
They just want the law to be equally meted. They don't want to be different under the law, they don't want law and order shouldn't mean dominating black people. It should mean in equal treatment under that law, and that will bring law and that is what law and order is. [20:55:18]
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: This it's really, really, really just that simple. And, you know, David said something that's very important. He talked about healing. And that's why I keep saying Joe Biden has to lean into the black community, like if you look at the way coronavirus is impacting the black community, if you look at the George Floyd protests, which is just the latest killing of a black person, at the hands of the police, we all know why that is, because America has not atoned hasn't healed.
You know, from its original sin, which is slavery. And all these underlying conditions caused by systemic racism, make the black community so vulnerable to all the BS I just named.
So based off all the wrongs this country has done to black people, whether it's slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, the war on drugs, all those wrongs that need to be corrected. The only path forward for this country is through the black community. And that's why I'm so hard on Democrats because black people we vote for them 90 percent of the time in all elections, but we haven't gotten the proper ROI.
So we need Dems, especially Joe Biden, to atone through legislation and reparations period. From what I heard today and that speech in Philly, he sounds like he wants to do that. We just need Biden to, you know, stand we need him to stand on the foundational principles of what Democrats are supposed to be about. And that's civil right and greater economic equality.
COOPER: Yes, Charlamagne tha God. David Axelrod, thank you very much, great discussion. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.
COOPER: And we're obviously monitoring events across the country. We've been looking at -- see all those pictures. Is that Atlanta now? Yes, that's Atlanta, just about a minute away from the start of the curfew.
There's National Guard, I believe, or not so much. It's hard to see there but I believe National Guard on the streets there. Curfew taking a effective just yes, that's also shots of Atlanta as well. We've seen peaceful protests across the country throughout the day.
Our coverage continues right now with Chris.