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Symone Sanders, Senior Adviser of the Biden Campaign, is Interviewed About Joe Biden; Trump Threatens to Send Military Against Protesters; Joe Biden Calling for Congress to Act on Systemic Racism; Interview With Bryan Stevenson; Interview With Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). Aired 2-3p ET
Aired June 2, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KEILAR: That's right. And can you tell us what -- tell us what people are chanting. And I was going to comment on just -- as we were sort of people
watching and these protests with people walking by just like you said, Shimon, it is a very diverse crowd and I think we are seeing someone walk
away who must be only 14 or 15 years old it looks like. Tell us what you're hearing the crowd say.
PROKUPECZ: Black lives matter. No justice, no peace. Right now, they're chanting black lives matter. These people I'm seeing are actually wearing
masks. And there is a mix of people, (INAUDIBLE) people and they're walking with signs of no justice, no peace. Power to the people.
So, you are seeing people who are -- you know, what -- you know, I've covered many demonstrations here in New York City, across the country, and
this is typical of what we see here in New York today. I covered demonstrations during the Eric Garner incident and they were peaceful and
they just can go on for hours. And as long as people are peaceful. The police have said they're going to allow them to march through the streets,
and they're doing it.
I mean, I have now walked maybe 15 blocks. That's how wide this protest is -- how wide this march goes, and it's going to go and --
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A study in contrast as a Democratic nominee steps out to calm a nation. We speak to vice president Joe Biden's senior adviser, Symone
Sanders, about the role of a president in a democracy.
Then, President Trump threatens to send in the troops against American protesters. Republican strategist, Scott Jennings, joins us.
And I talk to the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN STEVENSON, AUTHOR, "JUST MERCY": We will not see meaningful change until we start this process of truth and justice that has been long
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The campaign of a racial justice, Bryan Stevenson tells our Walter Isaacson that America can only move forward if it truly faces its
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christian Amanpour working from home in London.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has come out swinging today, swinging he says for the soul of the American nation, swinging for traditional American
values and swinging for that unfulfilled promise in the declaration of independence that all are born equal. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They we're at our best when we opened our hearts rather than clinch our fists. Donald Trump is turning
this country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears. He thinks division helps him. His narcissism has become more important than
the nation's well-being that he leads.
I ask every American, I mean, this from the bottom of my -- ask every American, look at where we are now and think anew. Is this who we are? Is
this who we want to be? Is this who we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: This would be the systemic racism, the embedded inequality, the police violence against peaceful protesters and unarmed black men. This was
the extraordinary scene at the White House last night with federal police forcibly clearing a path for the president to conduct what has been
described as a bible-clutching photo-op. Biden said this about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: In addition to the bible, the president might just also want to open the U.S. constitution once in a while. If he did, he'd find the thing
called the First Amendment, and what it says in the beginning, it says, the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition their government
for redress and grievances. That's kind of a sense emotion build into this country.
Mr. President, that's American, that's America. No horses rising up on their hind legs to pushback peaceful protest. Not using the American
military to move against the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The last time the world saw these scenes, these kinds of images was in Egypt's Tahrir Square when government agents rode in on horseback
with whips to attack and disperse people, Arabs Spring protesters.
Biden has promised that as president he would not traffic in fear and division. While the actual president, Donald Trump, visited a shrine and
tweeted about using overwhelming force and domination on protesters. We'll discuss all the angles with our guest tonight.
First, joining me now is the Democratic adviser, Symone Sanders, who is a senior adviser to the Biden campaign and she is coming to us from her home
Welcome to the program.
Let me first ask you whether you think this was merely Vice President Biden's sort of inaugural visit, inaugural speech in this stage of the
presidential campaign. He's obviously been coronavirus sheltering at home like everybody else, but he's taken this opportunity to come out at a
moment of great national need.
SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Well, thank you for having me today, Christiane.
I will say that Vice President Biden has been extremely vocal even though he's been in the house sheltering in place like many Americans across the
country and frankly, folks across the globe. He has been very engaged and vocal about the coronavirus pandemic, about the lack of leadership from the
White House, not just about what he would be doing if he were president right now, but his plan for when he is elected president.
You know, yesterday, Vice President Biden also left his house. He met with African-American leaders in Wilmington, Delaware at a church and prayed
with them and listened to them and then convened mayors of major U.S. American cities to hear about what was happening in their cities, their
plans, the response that they are getting from the federal government. How he would be a partner for these mayors in the White House when he is
elected president, standing in stark contrast to Donald Trump who was hiding in a bunker.
So, I say that to say that today this speech was another marker, if you will that, Vice President Biden was laying down in filling the void of
leadership that President Trump has currently left. I will note that most people do not know about the two items I just described to you, that Vice
President Biden participated in yesterday because the networks did not cover him.
We're happy and we are elated that the networks did cover Vice President Biden's speech today. But the reality is, he has been out. He has been very
vocal. There are 100,000 -- over 100,000 Americans are dead due to the coronavirus, more than 40 million folks filed for unemployment. Many of
those folks who have -- who are jobless and who have lost their lives are disproportionately African-American and Latino.
So, there are a lot of compounding things happening on top of the horrific killing of George Floyd, on top of the horrific lynching in the video that
we saw, the Ahmaud Arbery, and on top of the unrest that has sparked across the country that relates to also Breonna Taylor. So, a lot is happening
here and Vice President Biden has really filled the leadership role. He said the country needs leadership and that's what he did today, he was at
the (INAUDIBLE), he was resolute and again, a stark contrast to the current president of the United States.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned correctly, essentially what people are described as two pandemics, the pandemic of the coronavirus and all that
that entails and the pandemic of what people have described and what we can see of systemic racism that exists in the United States.
So, the vice president said in his speech today, this is a wakeup call for the nation. And he talked about grief, the grief that many in the African-
American community feel obviously. He related to his own grief, losing two of his children, losing his first wife. He understood, he said, that hole
that needs to be filled. He joked about purpose.
How does he translate and give voice and shape the kind of purpose he wants to see? What is that purpose? Because he did say, it's not going to happen
in the first 100 days if I'm president. It's not even going to happen in the entire term. Explain the great challenge.
SANDERS: And Vice President Biden went on to say in that speech that it is going to take a generation, a generation to truly heal these wounds. And
he's talked over the last couple of days about not allowing this wound to scab over but truly treating the wound and treating -- and getting to the
heart of these systemic issues in the United States of America.
And so, Vice President Biden views that we have to -- views this as we have to do something and we can start -- we don't have to wait until he's
president. Frankly, we cannot wait. There are things that Congress can do right now and he described that as a down payment on the concept of equal
protection under the law that has not been equally and justly applied to people of color in America for years and decades and hundreds of years,
folks would argue.
And so, some of that down payment includes passing a bill that is currently in Congress. Hakeem Jeffries -- Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from New York
State, his chokehold bill, to outlaw chokeholds in the United States of America. He also called on Congress to move legislation this month to the
president that keeps -- that denies weapons of war from being transferred to local police departments. If you watch your videos just like I did of
the footage, takes and military personnel on the streets of -- on the streets of America, it was just -- it's just harrowing.
So, there are a couple things can we do. Enforcing a national force of -- use of force standards. There's a number of things that we can do right now
that cannot wait but Vice President Biden has also said that he has a plan for policies that he will be releasing in the coming weeks. But again,
there's a down payment that folks can put down right now to help bring some justice to America.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to get to the heart of this matter because he said himself, Vice President Biden, and let me just quote, he said, it's going
to take more than talk. We've had talk before, we've had protests before. We have to end the systemic racism.
To that end, I just was sort of, you know, moved by the archbishop of York here in the United Kingdom, the highest-level black church person here in
the U.K. who said today, the problem is America has not been listening to the real problems of African-Americans and people of color. I want to plead
with my brothers and sisters that what is called for is restorative justice, where truth, justice mercy and peace meet.
So, why do I say that? Because yesterday when the vice president went into the church and when he had his meetings, he was confronted by people who
said, yes, Joe, we support you, but we need to push you. It is not just good enough to not be Trump. We need you to show that there's more you can
do than even the stuff that wasn't done under the first black president in America, Barack Obama, when you were his vice president. There's a lot to
be done and there's a lot of promise that the people have not been able to see fulfilled.
SANDERS: Look, these are intersectional issues. Again, I just want to remind folks, I think this -- the fact that all of these issues are
compounding, that we have the unrest in America on top of the coronavirus pandemic that has created both a public health crisis and an economic
crisis. An economic crisis, frankly, that is tracking to be worse than the great depression, there is real unrest here.
I mean, in the -- Vice President Biden gave his speech today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the heart and the founding of the democracy
of America, just a couple miles up the road from where he was, the average income of folks in North Philadelphia is $9,783 a year. So, there is some
deep, deep, deep economic hurt there that is contributing to, again, a number of things we see.
So, the answer to that and that Vice President Biden has put forth is that we have to -- yes, we have to address criminal justice reform issues and
those are things that he spoke to today and will continue to speak to, but we have a public health crisis. We have to address inequities in our public
health system. Under his plan for Biden Care does that. We also have to address, though, the inequities that exist that have crippled communities
from being able to create and build wealth.
So, under Vice President Biden's plan for black America, he has put forth a well creation agenda that speaks to creating more home ownership, that
speaks to small business. It speaks to closing and helping closing that wealth gap particularly in communities of color, specifically as he speaks
to the African-American community. So, there are real policy prescriptions that can be applied here.
And this plan that Vice President Biden has put forth and the plans, I would point folks to his housing plan, his health care plan, also our
climate plan because environmental justice hits the most vulnerable communities and people of color first and worst as we have seen throughout
history, these plans are foundational for how Vide President Biden will govern. These are not just platitudes. These are actionable policies that
he intends to act on when he is elected president.
AMANPOUR: Let me just read this from the state senator in Delaware, Darius Brown, who said yesterday to him, over the eight years you were vice
president, there were lots of successes but the African-American community did not experience the same economic opportunity, which you were just
talking about, Symone, an upward mobility that they did in the '90s. We are here not only to love you but to push you.
So, we sort of talked a little bit about that, that push that people want to see, an extra push to fulfill these promises. But what I want to ask you
is, he's got to be president if you want this to happen. Do you believe that the young people, the new generation of African-Americans will vote
for him, will come out and vote for him? Yes, he did get the vote in South Carolina but it appeared to have broken down along generational lines and
maybe some of the young people didn't. And also, there's the issue of the Bernie Bro, so to speak.
Do you think we're at a moment when the Democratic nominee can count on all his constituents voting in November?
SANDERS: Well, look. I think, Christiane, that we have to work to earn the votes of folks across this country in America, and that includes young
voters, that includes voters of color, that includes black voters, Latino voters, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islander voters and native indigenous
communities. We have to earn the votes and we are doing the work to earn those votes. That's what Vice President Biden did in the primary.
I will say we feel good about our prospects. And let me tell you why. Before Vice President Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee for
earlier -- the earliest in the primary process, and I think it's about 16 years, not only has he -- not only did he win, almost all of the candidates
who ran for president have gotten behind him and said, we are supporting Vice President Biden, and these are not just endorsements on paper, these
folks are actively working to Vice President Biden elected as president.
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, the list goes on. Andrew Yang. And I think that's really important because
Democrats across the board, regardless of where they fit on the spectrum, they have understood since the beginning of this primary process, frankly,
that our opponent is Donald Trump. And while there are many candidates that were jockeying for the same position to be the Democratic nominee, there
was only one opponent and that opponent is Donald Trump.
And so, I think that Democrats are aligned in doing everything that we need to do to capture not just the White House this November but win the Senate,
hold our majority in the House and elect folks up and down the ballot across this country. But we have to do that state by state. So, our
campaign has really put forth a very targeted state by state effort. We're going to protect the places that we won in 2016. We're going to win back
some of the places that we lost in 2016 but Democrats won in 2008 and '12. And we're going expand the map in places like Arizona and Georgia and
We believe that Arizona is a battleground state. For the first time, OK, people keep talking about Arizona in the United States of America but we
believe it's a battleground state, but have to do the work if we want to win and we are putting in the work.
AMANPOUR: OK. Very lastly, is it time for him to announce a black -- an African-American woman as vice president?
SANDERS: Well, we have heard the concerns of voters across the country, we've heard the concerns of black women noting that they would like an
African-American woman to be named as Vice President Biden's running mate, we've also heard the concerns of Latino voters who have noted that they
would like to see a Latina named as his running mate. We don't have any announcement to make yet. There's a process happening. We're going to let
it play out and we will have an announcement sometime this summer.
AMANPOUR: I tried. Symone Sanders, thank you very indeed for joining us.
Now, let us cross the aisle and get the Republican viewpoint. Joining me is Scott Jennings. He is a conservative commentator, he has extensive
experience working in Republican politics, a former special assistance to President George W. Bush and he also worked and as an adviser for Senate
Majority Mitch Leader McConnell. He joins me now from Louisville, Kentucky, his hometown.
Welcome to the program.
Let me start by asking you I guess to react to today's news, from Vice President Biden, from President Trump. Let's just contrast, I guess, what
the two candidates -- I don't know, one of them is the president, of course, are demonstrating to the public. What do you make of this study in
contrast? You saw the vice president come out trying to really calm these terrible troubled waters today.
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. I think Donald Trump is trying to channel his instincts which have been on
display, frankly, since he first ran in 2016, and those instincts are law and order. He uses the phrase all the time. And though not everyone around
him, I think, necessarily agrees with all of his impulses, I think his impulse in this case is to try to restore law and order. He thinks the
American people are watching great American cities be looted and are burning on television and he thinks the American people want the president
to step in and do something where governors and mayors have failed. That's his view of it.
I suspect he would, if you took a poll, strong public support for deployment of the military, which he has sort of, you know, said that is
going to be his next step. And I think he believes that the way forward here is to say, we have to address the issues in the police departments
that everyone is upset about. We have to protect peaceful protesters but we are not going to let rioters and looters and people causing violence and
mayhem to destroy America on my watch. That is his message and how he delivers that in the days and weeks ahead, I think, will be critical. It's
a fine line to walk but I think that's where he's headed.
AMANPOUR: So, then let me -- you say -- I suspect if we took a poll you would see X. Well, that poll, I don't think has happened but another poll
has and here are the results. According to a recent CBS poll on the president's response to the protest, 32 percent of Americans approve, 49
percent disapprove, 50 percent says Trump works against blacks as president, 51 percent say Trump works against Hispanics, 72 percent said
Trump favors whites. You know, that looks pretty troubling that kind of polling. Are you troubled? You are a strategist. You know all about what's
going on on the ground right now.
JENNINGS: Sure, look. I think any president is trying to earn the trust of as many voter groups as you can, whether you divide that by men and women
or black and white and Hispanic or eastern and western or rural and urban, however you slice and dice the electorate, you're trying to get as much
support as you can.
And when you're the president, you're not just a candidate, you have to do governing actions that show the most people that you can show that you mean
business on fulfilling your promises. What I have heard the president say is that he wants justice for George Floyd and for his family and that he
also wants American cities to have order restored. Those were his twin goals and he doesn't necessarily think those are mutually exclusive.
So, I think that's what he has to communicate to people is, I am going to do everything I can as the president and as the head of the executive
branch to push for justice in the George Floyd case and in other cases by the way. I'm in Louisville. We have a case here regarding a shooting, a
lady named Breonna Taylor was killed in a police shooting.
AMANPOUR: Yes, you do.
JENNINGS: But you have all these cases, and I think what the president has to say and continue to portray is, I'm pushing for a federal response to
get swift justice, but at the same time, I just can't permit the United States to be destroyed night after night after night.
I think you'd find a lot of people agreeing with those twin sentiments that you can actually believe both things, these are not mutually exclusive
positions to hold.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just play for the sake of fairness what you're talking about, President Trump's description of himself as law and order,
and this is what he said yesterday after that controversial dispersal of peaceful protesters for the photo-op in front of the church. This is what
he said before making that trip across Lafayette Square.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters. But in recent days, our nation has been
gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, antifa and others. By far our greatest days lie ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's what he said. We have been discussing it. The thing is people say that he's pouring, you know, fuel onto these flames,
calling the protesters thugs, even saying terrorists, talking about when the looting starts the shooting starts, you know, these, as you know, echo
all the way back to the days of, you know, white supremacy and race riots of the previous years and these are very, very divisive messages.
You've already had two senior Republican senators come out, both Ben Sasse and I believe Tim Scott, have come out and condemned, you know, the
dispersal of lawful protesters outside the White House last night. I mean, do you think he's skating on thin ice, you know, trying to be all things to
all people, as you say, but actually, you know, going against the constitutional protection for peaceful protest?
JENNINGS: Well, yes. I mean, he's clearly on thin ice politically, if that's what you're asking me. I mean, look at the poll numbers, look at the
matchup against Joe Biden, look at the state of the country. I mean, if you look at the situation he's dealing with, it's a volatile country. You have
very emotional people out there who rightfully want action on serious systemic societal problems. And so, any president dealing with these kinds
of massive societal issues is always on thin ice and every word matters.
I didn't like the tweet that he sent out the other night about looting and shooting, I thought that was ill-advised. I frankly didn't understand the
photo-op that he took going over to the church. I mean, I agree with the impulse to go to church and to take a bible but I think I would have rather
seen him go in a church and open a bible and worship and pray and commune with people and pray for guidance for our country and pray for peace for
our people. So, I don't view churches and bibles as mere props, I view them as necessary items for faithful people who want to gather and worship and
So, I think the president's instincts are in some ways correct, law and order, seek guidance from above, which, you know, I certainly I support.
But on the other hand, you cannot govern a situation like this by photo-op, you cannot govern a situation like this sort of, what do I need to do to
get through the next 24 hours? You need a plan and you need to show people your heart. And if your heart is in the words that he spoke yesterday, I
want to take care of the peaceful protesters, I want justice for George Floyd and I want to restore order, if that is what is in your heart, then
you have to display all of those at the same time.
And so, some of the things he has done and said have done that and some of the things have fallen short, but, you know, when you're the president,
you're running free election, this is one long job interview. And so, you know, Joe Biden can say and do a lot of things. You know, Symone was --
AMANPOUR: Well --
JENNINGS: My friend, Symone, was talking about that. But only Trump can act and the election will be about whether his actions met the moment.
AMANPOUR: Well, I wonder because, you know, there are a lot of people who believe that some of this church, whatever we want to call it, photo-op,
calling for, you know, the lockdown to end before Easter, calling for all churches to be open in that weird executive order that said that, you know,
I can say it, the governors have nothing to say about it. This business that we're talking about last night, which has caused a lot of hurt amongst
religious leaders and religious people, and I wonder if this is trying to shore up his evangelical base.
You talk about the election. And look at this, an April survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows a double digit decline in Trump's
favorability amongst white evangelicals, white Catholics and white mainland protestants from the previous month. So, do you think this is appealing to
his base at this moment of national turmoil?
JENNINGS: Well, sure. Look, I think the president has two hats. He is the president and he has to govern the country and he is the Republican nominee
for president of the United States and he has to try to win re-election. So, I think all presidents of both parties for time immemorial have taken
actions that they think are in their political best interest.
In this particular case, I actually think appealing to the faith community in the United States of America is right politically and it is also the
right policy. He needs people of all faiths, he needs faith leaders, he needs faithful Americans to join together as one to support peace, to
support justice and to support the restoration of order in the United States.
And so, I think appealing to the faith crowd is a right thing. But they won't take it, it won't sit, it won't work if it appears that you are using
them as a prop. And so, I think standing in front of a church, holding a bible, that's a step too short. You have to take the next step, you have to
cross the threshold, you have to believe in something in the bible, a verse, you know, a passage, something in there that informs your faith and
informs how you feel about the moment. I think that what's missing in the equation.
He still obviously has time to do that, but I'd like to see him take further steps to really unify the faith community in the United States
around the notions of peace and justice.
AMANPOUR: Strong words. Scott Jennings, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Now, Vice President Biden is calling for Congress to act now on the systemic racism and that, for starters, he wants to see a bill outlawing
chokehold on the president's desk in days.
Joining me is California congresswoman, Karen Bass, who is also chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Karen Bass, welcome to the program.
I just want to first start by asking you, just to sort of a follow-on from what Scott Jennings was saying, you know, about the things that the
president might want to do. He talked about the photo-op that's been roundly decried at the church. And then there's another issue, of course,
the threat to call out the military. And I wonder what congressional permission or constitutional parameters exist if indeed that was to take
place. Can you just explain to the American people and people around the world?
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, first of all, I mean, he can certainly do that. I mean, we watched him do that two years ago right before the last
election of 2018, he did that on the border because he wanted to create this perception that we were at -- we were being invaded by migrants of
Central America and he literally used that word. And so, I think this is political posturing. I think it is absolutely tragic that he would do that.
But in terms of congressional authority, there's nothing that we could do to tell him that he can't send troops.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me just read from a normally supportive "Wall Street Journal" editorial who have come out about three times recently against the
president's policies, against his rhetoric on various different issues. And on this particular one, they write, in the current moment, the sight of
troops on U.S. streets would be more likely enflame than calm" --
AMANPOUR: "U.S. soldiers are trained for combat against a foreign enemy, not for riot control against Americans. And the risk of mistakes would be
high, and Mr. Trump would be blamed for any bloodshed from civilian clashes with troops. In any case, the soldiers aren't needed at the moment because
the National Guard are available and have more experience with domestic unrest and law-breaking."
I think it is absolutely tragic, but I actually believe that he intentionally provokes people and he's trying the provoke his base. Also,
his attacks on the group Antifa, and now been revealed that it's actually white supremacists that are using the mantle of Antifa to create a lot of
the vandalism and the violence that is taking place.
The sad thing for a person like me, representing the Congressional Black Caucus, is that the violence and the vandalism is going to be blamed on
African-Americans. And you look at the crowds, and, in some of the crowds, you don't even see many African-American faces.
But that's absolutely right. There's no need for the military. We already have, first of all, militarized police departments. Then you can add the
National Guard. And then you are going to bring the military in on top of it?
It is political, it's posturing, and it is probably one of the worst things he could do to our country right now.
AMANPOUR: Well, I just want to say, for everybody to understand -- and this is in the same "Wall Street Journal" editorial, quoting the
commissioner for intelligence in the New York Police Department.
"We believe that a significant amount of people who came here" looting and all the rest of it "came from outside, advanced preparation scouts, the use
of encrypted information, resupply routes for gasoline" and all that.
AMANPOUR: He said: "There's a strong indicator they plan to act with disorder, property damage, violence, and violent encounters."
He said: "Of all the arrests, hundreds of arrests since the 28th of May, one in every seven were from outside of New York, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, Nevada, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, and Minnesota, suggesting extensive coordination."
What can you do, as Congress? And I know that the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has given the Congressional Black Caucus, you know, the
authority to seek solutions and come up with an aggressive response to the violation of African-American civil and human rights.
What can you do about this issue, for instance, because they're being blamed for the looting?
And, I mean, I think that that is very sad.
There have been many exchanges. First of all, it is wonderful to see so many white young people out protesting in solidarity. The protests are an
absolute rainbow. People of ever racial groups are out.
But when you do have groups who are not from the area and who are not African-American, then graffitiing and using the names, Black Lives Matter,
and all of that as an excuse to push another agenda, whether it's to the right or the left, I think that's very unfortunate.
You should know that members of the Black Caucus have been working on police accountability issue, I am sad to say, but for decades. The only
thing that's new now is that people have cell phones and that they can actually document abuse and murders that have been taking place forever
that African-Americans have been pleading and crying and trying to get policy fixes, that now the entire world can see what goes on.
And so, given that members have been working on a legislative package for a long time, we're pulling those bills together right now, and we will be
introducing bills very soon. We have a hearing coming up in Judiciary on Wednesday. The Congressional Black Caucus will be in Washington, D.C., next
We are attending the memorial service on Thursday in Minneapolis and in Houston on Tuesday. You know, George Floyd was from Houston.
BASS: So, there will be two services. We will be attending all of those while we're working on pulling our bills together, and we will introduce a
comprehensive package on police accountability.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just play what Vice President Biden said today to this -- to this account, to what you're talking about.
He said, no more delay, no more excuses. And he's asking Congress to work specifically. And this is what he said. Take a listen, Congresswoman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call on the Congress to act this month on measures that will be the first step in this direction,
starting with real police reform.
Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw choke holds. Congress should put it on the president's desk in the next few days. There are other measures,
to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, improve oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard that also should be
made law this month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Congresswoman, what do you make of that challenge, and, of course, the passage, even if you do it in the House, through the Senate,
and then to the president's desk?
BASS: Well, let me just tell you that I'm proud to say that we have two members of the Congressional Black Caucus who are in the Senate, Cory
Booker, Kamala Harris, and they are working to get Senate support.
So, a bill will pass in the House. We will do exactly what the vice president said. Senator -- member Jeffries' bill on choke hold will
absolutely be a part.
But there are many more things that need to be done. Absolutely, we need to outlaw that practice, because it kills people. That practice was outlawed
in Los Angeles years ago because black people were dying in large numbers because police were choking them to death.
But there's other measures of police accountability. The police unions in the United States are very, very strong, and they have been able to pass
legislation that essentially makes it impossible to hold them accountable.
For example, a police officer merely needs to say that they were in fear of their life. Now, we have video of people running from police officers, many
feet away from them. The police officer shoots and kills them in the back, and the police officer will say, I was in fear of my life, and the person
isn't even arrested.
The three men that facilitated George Floyd's murder are still on the streets free today. You can imagine the message that that sends to the
But the reason they're on the street today is because it is very difficult, policy-wise, legally-wise, to hold police officers accountable.
AMANPOUR: Well, I guess you're going to be working to change that.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us from Washington. Thank you very much indeed.
Now, the root causes of racial injustice in America is fundamental to achieving lasting change, at least denying those root causes.
And our next guest has dedicated his life to doing just that. Bryan Stevenson is a leading civil rights lawyer who made his name saving dozens
of wrongfully convicted inmates from execution through his Equal Justice Initiative.
And he's joining our Walter Isaacson to talk about solutions, from rethinking policing to finally embracing truth and reconciliation.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Bryan Stevenson, welcome to the show.
BRYAN STEVENSON, FOUNDER, EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE: Thank you.
ISAACSON: Bryan, when you watch that video of Mr. Floyd getting killed with the officer's knee on his neck crying out, tell me your emotions. Tell
me what go into your head.
STEVENSON: Well, it's frustration and anger, because we have seen this kind of violence for decades. And it's frustrating to me, because, five
years ago, I was part of a task force that was convened by the White House, motivated by too many of these incidents of police violence, that attempted
to create solutions.
And we spent months going around the country. We held hearings. We had police chiefs and activists and academics and experts and community leaders
all come together.
And we have 40 pages of recommendations that I believe would make it less likely that we would see the kind of violence that we see in that video.
ISAACSON: What happened to those recommendations?
STEVENSON: Well, they have been completely abandoned.
The new administration came in, retreated from implementing any of those reforms, didn't create the financial incentives for communities to take up
these recommendations. And the infrastructure in the Justice Department largely disintegrated, so that we don't have that kind of pressure, that
kind of effort.
The Justice Department withdrew from lawsuits that have been made against cities that have engaged in problematic behavior. And the environment
shifted in a way that didn't create and sustain the pressure that was created.
ISAACSON: Well, tell me about some of those recommendations. Give me a couple of them that you think we should be doing.
Well, I mean, it's all about changing the culture of policing. We have too many police officers in this country who are trained as soldiers. We teach
them how to shoot. We teach them how to fight. We teach them how to restrain people. We don't teach them how to help people in a mental health
crisis, how to interact with people who are psychotic.
We don't teach them how to de-escalate confrontations. They don't know how to manage, with the skill that they should manage, complex situations when
people of color and others have been provoked.
And because that orientation has reinforced a mind-set where police officers too often think of themselves as warriors, rather than guardians,
what we saw in Minneapolis. And then, of course, we have got to get community engagement. We've got to change the role of community members.
Policing is seen as this distinct fraternal order, with a few government officials implicated. It's like the police belong to the police, not to the
community. And it doesn't have to be that way.
The cities that have made progress on these issues are communities where citizens and community leaders have a direct role in the hiring and the
development of policies and protocols. When that happens, you have a partnership between communities and police that's not only good for the
police and the community. It's good for public safety.
That's how you promote public safety.
ISAACSON: You try to put all this in the context of history.
I go to your Equal Justice Initiative Web site and sign up for things. And every day, there's a listing of today in history, where things happened
involving racial equity.
ISAACSON: And coming up in a few days on the show is Juneteenth. That's on the calendar.
Tell me about that. And what was the legacy, the narrative coming out of Juneteenth?
STEVENSON: Yes, well, I do think it's important, Walter, to kind of emphasize that, when we talk about this police violence, we also have to
talk about who have been the primary targets of this violence, who has had to bear this burden.
And black Americans have been disproportionately targeted and victimized. And that has to do with this larger historical narrative. It has to do with
this legacy of racial injustice that we have never confronted.
And you're right. In a couple of weeks, it will be the 155th anniversary of when emancipated black people celebrated the end of slavery on Juneteenth.
And those formerly enslaved people believed that their rights, their dignity, their humanity was now going to be embraced, that they were going
to be welcomed as full citizens in the United States.
And, instead of that happening, we saw the opposite. They were denied the right to vote. They were denied the property that had been promised. They
were actually targeted and victimized.
And we have never reckoned with that problem, which is why I do think we will not see meaningful change until we start this process of truth and
justice that has been long delayed in America. The great evil of American slavery wasn't the involuntary servitude and forced labor. Slave owners and
slavers needed a narrative to justify the brutality of slavery.
And so they came up with this fiction that black people aren't as good as white people, that black people aren't evolved, that we're not human, we
can't do this, we can't do that, black people are inferior, and white people are superior.
And that ideology of white supremacy, that was the real evil of American slavery. And even though we ended involuntary servitude and forced labor
with the 13th Amendment, we never acknowledged this problem of white supremacy. We didn't address it, which is why I have argued that slavery
doesn't end in 1865.
It just evolves. Because of that doctrine, Reconstruction fails. The effort to protect black people, with the 15th Amendment guaranteeing the right to
vote and the 14th Amendment to equal protection fails, because we're still committed to this doctrine of white supremacy.
And Southern white militias violently take control over these states with large black populations and subject black people to conditions that are
ISAACSON: Are we acknowledging that ideology of white supremacy enough today?
STEVENSON: No. We -- and I think, until we know this history, we won't be able to.
That is, I think we have done a terrible job of acknowledging the history. Most people don't know anything about the mass lynchings of black people
during Reconstruction. They know too little about what happened in the first half of the 20th century.
We act as if we have been -- we dealt with this problem of racial bias a long time ago. I'm not 100 years old. I was born at a time when black
people couldn't go to public schools. I started my education in a colored school. I couldn't -- black people could not marry anybody they wanted to.
We were restricted by interracial -- bans on interracial marriage. We haven't repaired or remedied many of the problems that was created by bias.
And you see it in the voting context. We told black people, you can't vote for 100 years.
And rather than trying to remedy that problem, we said, OK, maybe we will stop blocking you from voting through law. Maybe we will let some black
people go to public school, as if that's a remedy. That's an insufficient remedy to a century of disenfranchisement, in the same way that we're
seeing these problems manifest in other areas.
But, more than that, we need to commit to truth and repair, to truth and restoration, truth and reconciliation. And the first step is the truth-
I think people make a mistake when they try to get to the reconciliation conversation or even the reparation conversation before knowing what the
truth is. And the truth is, is that we have done a lot of damage to black and brown communities for a very long time, which means that we're going to
have to do a lot to repair and remedy much of that damage.
ISAACSON: What would you recommend for a truth and reconciliation process in the United States?
STEVENSON: Well, I think the first thing begins with valuing the construct.
I'm a person of faith. And in my faith tradition, you can't just walk into church and say, I want all the benefits and gifts of being a member, I want
all of the fruits of salvation, and I'm not going to say anything about anything bad I have done.
The construct requires that there be repentance. That is that you create an environment where people can actually acknowledge wrongdoing, so that there
can be the opportunity for recovery.
And I think we need to do that. And we begin to do that by affirming the wrongfulness of enslavement, which you can't do if you celebrate the
architects and defenders of slavery. You begin to do that by creating opportunities for people to reckon with what they have done.
We do markers. We put up markers at lynching sites all across the region. And when we do these markers, I actually would love for police chiefs and
sheriffs to show up in their uniforms. And I think it's appropriate for those individuals to stand up and apologize that the people wearing those
uniforms 80 years ago, 100 years ago failed to protect black people from terroristic violence.
And I think it's appropriate for them to say, the people wearing this uniform failed you, and I want you to know that now I'm wearing this
uniform and I don't want to fail. I want to commit to protect you. I want to commit to serve you.
That doesn't take money. It doesn't take a budget. It doesn't take a lot of time. It just takes a willingness to acknowledge this history. And nine
times out of 10, we can't get that police chief there. We can't get that sheriff there.
And that has to change. We have to be willing to have the courage to reckon with this mystery. I'm hearing from people now who come to our museum whose
parents participated in the beatings of Freedom Riders, whose parents participated in violence directed at nonviolent protests.
And they have never been required to think critically about the wrongfulness of that. And you see a lot of emotion in our sites. So I think
we have to create that space. And truth commissions, truth-telling begins with being honest about how we got here.
ISAACSON: Part of the history that you try to have us confront are the 4,000 or so lynchings, hanging, burnings, brutal murders that happened
post-Reconstruction up until the modern era.
Do you think that those lynchings, in some ways, there's a direct line, or at least a symbolic line, to people feeling they can put their knee on Mr.
Floyd's neck, the way officer Derek Chauvin did?
STEVENSON: Yes, I don't think there's any question that we have created an American narrative that the victimization of black people is not as
serious, is not as important as the victimization of white people.
We have actually created a tolerance of violence against black people that is evident in so many of these acts. And we're about to issue a report in a
couple of weeks on the level of lynching and -- during the Reconstruction era, when some thousands of black people were murdered, sometimes on the
streets, and the federal government did nothing about that.
And what that said was, it's not a big deal if you kill a lot of black people, that we have been focusing on the pandemic, Spanish Flu pandemic of
1918, as if it happened by itself. We have ignored all of the violence at black people that took place in 1919, the Tulsa massacre, violence in
Elaine, Arkansas where hundreds of black people were killed by white mobs.
And the federal government did nothing. When you constantly see this sort of violence with no repercussions, where there is no accountability, from
the early days of lynching, to the murder of Emmett Till, to police violence in the '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s, you send a message that,
if you're going to victimize someone, if you're going to be violent, and it's a person of color or a black person, you don't have to worry so much
about the repercussions.
And that's at the heart of this thing. I mean, police police differently in affluent communities. When the police go into an affluent white community,
they don't run over people's lawns. They don't pull people out of their homes. They don't throw people down on the street, because they know that
those people have access to judges and prosecutors and mayors.
They have power to hold those officers accountable. In poorer minority communities, we don't have that same power. And the violence that you see
is the result of that.
ISAACSON: This current, latest crisis on police brutality and police killings comes amid a perfect storm of things for the African-American
community, including coronavirus hitting the African-American community much harder, the collapse of a economy that really penalizes wage earners
far more than people with wealth.
What do you make of this incredibly weird, dangerous period? And how can we get out of it?
STEVENSON: Well, it's unquestionably a very challenging time, for all the reasons that you cite.
I think, for me, what's important to remember about this, I think there's been a lot of indifference, that, somehow, we were in a better place than
we actually were. And I'm hoping that this moment galvanizes a kind of awareness that we still have a lot of work to be done.
I am worried about the economic consequences of this pandemic for poor and minority communities. I am worried about the continuation of this police
violence. I'm worried about the structural problems that we will have a hard time overcoming.
But I'm -- I live in Montgomery, Alabama. I stand on the shoulders of people who did so much more with so much less in the 1950s and '60s. I am
the heir of a generation of black people who would put on their Sunday best and go places where they knew they'd be bloodied and battered, and yet they
I'm the great-grandson of people who were enslaved. And my foreparents found a way to overcome and survive enslavement. And my grandparents found
a way to overcome and survive terrorism and lynching. And my parents overcame and survived the humiliation of segregation.
And so no one gets to say that things are so bad right now that we cannot find a way forward. We have more resources, more capacity, more
intellectual and political opportunities than we have ever had before in this country.
And so it's a question of will. Will we use our capacity to create more justice, to create more equality, to confront political institutions that
do not value the need for equality and justice, that continue to perpetrate policies and institutions that are biased and bigoted?
That's the question. We have had -- we have more capacity now than we have ever had before. The question is, do we have the same conviction, the same
commitment, and the same resolve to eliminate bigotry and bias?
If we have that, then we will actually move toward a time -- I'd like for another generation at some point in the future to not be having these
conversations on television about the continuing legacy of these problems.
But to get there, we have a role -- all have a role to play.
ISAACSON: You just got invited back to Harvard Law School to give a type of commencement speech in this crazy period. And you told them that hope is
Explain how that fits in to the optimism that you're trying to express
STEVENSON: Well, yes, I just think we cannot succeed if we become hopeless. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
I think injustice prevails where hopelessness persists. And it's why I reject violence. I think violence is kind of rooted in a kind of hopeless
despair. I think we have to be hopeful. Hope is what allows us to believe things we haven't seen.
I have been practicing law for 35 years. We have gotten a lot of people off of death row. We have gotten a lot of people wrongly convicted freed.
I had to believe that could happen, even though I hadn't seen that happen before. I never met a lawyer before I went to Harvard Law School. I had to
believe I could be something I hadn't seen. I just think hope is what empowers you to do the things that have to be done. Hope will get you to
stand up when other people say, sit down.
Hope we will get you to speak when other people say, be quiet. If I learned anything from Rosa Parks and the generation of extraordinary people who
lived in this community, E.D. Nixon, Johnnie Carr, is that you have to be hopeful about what you can do, even when you don't feel like you have a lot
to do it with.
ISAACSON: Bryan Stevenson, thank you for sharing your hope and your exhortations.
Stay healthy. Stay well.
STEVENSON: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: A really important lesson for all of us. Keep that hope.
And so, finally, we want to say it is Blackout Tuesday. And our parent company, Warner Media, is offering the Bryan Stevenson film "Just Mercy"
for free across its digital platforms in the United States.
What is Blackout Tuesday, you ask? Well, if you have used social media today, you may have seen black squares, instead of pictures, a movement
asking people to stop scrolling and start paying attention to the Black Lives Matter campaign.
The idea began in the music industry, which has its own shutdown today called The Show Must Be Paused. Organizers say the $19 billion industry has
benefited primarily from black artists and should pause to reflect.
Elsewhere, the movie industry and media companies are making anti-racism content available for free, while YouTube has pledged a million dollars to
the Center For Policing Equity.
But we have yet to see a large-scale unified response from mostly white corporate America to the current crisis in America, one that addresses
needed change after not just the terrible death of George Floyd, but the terrible deaths of Breonna Taylor -- she was killed by police in her own
apartment -- or Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by two white men while jogging in Georgia.
Or the case of Christian Cooper, who asked a white woman in Central Park to leash her dog, only for that woman to call the police and falsely claim
that he was threatening her life. And those are just the recent cases.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.