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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New Protests As All Four Officers Are Charged In George Floyd Death; Three Officers Charged With Aiding And Abetting Second Degree Murder; Former Defense Secretary Mattis Slams Trump As Threat To Constitution. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 3, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for being with us tonight. And thanks, very much to all of you for being with us, as always, as our breaking news coverage of these protests across the country continues now with Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Erin, thanks. Good evening. We are seeing some of the largest demonstrations yet in cities across the country.
Overwhelmingly peaceful, not rioting, not looting, we are seeing protesting. In Philadelphia, Washington, here in New York and Minneapolis where George Floyd was murdered last week, and where today just down the river in the State Capital, St. Paul, Minnesota's Attorney General upgraded charges against ex-officer Derek Chauvin and charged the three other ex-officers involved in his killing.
Keith Ellison, the Attorney General, bringing charges for the first time -- these are the mugshots of the ex-police officers. For Derek Chauvin who kept his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck long after his heart stopped beating, the charge was raised from third degree to second degree murder. In a moment, I'll talk with Attorney General Ellison.
Also, President Obama adding his voice to the debate in a Virtual Town Hall. And tonight we'll talk with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is both a basketball and a Civil Rights legend.
There are other breaking news on the military response to the demonstrations. A stunning rebuke from James Mattis, the President's first Defense Secretary and a retired Marine Corps four-star general.
General Mattis not only slams the President's photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church, but his entire approach to the military and governing. The President he says is the first in his lifetime who, quote, "does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try."
Let me just repeat that. The man handpicked by the President to be his first Defense Secretary, a man who spent his life in service to this country and to this country's Constitution, now says that the President of the United States does not even pretend to try to unite this country. There is a lot to get to tonight, but let's start with CNN's Miguel
Marquez in Minneapolis. Miguel, I'm wondering how the news of the new charges has been received by protesters there today.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With a sense of relief and uncertainty. I do want to show you sort of this spot where Mr. Floyd breathed his last breath. They've added -- it's become sort of celebratory.
This mural has just gone up and it's really, really striking. This is the spot where Mr. Floyd was on the ground, where that knee was to his neck with Officer Chauvin sitting there, sort of -- as blase as though he were standing in line at the bank, for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
People are relieved by the charges today because I don't think a lot of them believe that there would be charges or increased charge for Officer Chauvin, and then charges for the other three officers. They are glad to see it come so quickly.
They are uncertain about those charges because they don't really know that they are going to see convictions in the end.
You look at Freddie Gray, you look at so many other cases where there were not convictions, and this is an audience -- these are people who are accustomed to being let down.
It does feel different, though, because everybody across this city and as we are seeing across the country are coming out. All ages, all races are coming out wanting that equality.
That videotape is so unmistakable in its evilness, the sense that someone was dying in front of them. And not only was the officer who had his knee to his neck just so calm about it, but the other officers, says the Attorney General, stood around, made sure that nobody, witnesses, others who were around here, nobody could get to him, nobody could see exactly what they were doing.
So while people are happy here tonight, they are waiting. They are waiting to see if there will be convictions.
COOPER: What have demonstrations just been like today? What are they anticipating tonight? Because obviously, there's a lot of people in America who are sitting at home watching this.
They see what happens late at night, what has happened in some cities. They see looting going on, people stealing things, and yet you see the images today and that we have seen day after day of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people like we all told, going into the streets day after day after day, overwhelmingly peaceful.
It is an extraordinary sight to see city after city, just this turnout in the midst of a pandemic, no less, in the midst -- I mean, you know, people know about social distancing. They know the dangers. And yet they are saying, this is more important than my personal health.
MARQUEZ: Well, certainly the anger has driven people out as well and to disregard some of those social distancing rules.
But there have been silent protests today in St. Paul. There is a protest going on in Minneapolis right now where people are gathering, maybe 500 strong or so.
MARQUEZ: But this area has really become the epicenter, and it is a place of sadness and profound sort of reflection, but it's also a place that's become a bit of a celebration.
There is food. There is water. There are tents set up everywhere where everybody is offering barbecue and campers and any sort of household needs you might have.
You can even register to vote down here, so it's become a place that has brought not just this community, the people who live directly here, but people from across the city, across the state are coming here to take in this spot and try to figure out to kneel, to pray.
The Governor has been here. The Police Chief has been here. The family of Mr. Floyd has been here. Try to figure out and meditate and think about where the act that happened here takes us next -- Anderson.
COOPER: And that's something former President Obama spoke about today and we'll play some of that. Miguel, thank you. Now more from Keith Ellison, Minnesota's Attorney General.
He spoke earlier today, quote, "tremendous sense of weight he feels at this moment."
COOPER: Attorney General Ellison, what made you decide to upgrade the charges to second-degree murder against ex-officer Chauvin?
KEITH ELLISON, ATTORNEY GENERAL, MINNESOTA: Well, we evaluated all the incoming evidence. We evaluated, you know, a lot of material. There is a range of it. Medical reports, Medical Examiner reports, videotape -- all kinds of information that we felt that the proper charge would be second-degree murder, and that it would be proper to charge the other three with aiding and abetting in that.
COOPER: As you know, the family of Mr. Floyd, his attorney had wanted first-degree murder charges. That would have required that Officer Chauvin -- that it was premeditated -- there was premeditation.
COOPER: I assume you found no evidence of premeditation.
ELLISON: Not -- as of this time, no. The investigation is ongoing. If we find evidence which would support that charge, we would charge it.
I'm committed to holding, you know, the defendants accountable at the highest ethical charge, meaning that the charges have to be supported by the facts, have to be supported by the law.
But if it's there, we would charge it. We would not hesitate if we found the information to support it.
COOPER: The other three officers, what should they have done in this circumstance? I know one officer -- I've read the criminal complaint -- one officer raised concerns about, about Mr. Floyd, asked if -- I guess, asked Chauvin if he should be turned on his side, and Chauvin said, the words to the effect of, no, he's staying right where he is.
ELLISON: Well, our theory of the case, they continue to sit on his body, which affected his ability to move forward. We consider that aiding. The fact that they never rendered aid. It was a departmental policy to do so and to intervene. They had a responsibility to intervene, to give aid. And they didn't do so.
And so -- and then they affirmatively assisted in the assault which resulted ultimately in the death of Mr. Floyd.
COOPER: Is it -- I mean, I find it just so stunning that not only did Mr. Chauvin sit with his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, but that more than two minutes and 47 seconds, almost three minutes of that time was after he was nonresponsive and after they knew he did not have a pulse or could not find a pulse.
I mean, if any of the officers had at least at that point tried to assist Mr. Floyd -- and the fact that nobody tried to assist Mr. Floyd after they knew he didn't have a pulse is just inexplicable to me.
ELLISON: I think many people around the world make that same observation.
COOPER: You have also pointed out how difficult it is to convict a police officer. I believe in Minnesota it's only happened once. And I know the prosecutor that is appointed to this was the prosecutor who was able to get that conviction, I heard you say earlier.
Can you just talk about why it is so difficult? Because obviously for any Criminal Justice Reform, accountability is essential, and just moving forward for the future, it's good to know why it's so hard to convict police.
ELLISON: Well, I mean, weren't we all raised to believe that if you have a problem, the people you should call is the police?
Juries tend to resolve doubts in favor of the police. Where there is a credibility dispute, they have a tendency to believe the police.
ELLISON: There are many times when that credibility is not deserved or warranted in individual cases, and so that is one of the issues.
The other is that, you know, there are many kind of immunities, sort of -- the police are legally authorized to use force in circumstances beyond that of ordinary citizens. All of these things kind of conspire.
And then of course, in some cases around the country, the police departments have a cozy relationship with people who hold political and economic power. So, they look out for them.
And so the net effect is that it's very difficult to hold a police accountable even when there is a violation of law.
COOPER: You think it would be --
ELLISON: I mean, if you look at the Walter Scott case.
COOPER: Have you -- what have you told the family in this case about the chances of getting a conviction?
ELLISON: Well, you know what I do? I don't really lay odds on that. What I say is that we are going to prepare, we are going to organize, and we are going to make sure we put on the best case we possibly can.
We are going to check every link in the prosecutorial chain to make sure it's tight, and then at the end of the day, it's really in the hands of the jury.
And so -- and we believe that people are fair. If we can help the jury understand what's really happening here, what their duties and obligations are, we're confident we will get that conviction.
COOPER: Attorney General Ellison, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
ELLISON: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: More now on making these four cases, joining us CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates, also Gloria Browne-Marshall, she is a Constitutional Law Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice here in New York, author of "Race, Law in American Society: 1607 to Present."
Laura, first of all your reaction to what the Attorney General did today. The charges now as they stand.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, two things. First, in Minnesota, maybe people don't realize that the third-degree murder charge was not going to be able to stand regardless. That would require you to have both an intent -- the unintentional act of killing, but also to act with a depraved indifference.
Meaning that you intended or didn't intend. It is all very waffly language. But in reality in Minnesota, you cannot think about third- degree murder without thinking about the quintessential examples of, say, shooting into a crowded space, or driving down the wrong side of the highway.
Those are types of crimes that are contemplated when you intend to harm maybe someone, but no one in particular. And third-degree murder charges in Minnesota, if you only are focusing
on one particular target, you cannot actually charge that. So, it was probably an error to do so in the first place by the head of the County Attorney.
But second-degree murder under Minnesota Law has two different ways to get to, Anderson, either intentional, which does not require premeditation or unintentional which we are actually seeing charged here based on a felony or the attempt to commit a felony.
What we're seeing the felony being is the underlying cause of assaulting Mr. George Floyd close to death, causing great bodily harm, and in fact death.
And so, I think this is the right charge to make here. The accomplice liability is also commensurate with what we actually are seeing here, and it was necessary and one that could potentially go up higher to premeditated, but what we see right now, he has made the right call.
COOPER: Yes, Professor Browne-Marshall, I mean, there's a lot of -- you know, we've seen what's in the criminal complaint. There is a lot we don't know about this interaction, something happened in a police vehicle because Mr. Floyd was in the back seat of a police vehicle for a while before being brought back outside and put on the ground and killed.
I assume that will come out in the trial and who knows which way that will move any potential jury. But I'm wondering what you make of what we saw today of the new charges.
GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I was concerned about Minnesota Attorney General Ellison's kind of neutral stance.
He seemed more a politician than the kind of advocate I would want to zealously defend the rights of Mr. Floyd. I mean, my concern is that he is bringing in the prosecutor who is not trusted within the black community, and someone who has, yes, has won conviction of an officer, but that was a black officer who accidentally shot a white woman.
And so the problem with the prosecutor has been one that's been under the microscope of the black community for what has been seen as oppression of black people in that county.
So, I'm concerned about this cozy relationship between Ellison and Freeman.
COOPER: Laura, is there anything that can be done about that? I mean, at this point, obviously -- I mean, Ellison said about how difficult it is to get a conviction.
And as the Professor was just saying, the fact that the only police officer who was convicted was black. COATES: Well, the Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman was wrong to
draw some sort of parallel in a kind of a racially tone deaf way to suggest that the facts in that case either were analogous to what we're seeing here or the racial dynamic would have zero impact on a new jury looking at new sets of facts with a black victim and white officers, and some who are officers of color.
But remember that Keith Ellison is not new to the people of Minnesota. He is the first African-American elected statewide in Minnesota. He served in Congress for more than 12 years. He is somebody who also represented indigent defendants in the Criminal Justice System.
And frankly, a lot of people in Minnesota are talking right now about many Attorney Generals would actually look at a power grab and say, I want to be the face of this and I want to do the entire prosecution and ignore the institutional knowledge and pipeline of otherwise seasoned career attorneys.
He himself said today, look, I have done these cases, but on the other side. So I think part of his stance is based on the acknowledgment that it is entirely appropriate to rely on people in the office who have experience.
However, she is right when she says, Professor, the idea of there being healthy skepticism largely around the Hennepin County Attorney for his failure to charge the officers in the Jamar Clark case, and also because past is prologue and people are well aware that even when cases are charged, justice is a multi-tiered system when it comes to the flow charts of officer-involved shootings.
Arrests -- I mean, firing, arrests, indictments, the trial, the conviction, a sentence. Each of these steps have to be met and will be met with skepticism until really people have full confidence in the Criminal Justice System.
COOPER: Professor Browne-Marshall, the new criminal complaint says one of the officers was ready to employ different restraint, but that the other officers involved chose not to use it. Do the different accounts of the officers come into play? I mean, is it possible they could flip on each other?
BROWNE-MARSHALL: I think it's necessary. I think that also as part of the motivation to support the higher charge, a more serious charge. I think also the relationship between George Floyd and Derek Chauvin at that bar where they both worked is going to play into this.
It's going to take people coming out and speaking and the last thing I just want to add is this necessary part of what an officer was supposed to do. Officer Lane pulled a weapon when George Floyd was sitting in the car. That was in the initial charging report.
So, we see that these -- and the fact as you pointed out, there was no resuscitation at all. Even the ambulance, when it arrived did not attempt to resuscitate. I mean, the system failed George Floyd on every level. But then W.B. Dubois said the system was never meant to protect us in the first place and that's what we're seeing here. The system failing after 400 years of failure.
COOPER: Gloria Browne-Marshall, Laura Coates, thank you. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, the President's first Defense Secretary breaking his silence, weighing in on how he believes the President is failing the country at this moment.
This is just an extraordinary development to have the former Defense Secretary, the Mad Dog Mattis as the President used to love calling him, talking about how the President is dividing and misusing the nation's Armed Forces.
Retired army four-star General Wesley Clark joins us to talk about that.
Later, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, what he sees in what we are all watching unfold.
COOPER: There's breaking news tonight that raises all kinds of uncomfortable questions about what kind of country we are living in and what it might become.
But don't take that from me. That's from President Trump's former Secretary of Defense, former four-star Marine Corps General, James Mattis. A man who has fought for this country, knows a lot about leadership, a man who has dedicated his life to serving and protecting the Constitution and the country.
Now, I say this about Mattis because it's inevitable the President will soon directly or indirectly through minions smear General Mattis, and very possibly, his current Defense Secretary as well.
A lot of people wonder why General Mattis lasted so long with this President or how he lasted so long, and why he never spoke up publicly.
Well, he has certainly spoken up now and it's impossible to overstate the intensity and the stunning nature of this rebuke.
Writing "The Atlantic" about the President's crowd clearing and erratic walk in order to pose with a Bible, a book he has likely never read, and unable say nothing of substance while standing and preening in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, Mattis says, and I quote, "I have watched this week's unfolding events angry and appalled."
He continues, "When I joined the military some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens, much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected Commander-in-Chief with military leadership standing alongside."
He goes on to liken this moment to the one 76 years ago this week as troops, including some from the unit stationed outside Washington right now, prepared for D-Day. Some were expected to be returning home tonight, but now "The Washington Post" is reporting that they're not.
Elements of the same 82nd Airborne that parachuted into France, and I'm quoting again from Mattis, "Instructions given by the Military Departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that the Nazi slogan for destroying us was divide and conquer. Our American answer is in union there is strength."
"We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis, confident that we are better than our politics."
"Donald Trump," Mattis writes, " ... is the first President in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequence of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequence of three years without mature leadership."
That's the former Defense Secretary who served under this President.
COOPER: Now, as you might expect, this is bound to get the President's attention. So, in anticipation of the attacks he is sure to level against General Mattis, here's just a sampling of past praise the President has had for Mattis. Though even at the time he said a lot of this stuff, we all knew the President knew nothing about Mattis other than his nickname.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis ...
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ]
TRUMP: ... as our Secretary of Defense.
Jim is a Marine Corps four-star general.
I have a General who I have great respect for, General Mattis.
General Mattis is the living embodiment of the Marine Corps motto, semper fidelis.
Secretary Mattis has devoted his life to serving his country.
He led an assault battalion in Operation Desert Storm.
I think he's a terrific person. He is doing a fantastic job.
Mad Dog plays no games.
He's a man of honor, a man of devotion.
The American people are fortunate that a man of this character and integrity will now be the civilian leader atop the Department of Defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The backdrop to what General Mattis wrote is the drama surrounding the man who now occupies the chair he left, the President's current Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
At his briefing today, Esper said he did not support using active duty troops against protesters as the President has threatened to do, and he said he regretted using the word battle space to describe American cities. He talked about dominating the battle space -- the streets of America.
The President, as you know, has urged governors to use National Guard Forces to, quote, "dominate" city streets and he warned he would send in the regular military if they don't.
That threat seemed to be dissipating for much of the day, But according to "The Post," not any longer. And it is a threat that other top former officials are speaking out about.
Former Joint Chiefs Chairman, Mike Mullen also denouncing the President. In "The Atlantic" he writes, quote, "It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel, including members of the National Guard forcibly and violently clearing the path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the President's visit outside St. John's Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump's leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past weeks have made it impossible to remain silent."
Admiral Mullen spoke out after seeing the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the man in uniform right there, the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley alongside the President in battle fatigues, no less, not the dress uniform normally worn when meeting at the White House.
Seeing the Defense Secretary taking part in the church photo op, that's the Defense Secretary in between those two. Secretary Esper at first denied he even knew where he was going.
Then he admitted today, yes, he knew he was going to the church, but not that it would be a photo op. No, no, no, certainly not that.
A short time later, he and Chairman Milley spent about two and a half hours at the White House and now the troops that were expected to head home are reportedly not.
Today, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany compared the President's publicity stunt to Winston Churchill touring the bombed out streets of London during the Blitz.
Let's just pause on that for a moment. Kayleigh McEnany, seems like a nice person. I know her. She used to be a commentator at CNN. She seems like a strong person of strong faith. Maybe she believes what she is saying.
But comparing the President of the United States to Winston Churchill? Winston Churchill was a child of privilege. On that sense, I guess, yes, you could compare them. Donald Trump was born into privilege. He was able to start his business because he got a lot of money from his daddy.
Churchill joined the military, saw combat. The President avoided all of that, as we know. Bone spurs, we're told.
Churchill wrote books. The President -- he has had books ghostwritten for him. Churchill was actually a P.O.W. He was a war correspondent after leaving the military during the World War. He was taken as a P.O.W. He actually escaped.
Well, the President of the United States doesn't like P.O.W.s. As he said, he prefers those who haven't been captured.
Churchill was one of the greatest orators of modern times. The President, well, for all of his big walk to the church, once he got there, he stood in front of a burned church holding a Bible and he couldn't think of anything to say.
Burned out church, a Bible in his hand, the country divided, and he couldn't think of anything to say except to ask a bunch of other white guys from his Cabinet to stand around him and just take a picture.
Churchill rallied Britain in the face of evil. Churchill faced down tyranny and fascism. He united the world against it. This President praises tyrants. He seeks to emulate them.
The Press Secretary compares the two men? I mean, she is right, they are both leaders of countries. They're both old. They're both large and both walk through rubble.
One, did it for his country. Trump did it for himself.
More now in all this, let's go to CNN political analyst and New York Times white house correspondent Maggie Haberman, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta and Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and a CNN military analyst.
General Clark, I want to start with you. I'm wondering what your reaction is hearing the statement from former Secretary Mattis?
WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well very pleased to see his statement. I do think this is a very important time in America. Many of us have wondered why -- that why Jim hasn't spoken out sooner. But he was waiting. He bided his time and, and he spoke out at a critical time, I think it'll have a big impact. Or he didn't only talk about this event, he talked about dividing America. He talked about immature leadership. So this is a very broad powerful statement. And he's one of the few people who can really speak on authority because he was there on the President's cabinet for almost two years. He saw it firsthand.
COOPER: And now, I mean, he's clearly going to have his, you know, reputation attacked by this President, who will, you know, has already labeled him stuff of failure and things like that. General Clark, can you just talk about the reticence military leaders have about speaking out in a case like this, because they hear from Mattis, they hear from Mullen, you don't hear (INAUDIBLE).
CLARK: Yes, it's very -- it's very hard Anderson they get military leaders to speak out. Occasionally someone will run for office, his idea and have to speak out, but mostly they don't speak out. And that's just the tradition of the military being a political and we want to keep the active duty military apolitical. They work for the commander in chief, they take an oath to uphold and defend the constitution. It doesn't matter whether it's Democrats, Republicans or somebody else in the office of the presidency, the military must be loyal.
But there comes a time when the retired military at least, I believe does have an obligation to speak out. In 1965, the retired Army, former Army Chief of Staff General (INAUDIBLE) could have spoken out and warned America that his studies, a decade earlier showed it would take over a million Americans to deal with Vietnam. They asked him to speak out. He said no. So it's important to what General Mattis said he spoke out it's going to have an impact. When our other former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff like Marty Dempsey, and Mike Mullen, when they speak out, America should listen. These are men who don't speak out easily. They hold it in out of respect for the current leaders, out of concern for the troops that are in uniform. But when they speak out, it's from the heart and they speak from experience.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, has the White House responded about this criticism?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Now, yes, I did talk to a Trump advisor, Trump campaign advisor earlier this evening, who predicted the President and I don't think this is a huge shot in the dark is going to respond with quote, great anger. You know, this advisor was observing that the President loves his generals, is how this advisor describes it, that he liked having people like General Mattis around, the former Chief of Staff John Kelly, the former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. But, Anderson on a day when the President himself compared himself to Abraham Lincoln on a day when the press secretary, as you mentioned, compared the President to Winston Churchill, former Secretary Mattis is making some very dark comparisons.
At one point during this statement, he talks about how instructions were given to soldiers storming Normandy during World War II and how they were told they were reminded of how the Nazis believed and divide and conquer and how the American answer to that was in Union there is strength. And this Trump advisor I spoke with this evening said that will leave a mark with the President being having a reference dropped in this statement to the Nazis is not going to sit well with this President. I think General Mattis, former Secretary Mattis has gotten the President's attention. And we're certainly going to hear from the President, I think in short order.
COOPER: Maggie, I'm wondering what do you make of this -- I mean, the President obviously has criticized Mattis several times since he left the administration. Also, I just want to go to that. And then I want to ask you about the whole bunker stuff, because the President talked about that today.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, Anderson. Look, I think two things can be true at once. I think that this can be a pretty extraordinary statement from Jim Mattis, who as a General said, has tried to stay out of out of the fray and really, really pulled his punches to the -- to his own detriment. He's been criticized for it. And the fact that he is clearly speaking out and I don't think this is the extent of what he would like to say, but it certainly is a pretty dramatic statement is an extraordinary moment.
Whether it will matter, whether there is anyone in the country who can be influenced at this point or will cure it or if it will break through at this moment of incredible turmoil when so much is going on. And there were three simultaneous crises. I don't know. And I think that remains to be seen. I am confident the President is going to attack Mattis. I expect that he will attack him in the manner in which he has attacked him before and as we've discussed here, that gets pretty old.
HABERMAN: People are familiar with how the President attacks people. It doesn't it doesn't penetrate. I think the President it's more than just as angry. I think the President is going to be wounded by this. This is an actual general, the President likes to project this image of strength, but he has had trouble sort of making that clear in his own resume. And I think this is going to go into pierce him in a way that he (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: I want to ask you about the bunker, but I just, I just want everybody to just -- these pictures on the screen are just extraordinary. I mean, I know we've seen these kind of pictures of peaceful protests all day long, and maybe it starts to look like wallpaper or just, oh that's just what's happening. These are just incredible images. I mean, look at the diversity people out in the streets, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, cities large and small. You have people outside, risking their own lives in the midst of a pandemic.
Look at this picture of Atlanta. It's just this is what is happening day after day in the United States of America. And I know, bad things have happened in cities at night, and there's been looting and look, I live in New York City. I've seen it, you know, down where I live to. But, but this is really what is happening. This is the -- this is the outpouring of Americans that is occurring here. Yes, some are taking advantage of it. And yes, that is being dealt with. But this is the news. This is the headline and it maybe doesn't make headlines like violence makes headlines and maybe that's a commentary on society and us. But these pictures are just extraordinary a thin line of military and police and blocks and blocks of peaceful citizens. Sorry, Maggie, I interrupt you, Maggie, let me just ask you that. Well, sorry, Jim, go ahead.
ACOSTA: The only thing I was going to say is that and the point just to the point that you're making is that I think, you know, that perhaps history will be written a different way. After all this is said and done. But I think the President missed a massive, historic opportunity. This week, he decided to respond by force, he decided to throw his weight around in ways that he thought would impress the generals and people like the generals. When in fact, I think had he taken the opportunity to show these protesters that he understands what he's going through and yes, even perhaps show some of them some love, that this entire situation might have turned out differently this week, and he might be in a better position to live.
But I do think and General Mattis gets to this in his statement that the President chose to divide in this moment instead of unite. And that's why, you know, it's just seems to be to be a massive missed opportunity for the President,
COOPER: Leaving people --
HABERMAN: Can I just say something Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, go ahead, go ahead Maggie.
HABERMAN: Can I just say something. We really need to stop referring to this is a choice the President is making. I agree that there have been times where he has been able to show, you know, a different side of himself, or at least a side of it, you know, he is capable of lots of people and we'll talk about that he's capable of acts of kindness that you know, he's different buying scenes. That's not what he has done. And when somebody doesn't do that, and almost every single turn, you have to stop thinking that it's a choice. I don't know why it is that this is this is the way that he has reacted. But this is how he reacted. I don't think there was ever going to be another option for him in this moment.
And the thing that I have heard a number of people around him over the last several days is they are privately, acknowledging and they are not doing it publicly. But they are privately acknowledging that the limitations on his ability to be in this job, or parent in moments like this.
COOPER: And just Maggie, the President today is denying that he ever was rushed to the bunker and that he was went to the bunker. He claims he went to the bunker for an inspection. I've just it seems laughable to me that all of a sudden on a day when the country is being ripped apart, that he would decide oh, yes, you know what, today's a good day to have an inspection of that bunker. I keep you know, hearing about.
HABERMAN: Well, it was interesting Anderson -- (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: I just want to get Maggie on this because she is reporting on this, Maggie.
HABERMAN: It was what he said was that it was a false report. It was not a false report. We were correct. And other people confirmed our reporting on Peter Baker in my reporting. The President was whisked down to the bunker after the status at the White House was changed from yellow to red because there had been a barricade or at least we've been told, and there may be other things that we haven't been told. But there was at least one barricade that appears near the Treasury Department.
But this was not the President said it was a full story and then he said, well I was there two and a half times or something to that effect. He just went down to inspect it on Friday. What he's saying is not true. I understand that he was very angry about the reporting. But, you know, his issues in this regard are not our issues and our job is to report.
COOPER: And you know what Churchill's spent time in a bunker. You know --
COOPER: -- that's, I mean, it's not like --
HABERMAN: It speaks to the situation, it doesn't speak to -- it's not talking about him, it's talking about --
COOPER: Yes. And --
HABERMAN: -- the moment and time, and the moment to the presidency.
COOPER: Look, given his bone spurs, it must have been very painful to be rushed down to a bunker. So, you know, you can almost give him props for willing to undergo that pain. But the idea that he views it as an as a, as a sign of, you know, a failure of his masculinity that just seems so absurd to me. And the fact that then he decides to a lot of the American people about it seems absurd as well.
I'm out of time. And I'm way over time, Maggie Haberman, thank you, Jim Acosta, General Clark, as well. Thank you very much.
Just ahead., we're going to have more on tonight's protests. We'll talk to NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who had really great piece in the L.A. Times that I want to talk to him about, because I just thought it was just a really beautifully written and important, so many important thoughts in it. So we'll talk to him when we return.
COOPER: I want turn our focus back to the protests occurring in cities across America tonight and not just -- not the protest so much as the reasons behind the protests. And what we all see when we look at peaceful protests. After Minnesota Attorney General announced new charges today in the death of George Floyd. Tonight I spoke to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. He says his office will prepare organize and put on the best case possible, but quote at the end of the day, it's really in the hands of the jury.
Joining me now is NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Thank you so much for being with us. As I said, you wrote a piece in the L.A. Times a couple days ago that I just thought was really so well done, and I just wanted to talk to you about it. First of all, though, I'd like to get your thoughts on the news that the other three officers involved in Mr. Floyd's death, his murder had been charged and that officer or former ex-officer, Chauvin, his charges have been upgraded to second degree murder. Is that a step toward justice in your mind?
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I think it's certainly a step toward justice. And I think that just the fact that the governor and the mayor really acted quickly and decisively, and set a tone for how we should react to this horrible incident.
COOPER: It's so interesting to me how different people in this country see -- react differently to not only what, you know, what they saw in the video of the killing of Mr. Floyd, but also what they see in the videos we're showing right now of protests -- are people protesting on this streets.
You wrote in the LA Times, and it's a bit of a long paragraph, but I just think it's a really important one that I want to read, read it, you wrote, yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage. Just as when fans celebrating the hometown sports team championship, burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don't want to see stores looted, or even buildings burned. But African-Americans had been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air seems invisible. Even if you're choking on it until you let the sun in. Then you see it's everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance to cleaning it wherever it lands, but we have to stay vigilant because it's always still in the air.
Can you just talk about how different people see different protests and why you wrote that paragraph?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I wrote that paragraph because I tried to set up an analogy that people could understand. You know, I -- there's another way of describing it. It's like, you know, the United States is this wonderful bus with great seats in the front of the bus. But as you go further to the back of the bus, the seats get worse and the fumes from the exhaust leak in and really wreck with people's health and their lives. But the people at the front of the bus they have no complaints. It's kind of like that.
It's when I described the dust in the air, that dust accumulates in the lives of black Americans. And it just eliminates all the mechanics of democracy. The democracy doesn't work for us. We are last fired, last hired first fired, we have a different set of expectations from the criminal justice system. So many ways of American life discriminate against black Americans.
And finally, I think we've come to a moment of clarity here where it can result in such a horrible incident that we saw with Mr. Floyd's to death.
COOPER: President Obama spoke today about and I'm paraphrasing because his words are far more eloquent than my memory of them. But, essentially channeling the energy that we are seeing this extraordinary outpouring and sustained outpouring to real, systematic change. And I'm wondering how you think that is possible? I mean, do you think it's possible, you know, marching in the streets is extraordinarily powerful? Where does it lead to that makes real change?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well I think is possible Anderson, if it leads to forming a political will within our country to do something, something has to be done. It's not enough to say that was terrible and my thoughts and prayers are with you that that's not getting anything done. We have to we have to change the circumstances. It's been almost 30 years since the Rodney King incident, did you see that as a routine traffic stop? If any white American had a relative get drunk and get stopped by the police and had that relative beaten like that, those people would be up in arms. But yet the 30 years pass, nothing has changed. There's been a lot more other dead black Americans, and they've died really for no -- for no good reasons, misdemeanors. Eric Garner died because he was selling cigarettes illegally. You know, these are trivial things to take someone's life over.
ABDUL-JABBAR: And we have to -- we have to get to the point where we have to do something about that. And I think this will cause the political world maybe to grow and maybe we can get something done.
COOPER: I mean, yes, you talk about Eric Garner, Mr. Floyd was accused not convicted of anything you're accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill and the man is dead. Well when you saw -- yes.
ABDUL-JABBAR: What was that about? You know, passing a bad bill, you get killed for that.
ABDUL-JABBAR: That's horrific.
COOPER: The -- it is interesting to me how, you know, you also wrote and I think was in the start of your article about when perhaps a white reader was, you know, when it's looking at the protests and thinking, oh, they're not, you know, well, they're not six feet apart, and then thinking, and then seeing looting and thinking well that, you know, that's terrible and then that's going to hurt their cause. And maybe an African-American reader seeing the same images and thinking something different. And I just thought that that sort of putting yourself in the mind of different people watching this. It's a really interesting thing, because I do think we all, you know, it's why I witness testimony is so problematic. We all see different things in the same images.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes. Yes, we see different things in I've seen people who have no power to change things, trying to get people to listen. I remember seeing a very significant sign on display in Minneapolis. I bought two of them. But the first one said, can you hear us now? And the second one said, not all black people are criminals, not all white people are racist, not all cops are bad. And ignorance comes in all colors. And, you know, we have to understand those realities and react in a sensible way. And, you know, it seems like maybe we've had a moment of clarity here where we can do that. And we can really make it so that bad cops do not have the leeway that they seem to have had for so long.
COOPER: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in addition to all your other accomplishments, I think you're an extraordinary writer. And I really appreciate you coming out to talk tonight. Thank you.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Thank you very much Anderson. And I think you've done a great job but covering all of this. Keep up the good work.
COOPER: Well I've got a very good team here, so I'm just a small part of it. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, a contrast in leadership, President Obama's far more hopeful message to protesters today and what he says they need to do to make politicians listen.
COOPER: Just a short time ago, former President Obama made his first on camera comments about the protests and the death of George Floyd. Comments came during a virtual Town Hall held by My Brother's Keeper Alliance, the program that it's programmed the Obama Foundation, they were very hopeful, positive and address not only the tragedy that has happened, but the change that could come as a result.
BARACK OBAMA, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: In some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been as difficult and scary and uncertain as they've been. They've also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends, and they offer an opportunity for us to all work together to tackle, to bring about real change. We both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable.
But we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented and we can monitor and make sure we're following up on. There is a change in mindset that's taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better. And that is not as a consequence of speeches by politicians. That's not the result of, you know, spotlights in news articles. That's a direct result of the activities and organizing and mobilization and engagement of so many young people across the country.
COOPER: Joining me now is former Obama administration, senior advisor and CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod, and CNN political commentator and former South Carolina House Member Bakari Sellers, who's also the author of the recently released memoir, My Vanishing Country, which is started and I'm really enjoying Bakari. And I look forward to finishing it and talking to you about it more.
David, you know, President Obama well, just the way he rationally breaks things down point by point. I'm wondering what you thought of his address today?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was great, because it pointed out what is a fact, it's easy to get swept up in the horrific nature of some of what we've seen in the despair over how the government has reacted, particularly the President has reacted. But listen, Anderson, I've been around a long time, I'm old enough to remember 1968. And I've, as a young reporter, I covered police brutality as an issue 47 years ago in the city of Chicago, and I know how long we've been grappling with this issue and all that time, I've never seen a moment like this where the entire country seems to be focused on this.
And he's right that young protesters have had a lot to do with it. But those protests also have been much more diverse than I've ever remembered seeing. And there's a poll out today on from Reuters that said 64% of the country said they're sympathetic to the protesters and their message, despite everything that we've seen. So I think these are hopeful signs. And the question is, as he, as he challenged these young people to think about, how do we translate that into at the local level change policies that will make these kinds of incidents less and less common? And that is the big challenge of the moment.
COOPER: Bakari, I'm wondering what you thought of former President Obama's comments, and also just the protests we have seen today, I mean, again, I just -- I'm so I just find these images, so extraordinary the peaceful nature of these protests day after day, and just the huge numbers of people involved.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the consciousness of the United States of America is awakening. And I think the President 44 realized that. It reminded me of Dr. King's, I Have a Dream speech but not the rhythmic cadence of I have a dream that one day we shall. It reminded me of the most important part of that speech in which he talks about the fierce urgency of now.
I think Barack Obama realizes that this moment, we have to have that fierce urgency, because my fear is that for most black folk, the way this works, Anderson, is that we have a debt. We watch the video, we have pain, we take to the streets, we have a memorial, we grieve. And then we do it all over again. And Barack Obama realizes we have to break that cycle. We have to break that cycle because in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. But also and I don't mean to be critical of Barack Obama or David Axelrod or anybody else. But I do think that the President realizes that in 2014, after Ferguson, and we had the rise of Black Lives Matter, we missed a moment.
But now we have a moment again, and I firmly believe that the consciousness of the country has been awakened, not because necessarily George Floyd's death, but the fact that there was a knee on his neck For eight and a half minutes, I think the consciousness awoke after seeing 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. 7, 8 minutes of this man calling out for his mother, his dead mother, then going unconscious, and him still having a knee in his neck.
So, now when black folk tell you that were harassed by police, you can truly believe it. Because me you, David, nobody, you know, we treat another human being that way. So George Floyd's life will never be in vain. And I think the President wants to put action behind those words because of the fierce urgency of this moment.
COOPER: We're watching obviously, the scenes in New York City, as you know, there's never a curfew in New York, it begins at 8:00 each night. It's now an hour into that curfew that protests continue.
Bakari Sellers. David Axelrod, thank you.
The protests continue as does our coverage. Chris Cuomo joins us now for "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Chris?
I cannot let an important day like this. Go we have charged In this big case, we have to celebrate the good things and the bad things that come in life especially during hard times.