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The World Continues to Demand Justice for George Floyd; Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General, is Interviewed About George Floyd and Police Brutality; Donald Trump's America; Interview With Anne Applebaum and Eliot Cohen; Interview With Vanita Gupta. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired June 5, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we want you all over the world to stand with us, for eight minutes and 46 second and make that commitment for justice in the
name of George.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
As the world watches justice for George Floyd in the hands of this man, Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison. He joins us.
Then, how will history regard Donald Trump's defenders? And how does the world look at Donald Trump's America? I speak with the former State
Department official, Eliot Cohen, and Pulitzer prize-winning historian and author, Anne Applebaum.
And later, Vanita Gupta headed up the Civil Rights Division after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Now, she weighs in on
comprehensive police reform.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London, where here and all around the world, protesters continue to
demand justice for George Floyd as United States senators stood or knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds today, the time it took for Floyd to die
with a knee in his neck, the job of making the case against the officers charged in his death falls to my first guest tonight, that is the Minnesota
attorney general, Keith Ellison.
Ellison is no stranger himself to controversy. As America's first Muslim congressman, he was a prime target of the right-wing smear machine. Now, he
faces an unprecedented challenge, winning a conviction in a justice system that traditionally favors the police. Ellison filed charges against all
four officers involved, Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd to the ground for nearly nine minutes charged with second and third-degree murder and
manslaughter. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane, the other officers at the scene, each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree
murder and man slaughter.
This is unprecedented. But even at this moment in American history, even as it unfolds, reminders of the disturbing reality, police in Buffalo, New
York, shove a 75-year-old man who fell to the ground bleeding from his ear. He remains in serious but stable condition. And images of a New York State
senator clearly identified who says police pepper sprayed him and others at a peaceful protest in Brooklyn, New York. Amid all of this, Keith Ellison
joins me from his office in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Welcome to the program, Attorney General. Let me just first ask you --
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: -- given the huge challenge that faces you with prosecuting and leading the charges in this case, when you see that aspects of police
brutality and some instances continue even now, how hard a job is this going to be in court and in the court of public opinion?
ELLISON: Well, it will be a difficult job in court. As you know, there are a lot of cases where people looked at video or other evidence and we're
just sure that justice would be served and wasn't. Rodney King many years ago, you may recall that, the first jury acquitted but then not just that,
in Philando Castile's case right here in Minnesota, video and he was acquitted.
So, we don't look at this as some sort of an easy road that we are on, but we are going to work extremely hard. We are going to make sure that every
link in the prosecutorial chain is very tight. We are going to put everything we have into it. And I trust that jurors on this case, if we end
up with a jury trial, will see the evidence in a way that they should, which is that these individuals are guilty.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you some of the nuts and bolts of the case. Of course, you started by charging the one, Chauvin, who had his knee in
George Floyd's neck with third degree, et cetera, then upped that to second-degree. Can you tell me why? What led you to do that and is there a
greater burden of proof to make that kind of charge stick?
ELLISON: No, the burden of proof is still proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in any case. But we -- as our investigation was ongoing, we continued to
collect information, body camera, medical information, medical examiner's reports, other pieces of information, we came to the conclusion that
second-degree murder was the right charge in the case of Mr. Chauvin and needed to upgrade it based on the facts and the law that was available to
AMANPOUR: And then with the others, and that took several days and some people asked why that took a longer time, again, they're charged with
aiding and abetting the charges as laid out against Chauvin. What can you tell us about them? Because already we are hearing from their defense, at
least one of them, that they are going to say they tried to get Chauvin off and they tried to do the right thing. What are you hearing about that? And
what can you tell us about it?
ELLISON: What I can tell you is that as Chauvin was clearly assaulting Mr. Floyd, or at least the evidence would indicate that, that it does appear
that nobody moved, nobody assisted. And so, look, the jury will decide ultimately what they believe happened in this case. Our complaint indicates
that they rendered assistance as Chauvin effected assault and the consequence being murder and death for George Floyd. You cannot assist in
the commission of a crime and if you do, you would be considered an aider and abettor.
AMANPOUR: Attorney General, it's quite unusual that you have been or your rank, your position has been put on this case. It is usually the
prosecutor, the governor himself asked you to take this case in, you know, concert with the Floyd family.
So, I want to ask you of the institutional difficulties, particularly in Minnesota, the head of the police union whose name is Bob Kroll, he has
called George Floyd a violent criminal. And he's described those protesting the death as terrorists and he's criticized the city's political
leadership, I guess including you, for not taking all of that into consideration.
So first, how do you answer somebody like Kroll who is the police union chief and has a huge amount of power and influence in the issues of
accountability? And what do you say about what they might say about George Floyd?
ELLISON: Well, I take no time to address those kinds of remarks. We're going to do all our talking in the courtroom. But I do think it's important
for people to understand that George Floyd was loved by his family and his friends. And if you doubt that, you should just look at all of the people
who have come out to celebrate his life.
And look, he is the first one to say that like all people, he's made mistakes, but he is a good person by the people who knew him well. And that
includes his employers, that includes other people who knew him and that included folks who were in his family. And so, I have to go by the people
who knew him best. I think it is not good when the image of the victim gets tarnished in situations like this.
You know, Mr. Floyd's not on trial. Those other -- those four people who are charged in the complaint are. And so, I just think it's unfortunate
that a comment like that would be made.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. That's why one has to bring it up so I ask you about this guy, Bob Kroll, who is also quite controversial. He has a very --
AMANPOUR: -- longstanding support of President Trump. He's been at rallies with him, et cetera. And he is taking that language, that language that's
coming from the White House. But particularly important is, you know, when it comes to police accountability, the police unions are very, very -- you
know, influential and important to this.
You know, do you think, you know, no matter what happens, this particular union chief is going to be helpful when it comes to not just this case but
the issue of police reform in your state?
ELLISON: You know what, Christiane, I'm going to dodge the question. I'm sorry for that. I think that me going into my opinion about Bob Kroll
doesn't serve my goal of trying to get justice for George Floyd. So, I hope you will forgive me for not going into that.
I will answer this question, though. Yes. We need reform in the area of the police union to make sure that a chief can actually have disciplinary
control over the force. What is happened historically is that the chief has fired or disciplined officers for misconduct and then through the
arbitration process, the arbitrator restores them in contradiction to the chief's decision, and that's not a good thing.
The chief needs to be in control of the department and then the people need to control -- I mean, need to keep the chief accountable. But now, the
chief can say, I did fire him. But what's going to happen next if the arbitrator just sticks him back on the force.
AMANPOUR: Yes. This is very troubling, which is why I bring it up and people should know about it. In addition, Chauvin, at least, had many
complaints against him over the years. And on top of all of that, as you say, you know, George Floyd and everybody can see it was not being violent,
was not resisting arrest. His friend comes and says what happened, that he was cooperating until he was, you know, violently, you know, shoved to the
ground and a knee in his neck. So, there's plenty evidence that the world seen about that.
So, I want to ask you then, it's about qualified immunity. The thing that the Supreme Court has ruled on which seems to have allow police in various
cases to claim that in terms of saying that their lives were at risk or their safety and security. Can you explain that for us and how that -- how
you might have to deal with that in this or any case?
ELLISON: Well, you know, there are a diverse set of laws that help maintain the status quo and some ways help prevent change from happening.
In this particular case, I think that we have a strong case and very confident in our case because if someone is lying on the ground as someone
might view the tape and certainly, we put this in our complaint already, and if someone is unresponsive in handcuffs not presenting a threat, then
there is no legitimate use of force in that situation.
So, I am concerned that -- I'm convicted of the belief that anyone claiming that there was a reason for force of the kind that was applied to him just
doesn't have any justification to do so.
AMANPOUR: And if -- just one more on this, because, again, it's important when it comes to the jury process. How does this issue of qualified
immunity affect the instructions that juries get? Has it, you know, limited -- just tell me what you know about that and what might happen in this
ELLISON: Well, in this particular case, I don't believe that is going to be a factor. We are -- we intend to debate the law and we'll -- and that is
a fight that we yet to have. But my understanding of the law is that we are not going to have to deal with a qualified immunity problem because how
could they -- because first of all, it is a civil concept and they're immune from lawsuit if they're operating under certain guidelines.
But this is not -- this is the state prosecuting them for criminal conduct, not an individual suing them for financial damages. So, it really wouldn't
apply in this case. But I will say that there are certain immunities that - - there are certain allowances that officers have to use deadly force. But I'd be very curious to see anybody claiming that they were, in fact,
intending to use deadly force in this situation. That would be a curious development.
AMANPOUR: So, I just want to kind of ask you to pause for a second and answer the question that some have asked. The rapid nature, you know,
under, you know, careful investigation of bringing the charges, it is unprecedented. We know that in the Eric Garner case, it took years to bring
any charges. In this case, it took days.
Some are worried that, you know, and maybe you are worried too, that there may be "unreasonable expectations" that the society, not to mention George
Floyd's family and friends and the African-American community might think that there's some -- you know, there's some pot of gold at the end of the
rainbow, for want of a better word, some hope that things are going to change. Tell me what you think about that. You're in the hot seat now.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, a very wise woman, her name was Mary Ellen Otremba, she was a state legislator, one time said to me, you know, Keith,
our constituents don't expect us to always be successful but they expect us to always be faithful.
So, I take it upon myself to put everything I have and everything my office has into the successful prosecution of this case. Ultimately, others, not
us, will decide whether they believe the case is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. But we will leave no stone unturned and we will present a very
strong case to the jury. And the fact is, the outcome, ultimately, will be in the hands of somebody else.
So, we are going to control what we control and we're going to -- and that's what we're going to do. And we have faith in a jury to find the
facts as set forth in our complaint.
AMANPOUR: Let me just read some statistics which I'm sure have been making the rounds. They're really tragic. Black residents make up about 20 percent
of the population in Minneapolis. And yet, they represent 60 percent of its police shooting victims between 2009 and 2019. Police killings have not
fallen significantly since the year 2013. And as I said, it's been almost six years since the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and little has
changed about how poor black communities are being policed.
It's even hard to imagine that there is an actual live debate going on about whether there's institutional racism in the United States. One of
President Trump's key cabinet officials, he's national security adviser, said there wasn't. And of course, Kellyanne Conway, the president's chief
adviser contradicted that. But so has your police chief. Let's just play what he said this week when faced with that sentence from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD AXTELL, ST. PAUL POLICE CHIEF: Well, of course there is. It's not just in police departments across this country. My goodness, there's
systemic racism within pretty much everything in this country. Look at the discrepancies, the disproportionate rates, when we you look at health care,
when you look at jobs, when you look at economics, when you look at policing. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. If we turn a blind eye to
that we're never going to move forward together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you know, he's obviously saying it like it is. And the Minneapolis -- or the Minnesota council is meeting, the city council, I
think, or the Minneapolis City Council is meeting to talk about immediate sort of interim steps that could be taken when it comes to police reform.
Can you tell us a little about that and what you expect to see?
ELLISON: Well, I think that the Chief Arradondo was right. If you can't face it, you certainly can't fix it. But like -- if I may say so,
Christiane, you know, for 243 years African-Americans in America were held in bondage. For another 100 years, we had legalized second-class
citizenship. It's only been 55 years of anything else. And those 55 years have been marked by disparities in every aspect of American life, including
the ones that Chief Arradondo mentioned. But also, in education and many in incarceration, many other kinds of things.
So, it is before us to try to fix this historic problem. It's -- we didn't cause it but it's on our lap to fix it. And so, I'm proud that the city
council has taken this thing seriously. They're not just saying, it is not us. We don't know what you are talking about. It's not our problem. They
are saying, you know what, we're going to make this moment count and do something about it. And I'm proud that they're taking it seriously.
I'm also proud of the governor and the commissioner of public safety. But I will tell you that last year, last year, me and the commissioner of public
safety in Minnesota led a working group on reducing deadly force encounters. We came up with a number of critical recommendations. They've
got to be implemented. They're not implemented yet but we did come up with those recommendations. And the state legislature is beginning to really
look at them.
I think that it's important for us to use this moment as a moment of real change because the opportunity's in front of us and we can do it if we
stick to it and if we all get a little more honest about the history of our country. We don't need anybody's guilt or shame or blame, but we do need
them to work constructively to get us to a better place.
AMANPOUR: Attorney General Keith Ellison, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
And now, when riot police cleared peaceful protesters outside the White House on Monday, it was a tipping point for many in the U.S. military. And
veteran Republican strategist, Stuart Stevens, he has just spoken out on Twitter, alongside this famous picture of Tiananmen Square. He says, the
Republican Party, a lot of us signed up for, was a party that supported the did guy standing alone, not the guy in the tank. But Donald Trump has a
different view. For those of us who haven't changed, we have no respect for the pro-tank Republican Party.
So, how did it evolve from the party of Lincoln and Reagan to the party of the guy in the tank? In a new article for "The Atlantic" called "History
Will Judge the Complicit," Pulitzer prize-winning historian, Anne Applebaum, looks at enablers and collaborators all the way back from World
War II and, indeed, under Soviet communism. And the former state department official, Eliot Cohen, saw the writing on the wall from the very beginning.
He wrote this article, a clarifying moment in American history. When did he write it? Just a week after President Trump's inauguration, also in "The
Anne Applebaum, Eliot Cohen, welcome to the program.
Can I just start by asking you, Eliot Cohen, you know, you wrote that article which pretty much lays out chapter and verse of what's unfolded
over the last three years since you wrote it, plus. How did you know? How were you so prescient? Just sum up exactly what you warned in that article.
ELIOT COHEN, DEAN, SAIS, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: So, thank you, Christiane, for having me here and it's great to be here with my colleague,
(INAUDIBLE) is that other people didn't see it. My judgment was based simply a judgement of character, and Donald Trump's character was an open
book from day one. What is astonishing is how people were able to deceive themselves that he would be anything else.
In that article, what I emphasized was the narcissism, the cruelty, the complete recklessness, the ignorance of -- and disregard for constitution
and liberal democratic norms, and I could go on and on, but it required no special insight to see that. It really didn't. The real story here is the
one that Anne documents so powerfully and beautifully, if I can use that word, in her article in "The Atlantic."
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, I'm going to use your quote and then I'm going to turn to Anne, because your quote also says, we were right, and friends
who urged us to tone it down, our criticism, or to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could this is abnormal, to accommodate him,
to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong.
So, Anne, in your article you are forensic in how you describe the difference between enabling and collaborating or standing on principle from
the World War II occupation, for instance, in France, Vichy Government, or indeed from puppet regimes in the so-called Soviet bloc.
Just sum up, if you can, some of what you have written about and how it applies to today because you bring it all way to support and enabling of
ANNE APPLEBAUM, HISTORIAN AND STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: So, what I tried to do in the article was show Americans that some of the behavior that
they're seeing in their own country has echoes from the past. In other words, that the kind of language that's being used, the excuses that people
are making, the strategies they're adopting, these are familiar from other times and other places.
Americans always have this idea of themselves and is understandable why, they've been so lucky, we have been so lucky in our history. We have this
idea that we're exceptional, that our history has no relationship to other histories. I mean, actually, from the beginning of the United States we
have always thought of ourselves as very different from Europe, very, you know -- with our own ethos and our own kind of politics, nothing like that.
And yet, in Washington, over the last three years, I'm not there all the time but I come in and out, I'm -- I live partly in Europe and partly --
but visit frequently in the United States. I began hearing people say things to me that sounded like stories that I'd written about. I have
written books about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. I've read a lot about the history of occupied France and other parts of Europe, and
they sounded to me like people living in an occupied country.
And by that, I don't mean that Trump is Hitler or Trump or Stalin or anything like that. I mean, that people who were working in the Trump
administration and in the high levels and the high levels of the Republican Party, including in Congress, had the feeling that they had been taken over
by an alien ideology. And many people at the beginning thought that it was America first, it was about as kind of super patriotism, it was about maybe
even a kind of populism, we're going to do more for working people and so on.
But actually, what happened in Washington was nothing like that. What we saw was really Trump first. We saw a president focused on himself and his
personal needs, his psychological needs, his political needs and a president who tried to subordinate all the instruments of the state to
himself and his order. In other words, not someone who's acting in the interests of the American people or in the interests of the Republican
Party but himself.
And as I say, as people began to understand that, they began to accommodate. In some -- and actually, in some honorable ways, people said,
well, I can try and do something good. I have an important job in the administration. I can try and achieve something. And some people said,
well, I can protect the American state from the president. That was actually an argument that we heard very vocally from anonymous, if you
remember the article in "The New York Times" some months ago in which the author said, I'm a high-ranking Trump official and I'm -- you know, I
understand my job is to protect the country from the dangers of the president.
I mean, you heard that and a series of other excuses all the way up to some of the very worst ones, which is, I can take advantage of the situation or
I can save the country from something even worse, namely the horrors of my opposition. And the article, as I said, simply breaks down those excuses.
AMANPOUR: OK. Yes. And you also said that anonymous, which, you know, you just mentioned, actually didn't quit, is still in the administration. As
far as we know.
So, Eliot Cohen, anonymous is still there. But all these -- now, since Monday, former high-ranking military officials and defense secretaries and
their names are piling up are now coming out against president Trump's, you know, obviously the dispersal of peaceful protesters and the idea of
basically bringing the active duty military out on to the street.
I want you to analyze the level of bravery and import that that has right now. What does it mean that these retired officers are doing it now, never
did it before and where will it lead?
COHEN: Well, you know, we have had retired officers engage in various forms of partisan politics. So, retired general officers making political
statement is not entirely new. But what's striking though is the seniority and actually, who the particular individuals are. And I would focus on two
in particular, Jim Mattis, former four-star general, former secretary of defense, and Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. They both made extraordinarily forceful and eloquent statements.
They both -- I happen to know personally are very, very mindful of the norms, of military neutrality about politics, staying out of partisan
politics, they both have a deep aversion to it, both have worked for both Republicans and Democrats, for them to step forward and say the things that
they have said is really truly extraordinary. And they're only doing it, I think, because they are afraid that this president would, if he could, use
the military to suppress dissent. And that's a line that they never crossed.
And the truth is, they really do speak very much for the senior leadership of the American military. I know quite a few generals and admirals. I can
assure you that they are on the whole as horrified as everybody else by what's going on, both, you know, the reaction to the murder of George Floyd
and other incidents of that kind, but also, to the sight of seeing the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, you know,
essentially accompanied the president in -- as he walked through a park that had been cleared of peaceful protesters, you know, were not under a
curfew, that they just thought that that was a horrifying spectacle. And it triggered statements that are truly unprecedented.
AMANPOUR: So, you wrote, again, in this piece, prescient piece, three years ago. You said, it will probably end in calamity, talking about the
administration. Substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances or
perhaps one or more new wars even with China on top of the ones we already have.
Again, I mean, you could tick off a few there, they've already taken place. Did you -- I mean, do you think these people who are dissenting right now
care about this stuff or is it really just about the use of the military? Because a lot of stuff has happened, Eliot.
COHEN: No. They care, I believe.
I mean, they have to speak for themselves, but I think they care much more broadly about all kind of issues. I think the norm for the best of our
senior military leaders of not speaking out even when they're really unhappy of when's going on and even after their retirement is very, very
And I think they also felt a particular need to speak out about the use of (AUDIO GAP) military for two reasons. One is because that's their world.
That is what they have given their lives to, decades upon decades of service, sometimes in extraordinarily trying circumstances. So that's their
world and it touches them absolutely to the core.
But they also understand that this is unusually and extraordinarily dangerous. Any military organization, but particularly the United States
military, has enormous and indeed overwhelming reserves of force at its disposal.
For that to be in the hands of a tyrant -- let's put it that way, because that's what he would like to be, even if he can't be -- is a terrifying
thought. And so that they're willing to step aside from some of the norms that they have lived by, in support of much greater and more important
And they have had an affect. I think that's the important thing to bear in mind. If you look at the statements of Secretary Esper and of Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley, I think they were stunned by some of the responses they got.
I suspect they had their own misgivings. And it's resulted in actually a wave of statements from senior active-duty American military leaders, as
well as some of the retireds, reminding everybody of the fact that the armed forces serve the Constitution, not a single individual.
AMANPOUR: So, let's move from the military to the Republican leadership then.
I mean, you heard I quoted Stuart Stevens. I mean, he has sort of done a mea culpa, that, yes, we were part of building this very sort of partisan
Republican Party, but nothing that we imagined would be like this.
And he, you saw, said, we don't want to be the party of the guy in the tank in Tiananmen Square. We were the party of the guy standing up for freedom
alone in front of that awful might of that tank.
So, Republican leadership has not come out and at all commented or denounced or distanced itself from some of these violations of
So, let me just play for you Senator Lisa Murkowski. This is what she has just said in response to Jim Mattis and the sort of mounting criticism, at
least in the military quarters. Let's just play this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I saw General Mattis' comments yesterday, I -- I felt like perhaps we're getting to the point where we can be more honest
with the concerns that we might hold internally, and then have the courage of our own convictions to speak up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yikes. That is not exactly a profile in courage. Perhaps we might maybe try to be more honest.
And how do you read that and what do you think that says for the political elected leadership?
APPLEBAUM: So, what Lisa Murkowski just said, I mean, actually reflects what most Republican senators -- or -- I won't say all -- or many
Republican senators say behind closed doors.
So, I have heard from Democratic senators who tell me what their colleagues tell them. I have heard from others. Many of them have known from the
beginning that Trump is a problem, and many of them made the kinds of excuses I was talking about before: Well, at least we will get our judges
through, or at least we will win some elections.
Or they made excuses for him, even knowing that he was dangerous, and even knowing that he was crossing all kinds of lines. But I think the point of
your question is, also, these are very powerful people. A U.S. senator is somebody with a lot of popular support, a lot of possibilities.
Why would people like that, why would someone like Murkowski say, well, I think it's getting to be time to say something? What have they been so
afraid of so far? You almost feel fear in their voices. They're afraid of being attacked by the president or they're afraid of being -- he will say
something about them on Twitter.
When you look back at, again, other times in places, and you see that kind of cowardice, you think about countries where people went to jail for
speaking out, and yet they managed to do it, or people who were arrested for speaking out.
In societies like that, you can understand it. But U.S. senators have a lot of independence. They have their own platforms. What was stopping them?
And, as I said, it's a series of abuses, combined with fear. It's really not an attractive sight.
AMANPOUR: So, let me go back to Eliot Cohen's piece again, because this is what you say, you sum up, Eliot Cohen, about Trump: "He will fail because
he cannot corrupt the courts and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say, enough. He will fail, most of all, because, at the end
of the day, most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of
Erdogan's Turkey or Orban's Hungary or Putin's Russia."
Yes. That was three-and-a-half years ago, and that hasn't quite happened. And I just wonder whether you too have been seduced by the notion of
American exceptionalism, because you say, the greatness of America will save America.
Do you now still believe that the institutions are strong enough to survive?
COHEN: Yes, absolutely.
And if you want to call me seduced by American exceptionalism, I will plead guilty. I will also plead guilty to underestimating the cowardice of
Republican politicians at that level. And I think that's the word one should use. It's cowardice.
But I think this country is bigger than that, it's ultimately stronger than that, and, as (AUDIO GAP) as the times are, it is a terrible error to
ignore the things that are positive. And that includes those areas, for example, where you have seen police marching with protesters.
There's a great story that, in 1787, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was being carried away in a sedan chair. He
was old and infirm. And the proceedings had been secret. And he was asked by the crowd, what kind of government have you given us, Dr. Franklin? And
his reply was, a republic, if you can keep it.
The founders understood that American democracy was an experiment, that it would require sacrifice and vigilance and effort. That was true then, and
that remains true now.
Lincoln understood that. Washington understood that. Franklin Roosevelt understood that. Ronald Reagan understood that. There's a lot of good
leadership in this country even as we speak. And we see it in -- we see it in (AUDIO GAP).
And I'm -- we're passing through a terrible time. But my grandparents lived through much worse times in this country, including waves of lynchings, and
the Red Scare, and the Great Depression, and McCarthyism, and all the rest. It's a strong, resilient country.
I do believe that the institutions are greater than any single individual. But that doesn't mean that we can sit back and not fight. And where --
where I'm ashamed of the party that I used to belong to, the Republican Party, is how few of them have the guts to fight.
AMANPOUR: And we will keep watching this story.
Eliot Cohen, thank you for joining us. Anne Applebaum, thank you for joining us tonight.
Now, as America continues to wrestle with racism and police brutality, we turn to someone who's a major player in criminal justice reform. She is
Vanita Gupta, who is a civil rights lawyer. And she was acting Assistant Attorney General under President Obama.
She led the investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown six years ago. And, today, Gupta
heads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights with a mission to protect the rights of all Americans.
And she's joining our Hari Sreenivasan now.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
Vanita, when you see the news and you see peaceful protests by day turn into something else by night, what goes through your mind?
VANITA GUPTA, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am really concerned about the message of honoring Mr. Floyd's life getting lost. I'm
concerned about the incredible militarization that we're seeing on the streets right now that could actually provoke violence and losing the
message that I think protesters, the vast majority of protesters, are trying to show, which is that we have been through this cycle of violence
and outrage too many times, and that the enough is enough.
And so, right now, in Washington, D.C., it feels like an occupied zone, when protesters -- the irony here being that they are protesting police
brutality, but it looks like the government is using police brutality and militarization as a response to these protests.
I don't see how it builds trust.
SREENIVASAN: The police are going to say, listen, if we let fires continue or perhaps looting continue, this will only empower others to come out, it
will create more lawlessness.
GUPTA: Of course, law enforcement has to get involved where property is being burned or there's looting and violence, but the response that we are
seeing on the streets right now is not proportionate. It is not safe.
It is a demonstration of military force that is so beyond what is happening on the streets. And it really looks like the attorney general has deputized
himself to be a general of this mishmash of federal agents from across different law enforcement components.
They are showing up in the streets without actual training in mass -- in managing mass protests. They're showing up in the streets, some -- many of
them wearing tactical gear without any form of identification on them. These are bad practices for law enforcement. This is something the Justice
Department actually addressed in Ferguson when the Ferguson Police Department was showing up in the streets after Michael Brown was killed
without I.D. and the like.
These are -- these are scary times, not just because of what happened to Mr. Floyd and the long cycle of violence and police-related violence and
the issues underlying all of this, but also, I think, more fundamentally, for our democracy.
SREENIVASAN: You ran the Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Justice for about three years after Ferguson. You started your job right
after that, I remember, during the Obama administration.
You put in place some of the checks for constitutional policing, some of the checks on different police departments. We will get into what happened
to those. But explain one of them, which was looking at patterns and practices. What does that mean?
GUPTA: So, the Justice Department has a range of different tools to use in -- to reform and ensure constitutional policing.
One of them is one -- is the only one that the Justice Department has invoked so far out of Mr. Floyd's death, and that is a criminal
investigation, which they are conducting, of individual -- of the individual officers that were at the scene.
But the other big kind of prominent tool that people often talk about is the pattern and practice authority that Congress gave to the Justice
Department in 1994, in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating and the unrest in Los Angeles, gave the Justice Department the mandate to
investigate systems, patterns and practices of unconstitutional policing and police departments, and then the mandate to rectify these
unconstitutional systemic issues where the Justice Department finds them.
It's a tool that is very judiciously used for a country of 18,000 police departments by -- I think, during the course of President Obama's eight
years, there were 25 investigations. And by the time I stepped down, there were 15 consent decrees.
But these consent decrees actually become documents that model best practices and some of the kind of most emergent best practices around the
country that other police departments look to, to adopt. And this is a tool that the Trump DOJ, that Jeff Sessions and now Bill Barr have completely
walked away from.
They have opened only one pattern and practice investigation into the narrowest of issues in a department in Springfield, Massachusetts, but,
otherwise, have completely walked away from this work. They have gutted the use of consent decrees as a tool that the Civil Rights Division has to
remediate systemic issues.
And they have undercut not only kind of the tools that the Justice Department has, but, with their rhetoric, this notion that trust,
community-police trust is essential for public safety. They -- their rhetoric has actually really inflamed the tensions and divisions.
SREENIVASAN: Somebody's going to watch this interview and say, look, she was running the division on civil rights. She was in the Department of
Justice. Why wasn't the Obama administration able to do more?
GUPTA: So, we did a lot, but it wasn't perfect. We were still kind of midstream on the work that we had to do.
But understand this. So, I was accused of having too aggressive of an approach around policing. But I met all the time with law enforcement. I
met with police officers. I met with mothers who had lost their sons to police violence.
And we went in and used our investigative authority, I think, entirely appropriately. But we also had a lot of other things going on in the Obama
Justice Department. You had Attorney General Holder, who was trying to, through his Smart on Crime initiative, change federal prosecutorial
charging culture across the country to remove the way -- the kind of reliance on mandatory minimum sentencing that was resulting in people
spending years and years and years in federal prison, outside of any public safety rationale.
You had the guidance to limit and curtail the militarization of police and the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement, the guidance
to end the reliance on private prisons in the federal prison system, the guidance to stop the use of solitary confinement in almost -- in most cases
in the federal system, the guidance to stop the use of fines and fees in the criminalization of poverty.
Every single one of the things that I just talked about was withdrawn and/or the tool and the work was entirely halted. So, we aren't, though,
going to do -- able to do enough if all we are aiming at for is to reinstate these things.
We're going to have to actually adopt an even bolder approach. But I -- there was a lot that was happening that was entirely yanked back. And we
have a president, as you well know, who has also encouraged in speeches police violence, encouraging in 2017 police to rough up suspects when
putting them in police cars, the attorney general, who said, if people want to criticize the police, they may not receive the protection of law
That kind of stuff has a really powerful impact on corroding the kind of relationship between law enforcement and communities, and certainly takes
away the pressure that was being brought to bear to -- for police departments to adopt best practices.
Thankfully, there are a lot of progressive police chiefs that understand why they have needed to continue this work, even in the absence of
leadership from this Justice Department and the administration. But it is - - it takes time, and we aren't going to solve these problems overnight.
SREENIVASAN: Just getting back to the Department of Justice for a second, Attorney General Sessions' argument for narrowing the scope of consent
decrees was, if I understand it correctly, that it deprives the elected representatives that are in those jurisdictions to control their own
government, sometimes these consent decrees go on for too long, that they didn't have a clear end.
What's wrong with his rationale?
GUPTA: So, that's not true.
Let me break this down a little bit. So, consent decrees are a monitor -- the whole -- what is a consent decree, first of all? The Justice Department
goes into a jurisdiction, conducts an investigation. It can take anywhere from six months to a year, going through every document in a police
department, interviewing hundreds of community residents, interviewing hundreds of police officers, will come up with a findings report.
And if the findings reveal an unconstitutional pattern or practice of police misconduct or systemic problems, well, then the Justice Department
will begin to negotiate with the city for a consent decree that becomes a document, a settlement agreement, that is filed with a federal court. And a
federal judge then has to monitor, with a whole independent monitoring team, compliance, and will determine when a police department has changed
its practices and is now complying with the Constitution.
That process usually takes a few years at least. But, typically, these consent decrees are about three to five years' long. And a federal judge is
actually dealing in data and is getting data-driven reports from monitors about the changes -- the impact of changes that are getting made, from
everything from policies to practices to training and the like.
And so these are not infinite, unending consent decrees.
SREENIVASAN: So, when you have those consent decrees on police departments or jurisdictions or cities, did they work? Did you get buy-in from the
GUPTA: Oftentimes, we actually found that the police chiefs needed us and wanted us in. It was -- and mayors too.
So, if you think about Baltimore, in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death and the unrest that ensued in the city over the course of several days, it
was the mayor and the police commissioner that said, we need the Justice Department in Baltimore to help us. These issues have been going on for not
just years, but decades.
And they felt like this kind of intervention was going to be needed to kind of quell the community unrest, to make people feel like change might be
around the corner. It's not a perfect process. It doesn't resolve every problem in a police department.
There is no such thing as a perfect police department. But I want to say one thing about this, and I think this is important and this is what makes
this moment a little different, which is that it is become very apparent, that, to me, at least, and I think to a lot of other people, that we will
not be able to actually have meaningful police reform by working within police departments alone.
And that, a lot of times, what we're seeing in places like Minneapolis, Chicago, Baltimore, Ferguson, Seattle, Cleveland, all of these different
places that have been really kind of hot spots for community-police unrest is that the policing issues are the tip of the spear, and that we as a
country, have, for decades, really kind of adopted a criminalization model, in criminalization as social policy for so many things.
That's why we have seen the kind of growth in arrest rates, the massive growth in our prison system, mass incarceration, and that, without actually
addressing the divestment in communities in terms of jobs, education, public transportation, health care, and the overinvestment in the
criminalization model and all of the infrastructure that exists around that, we actually are never going to have meaningful police reform.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a department that has turned things around, that has looked at the consent decree, the reports, and said, OK, this is what we're
going to have to do, here's how we can fix it, and now has better outcomes?
GUPTA: Yes, there are.
And I -- New Orleans, Detroit are wildly different places than they were before. Are they perfect? No. Are there still tragic incidents and systemic
problems that exist? Yes.
A consent decree can't solve everything. But what it can do is actually, over the course of several years -- because changing policies is one thing,
and you need to change them. We have -- the Justice Department had gone into jurisdictions that didn't have updated policies on use of force, were
using old Fourth Amendment jurisprudence to guide how they were conducting stops, searches and arrest.
So, yes, you need policies. But it takes years of investment, leadership, law enforcement leadership, political leadership, community leadership, to
actually be engaged in trying to overhaul the way a police department and public safety is conducted in a community.
What I will say is that this intervention model of only engaging within police departments is not going to be the whole answer. And I think a lot
of people -- as I said, a lot of folks in law enforcement actually speak to that issue. They are -- a lot of social problems have been put at their
And in a lot of communities, the only response that community members have to seeking help is a 911 call. And that is because we have divested from
mental health services, from other kinds of interventions that exist.
In a place like Seattle -- I want to get concrete -- one of the major changes that we made, that the Justice Department made when they were in
Seattle was actually changing the way that police officers would respond to a call about a person in mental health crisis.
And it was -- it involved a collaboration with mental health professionals, who would arrive at the scene as first responders with police officers, and
actually engage in immediate de-escalation with police officers who had been trained, totally trained anew in de-escalation.
And it changed the outcomes in how arrests were being made and acts of violence and use of force against people in mental health crisis. We
repeated that model in Cleveland, where there was a real systemic problem around police violence against people in mental health crisis.
So, you can see -- I mean, that's just one little index that I'm talking about. There's been these studies. I think we need to do more in the
science and the data. We don't have any the kind of data that the United States of America in 2020 should have.
The government still is not systematically collecting data to know how many people have died at the hands of law enforcement. We have had to have
media, "The Guardian," "The Washington Post," you know, other reporters and activists actually start to pull this together.
And the FBI is beginning to. But there's no reason for that. And the data will help actually inform both the problems, but also the effectiveness of
the solutions, such that we can scale those.
SREENIVASAN: Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, thanks so much for joining us.
GUPTA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, activists want to make sure anyone traveling this road to the White House will see this message. They are
painting giant yellow letters along two blocks spelling "Black Lives Matter," while the mayor of Washington, D.C., has renamed a street outside
the White House Black Lives Matter Plaza.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.