Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Obama: Right-Wing Media "Stoking Fear" Of White Americans, Accelerating Divisions; Biden's DOJ Seeks To Defend Trump In Lawsuit Over Rape Denial; Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, Founders Of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Discuss Their Campaign To End Qualified Immunity For Police; Major Cruise Ship Company Battles With Florida Over Vaccine Law. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 8, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00]

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You have folks who are pushing every single day this disinformation and misinformation about validity of our democracy.

Now he also talked about the reality of our democracy being us needing to be concerned. But the way that we get out of this is to ensure that we continue to tell the truth.

If former President Trump, a week ago, wants to say that he will be president in August, we have to say, absolutely not, you're not. You are delusional, you are lying to your base, you are lying to the plead I can't and media and we can't stand for it.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And the president also, in this fantastic conversation with Anderson Cooper, talked about a turning point in his administration where he saw support from white Americans drop significantly.

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I tell the story in the book about the situation where Skip Gates, Harvard professor, who is trying to get into his own house, gets arrested, and I'm asked about it.

And not only did that cause a firestorm, as you will recall -- you were already in the press at that time -- but subsequent polling showed that high support among white voters dropped more precipitously after that --

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: That should have been a minor trivial incident than anything else during my presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Now, I don't believe that you were at the White House at the time. But I remember that summit where he and then-Vice President Biden and the officer and Professor Gates were there having beers.

There it is. We have the video. Good job on the producers for having that cued up.

Did this derail the president on race?

ALLISON: Look, I think when President Obama was inaugurated into office, there were people who were they ever going to support his presidency.

The unfortunate truth, though, is that this beer summit and the interaction that Professor Gates had with the police was just the beginning of what we would see throughout the Obama presidency.

So I don't think that it derailed the president's agenda. But I think that people like Mitch McConnell and other folk were very clear, pre- and post-beer summit, that they weren't going to support him as president.

If you fast forward, you're right the White House for the beer summit but I did join the White House a month before Michael Brown was killed.

And we continuously saw, despite the president's best effort to bring law enforcement -- we brought over 1,000 police officers to the White House to train them on the policing task force.

We talked to them. We talked to protestors. We talked to community leaders. And we talked to police officers. But for some reason, people wanted to continue to paint President Obama as being anti-police.

Which wasn't true. He just wanted to have honest, raw conversations with the country that it seemed like people on the opposing side weren't ready to have.

BLACKWELL: And it doesn't look like a lot of people on other sides are not ready to have that thousand.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Ashley Allison, thank you so much.

ALLISON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: New evidence in the investigation of Rudy Giuliani. Exclusive new CNN audio reveals the pressure he put on Ukraine to investigate the Biden family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:37:18]

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about the new legal government surrounding former President Trump. This may seem hard to grasp at first.

The Biden Justice Department says it should be able to represent Trump in a defamation suit brought by a woman accusing of him raping her back in the '90s.

The suit was brough by columnist, E. Jean Carroll. She says Trump defamed her while denying the allegation.

But the DOJ says that it should be the defendant because Trump was a federal employee when he spoke out.

Let's bring in Elie Honig, a senior legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

More than just saying what? That should be the opening question here. Are you surprised by this decision by the Biden administration or the Merrick Garland DOJ?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm surprised by it. I think that it is a misstep, Victor.

Because the fundamental question here is, was the president's conduct the scope of his duties as president of the United States. I believe that is an easy no.

How could it be part of the president's duties to allegedly defame someone who has accused him of sexual assault?

I thought it was wrong when Bill Barr said it, that was within the scope, we're going to represent him. I think Merrick Garland is wrong.

And by the way, a federal judge here in Manhattan has said that it is wrong. And that's the opinion Merrick Garland is now appealing.

I also think that it is a missed opportunity by Merrick Garland to create a clear line of delineation, we not that administration. We're going to do things right here.

BLACKWELL: Let's remind everyone of what we heard from the attorney general, back in February. He said, "I will never make a decision in the department based on politics or partisanship."

How much of this is about protecting the department?

HONIG: I think that that is probably what is animating Merrick Garland, the idea that we want to protect our employees if they are sued for things that happen within the scope. I think that they are wrong in applying that.

It is fine to say, I won't act in the name of politics or partisanship. It's the right thing for an attorney general to say. But there's a fine line between that and timidity.

And I think that Merrick Garland is creeping over into timidity. He is going along with too many of the things that Bill Barr did, that I think were incorrect, incorrect or an abuse of his power. BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to Rudy Giuliani. We knew during the first

impeachment about Rudy Giuliani's intent and his effort to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens. But now we're hearing Rudy Giuliani.

Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (voice-over): What we need for the president is to say to put an honest prosecutor in charge. He will investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election. And then the Biden thing has to be run out.

[14:40:05]

I don't know if it is true or not. I mean, I see him bragging about it on television. And to me, as a lawyer, to me, as a lawyer, it sounds like a bribe. Somebody in Ukraine has to take that seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So we're now hearing it. Does this add to his legal jeopardy?

HONIG: To me, this is Rudy's, I'd like you to do us a favor though tape. And just to put it in context, that recording we just heard happened just a few days before Donald Trump's infamous phone call with President Zelensky where he said, I would like you to us a favor though.

To this moment in time, Victor, nobody, nobody has been held meaningful accountable for the Ukraine scandal. Donald Trump was impeached and acquitted by the Senate. Nobody has, as far as we know, even been investigated criminally for that.

And I think that there's clear evidence there at least on which DOJ should open an investigation for bribery, for extortion, for solicitation of foreign election aid. Nobody has done a thing.

And again, looking at Merrick Garland, what is the Justice Department doing? And again, where will they go? Will they be aggressive in addressing the abuses of the past administration or will they be timid?

BLACKWELL: We'll see where it goes.

Elie Honig, thank you.

HONIG: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: So a major sticking point on police reform, the issue of qualified immunity. I'll discuss this with two of the country's top advocates for change. They are also well-known ice cream moguls. Ben and Jerry up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:46:00]

BLACKWELL: Senator Cory Booker, a key negotiator of the police reform bill, says that progress is being made on political reform.

But if Democrats want Republican support by the June deadline, they may have to compromise on a few key priorities held by police reform activists, like holding officers personally accountable for misconduct.

Joining me now, Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, and co-chairs of the campaign to end qualified immunity.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with me.

Ben, let me start with you.

Anybody who is paying attention know that you are not new to social justice campaigns, equality campaigns, but why this campaign now to end qualified immunity?

BEN COHEN, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY'S ICE CREAM: Well, you know, as businesspeople, Jerry and I understand that the key is holding people accountable.

You know, this business, if you want a particular result, you've got to hold your people accountable for following the rules and regulations. And that is what ending qualified immunity is about.

Right now, cops have a "get out of jail" free card when they violate somebody's constitutional or civil rights.

So you know, it is just basic human behavior that if you really mean something, you've got to hold people accountable. That is what ending qualified immunity is about.

And without qualified immunity, I mean, I'd say it is the heart of the Justice and Policing Act.

Without qualified immunity, I mean, without any qualified immunity, it doesn't matter what you put in the rest of the act because you are not holding them accountable if they don't abide by what you are talking about.

BLACKWELL: Let me say this for those people hearing the term and may not be familiar with it. Broad stroke here. Qualified immunity is the protection for law enforcement from civil suits for misconduct on the job. So again a broad definition.

Jerry, let me come to you because Ben just mentioned here that if qualified immunity, ending it is not in the George Floyd Policing Act, this law that Democrats are trying to get through, that it doesn't matter. So would you urge lawmakers to reject any plan that comes from

Republicans even if it bans chokeholds, even if it creates this registry across the country if it does not end qualified immunity?

JERRY GREENFIELD, CO-FOUNDER, BEN & JERRY'S ICE CREAM: I think that we need to have accountability for police. You know, there's a crisis in policing.

And there's a breakdown of trust between police and the communities they serve. And it is because there's no accountability and it is because there's no justice for the victims.

This is not anti-police. This is pro good policing.

The campaign to end qualified immunity, which Ben and I are co-chairs of, is a broad coalition of liberals and Libertarians, progressives, conservatives, moderates.

It is the Cato Institute, the NAACP Defense Fund, thousands of athletes, lawyers, performing artists, former law enforcement.

There's a broad coalition and agreement across ideological bounds.

The only people who want to stop there are police unions because they don't want accountability for their members.

Ben, listen here to, this is Senator Tim Scott, the leading Republican leading negotiations on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:50:00]

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): The real question is, how do we change the culture of policing? I think we do that by making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee.

We do that with doctors. We do that with lawyers. We do that in all -- almost all of our industries. And if we do that in law enforcement, the employer will change the culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: What do you make of that proposal, Ben?

COHEN: I think he's right that the problem is the culture. You know, right now, in Chicago, the police in Chicago elected as their FOP president a guy who's got 40 disciplinary actions on his record.

Clearly, there's something really wrong with the culture. But the way to end the culture is to hold the individual officer accountable.

I mean, Tim Scott gave an example of doctors. I mean, they are held individually accountable. So, I suggest we follow the way we treat doctors.

BLACKWELL: Let me say that CNN hasn't confirmed the details of that FOP chief. But I hear what you're saying, Ben.

Jerry, last one. This is to you.

This is Mitch McConnell on the negotiations and what this would mean for policing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Without qualified immunity, do you get people to do law enforcement work? If the bill passed the House of Representatives, it would eliminate qualified immunity.

For those not familiar with that, that means every police officer would be subject to being sued personally.

If every single one of those instances becomes a potential personal lawsuit -- I'm not going to ask for a show of hands -- but I'm not sure any of you guys want to do what you do. I mean, how could you recruit? Do you think this gets done?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Jerry, do you think this gets done?

GREENFIELD: So, qualified immunity has been ended or limited in Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York City. As far as I can tell, they all still have police forces.

And not only that, since qualified immunity has been ended in Colorado, the number of people leaving law enforcement has been fewer than it's been the two previous years.

So Mitch McConnell ought to check his facts instead of spouting off.

BLACKWELL: Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, thank you. And let me personally thank you for Peanut Butter Cups. It's fantastic.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: Thanks for your time, guys.

COHEN: Call the Senator's office. Call him now.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, gentlemen.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: A major cruise line is fighting back against Florida's governor over the COVID vaccine. Their plans to set sail in spite of a new state law.

As we head to break, here's a look at what else to watch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We reduce plastic waste in the environment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why America's beverage companies, our bottles are made to be remade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not all plastic is the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're carefully designing our bottles to be 100 percent recyclable, including the caps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're collected and separated from other plastics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they can be turned back into material that we use to make new bottles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That completes the circle and reduces plastic waste.

[14:53:36]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please help us get every bottle back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:58:37]

BLACKWELL: Norwegian Cruise Lines plans to set sail from Miami. That defies a law signed by Florida Governor DeSantis that bans workers or businesses from requiring workers or customers to be vaccinated.

A new poll finds a majority of Americans support proof of vaccinations for vacations, hotels or resorts or cruise ships, and when it comes to flying.

Leyla Santiago is in Miami.

Leyla, what can the governor do about this?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll have to wait and see what he actually does about it.

Here's what we actually know about the governor. We know he is against vaccine passports. We know it's taking the CDC to court over its restrictions over the cruise industry, an industry, Victor, that brings $8.5 billion to the Florida economy and supports 154,000 jobs.

Something that Governor Ron DeSantis has to take into account as he figures out how he's going to play this. Is he going to double down on this passport vaccine ban, which carries fines with it? Is he going to back down with it or will he make some exception for the cruise industry?

The cruise line, by the way, when it comes to the big ones, Royal Caribbean saying that it will encourage its travelers to be vaccinated but will not require it.

And then you have the opposite coming from Norwegian, who says, when it sets sail again, when cruises resume in Miami, it will only do so with fully vaccinated passengers.

[15:00:06]

So, how they'll be able to do that, given Governor Ron DeSantis' approach and ban? We'll have to wait and see -- Victor?