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Florida Condo Rescue Efforts Continue; National Pulse Memorial; Derek Chauvin Set to Sentenced. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 25, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have spoken to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I have spoken to most of the folks down there and member -- in authority.

And I promise you, the administration and the Congress is doing everything possible to be of assistance now and after this occurs, after they decide exactly what the state of play is.

But I'm glad to welcome everyone here to the adjunct to the White House here, and in person and virtually, survivors and family members, victims, and the pathbreaking leaders like Senator Baldwin.

Just over five years ago, the Pulse nightclub, a place of acceptance and joy, became a place of unspeakable pain and loss. And we will never fully recover, but we will remember.

And we have to -- what we're going to do is what the members of Congress here did, enshrine in law, as a consequence of that law, enshrine in perpetuity a literal monument to the loss that occurred there and an absolute determination that we're going to deal with this every single solitary day, and make sure that we're not in a position to see this happen again.

Behind me, you see on either board there the 49 lives lost, family members, parents, friends, veterans, students, young, black, Asian, Latino, all fellow Americans. And in their memory, and from the countless others forever scarred, is why I sign this today.

And let me say how much I appreciate -- and I mean this sincerely -- the commitment of the members of the House and the Senate to make sure that we don't forget, that this isn't forgotten.

Now, there's a tradition when a bill is signed that the president gives a signing pen to each of the people who had something to do with the law or the decision being made in the first place.

I promise you, I have all the pens put in the other room. I couldn't figure out how to sign them all.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: But don't leave without the pen, OK? All right? All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.

BIDEN: May we never have to sign -- no president have to sign another monument like this.

Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: One last thing.

As I said to the survivors and their -- those who lost folks a little earlier in private, what the Congress has done means a great deal, and it's important. But it's really hard. It brings back everything as if it happened yesterday.

And every time there's a memorial service for our son Beau, you're flattered, you feel good about it, you think it's wonderful, the recognition, but it's tough. It's as if it happened yesterday, it happened the day before, it happened the moment you're signing it.

So, I want to thank the folks who are here and the folks who are survivors who are on Zoom with us. I want to thank them for their courage, and I really mean it, for their courage.

But I promise you, none of the members of Congress that are here, nor I, nor Jill are going let up until we deal with equity across the board.

Thank you so very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.

(APPLAUSE)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, you have been listening to President Biden there from the White House signing the legislation to make the Pulse nightclub site a national memorial.

Thank you for being with me. I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn has the day off.

There's a lot going on, a lot of breaking news happening in this hour. You saw the president there just sign that bill. We're expecting to hear from him again in just a few moments from the East Room of the White House.

He is going to be with the secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg. We're also expecting a news conference from Miami-Dade Police Department on that building collapse in Surfside, California (sic).

The latest numbers we have, 159 people still unaccounted for, four dead at this time. As soon as this starts, we will bring that to you as well.

And in about 25 minutes from now, Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, he will learn his sentence for the crimes that he was convicted of this past April. He was taken away in handcuffs. You remember the video, second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder.

The highest count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Now, today, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill denied Chauvin's motion for a new trial. His defense team argued there was prosecutorial and jury misconduct in April. They will likely take those same arguments to an appeals court.

[14:05:12]

But, for now, the sentencing will go on. Again, that's happening in just a few minutes.

Let's go now to CNN's Omar Jimenez. He's outside of that courthouse. CNN's Sara Sidner is there at the intersection where George Floyd was killed.

Omar, first, to you. What can we expect to see in the courtroom today?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a few minutes, when things get going, Victor, we're going to hear from a number of parties.

Mainly, we're going to hear from prosecutors and the defense on what they feel should happen when it comes to Derek Chauvin's sentence. And we have already gotten a few clues of that based on things they have filed. For example, prosecutors want Derek Chauvin to get 30 years in prison for murdering George Floyd, while the defense wants probation and time served, or, at the very least, a sentence below the lower end of the state sentencing guidelines.

Now, there's a lot of talk, of course, of the up to 40 years he could face. That's not likely to happen. Because he has no criminal history, that range is going to be a lot lower. But the crucial component to this comes down to what the judge ruled on last month, basically saying that he ruled in favor of a number of factors known as aggravating factors, which bumps the level up, which makes it -- which makes it to the point where he would get more than what the state sentencing guidelines lay out.

Now, on top of the arguments, we're going to hear from, likely, the George Floyd family about how this murder has impacted them over the past 13 months. We could also hear from Derek Chauvin, who has been silent over the course of all of these criminal proceedings, and we will also hear from the judge his opinion on this case that we have also gotten little clues of leading up until this point.

Once it's over -- you mentioned the request for a new trial was denied. He will have 90 days to appeal. And under Minnesota state guidelines, he would only serve two-thirds of the sentence that he gets today in prison. And he will be eligible for a supervised release the final third.

But, at the very end of the day, this is a chapter -- the close to a chapter, I should say, that has been a long time coming for people, not just in this community, but for people tuning in from across the world.

BLACKWELL: All right, Omar, stand by.

Let me go to Sara now there outside of Cup Foods.

You have been in close contact with the Floyd family, also members of the community. What are you hearing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, here in the community right now, things are very calm.

I will tell you that yesterday, we saw Terrence Floyd come here. He met the man who created this community garden here. And he was so very thankful that it was still here. There has been a lot of controversy about George Floyd Square, the blocking of the streets.

Those streets -- you can see the cars running around now -- have been reopened, but they decided that they were going to leave this community garden here, kind of as a roundabout for now. And you can see they have put the barricades now around where George Floyd was killed.

I do want to let you hear from Terrence Floyd, because I asked him if he could have a conversation with Derek Chauvin, a conversation in which Terrence Floyd said he wanted to have.

Here is what he said he would say to him if he could speak to him face to face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRENCE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: What's wrong with you, man?

Like, suppose I would have did that to your brother. How would this situation look right now? Suppose I would have did that to your son. Suppose I would have did that to your cousin. Every part of the family that he was to us, suppose I would have did that to your side. How would you look at me?

How would you view me? What would you want me to say? How would you react that we're standing right here face to face? How would you react?

But you know what? I'm not going to react like that.

SIDNER: You mean in anger?

FLOYD: Yes.

So, I'm going to show you who my brother really is, because, like I said, that's my father's namesake. So, I'm going to show you who my brother is and who my father is. Also, I'm going to show you who I am. I'm a man. I'm a black man. I'm strong. I'm intelligent.

And I don't have to act like an animal. But I'm going to let you know my feelings. I don't like it. I love you. But I don't like you.

SIDNER: You would actually say to Derek Chauvin, "I love you, but I don't like you"?

FLOYD: Yes. Yes, because guess what? That's how we were raised. We're a God-fearing family, you know?

And we cannot -- we cannot -- we can fight for justice, we can fight for what we want, but we cannot move on with hate in our heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: And there you have it.

As far as the sentence and what he is hoping -- and he said this comes from his heart -- he says, look, it can't be a slap on the wrist. He said, that would not be justice. He said, if the sentencing guidelines say between 12 and 15 years, then let it be so. But he said, if it's anything less than that, there will be upset in the family -- Victor.

[14:10:15]

BLACKWELL: That is remarkable that he says, "I love you, but I don't like you," to be able to show that even in this moment.

SIDNER: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Sara Sidner for us there outside of Cup Foods, Omar Jimenez outside the courtroom, thank you both. Stand by.

Let's now go to CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

All right, Elie, we talked broadly about what to expect. Break it down. What are we going to see? How's this going to work?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, Victor, so sentencing is the most solemn and dramatic moment of any trial.

Here's what we're going to see in the courtroom today. First of all, we will hear legal arguments by the lawyers for both parties. Both sides have already put in their briefs, so these arguments should be concise, they should be right to the point.

Then, we will hear -- and this will be the dramatic high point -- we will hear testimony from the victims' family, from the family members of George Floyd. Expect that to be very dramatic.

Then, Derek Chauvin will have the opportunity to speak. Will he speak? We don't know. A lot of times, defendants speak and express remorse and ask for mercy. However, in a case like this, where there's a pending appeal, where there's several more indictments pending against Derek Chauvin, he may choose not to speak.

And then, finally, the judge will pronounce the actual sentence on Derek Chauvin. BLACKWELL: So, up to 40 years for Chauvin, that's the max. What's the

judge likely to consider, and where do you expect this will go?

HONIG: So, Minnesota has a sentencing guideline system, and that sets the presumptive sentence at 12.5 years.

However, that's only a starting point for today, because the judge has found four different aggravating factors that enable him to give a higher sentence.

First of all, the judge found that Derek Chauvin acted with particular cruelty towards George Floyd. Second, the judge found that Derek Chauvin abused his position of official trust and authority as a police officer. Third, the judge found that the offense was committed in the presence of minors. We heard some of those minors testify at the trial.

And, finally, the judge found that the offense was committed with at least three other participants relating to the other police officers in this case.

Now, the prosecution has asked for a 30-year sentence. The defense has asked for a sentence of time served and probation. What that means, as a practical matter, if they get their way, is Derek Chauvin will walk free today. That is not going to happen. The judge is going to come down somewhere between those poles.

And, remember -- this is important -- whatever the final number is for this sentence for Derek Chauvin today, he will presumptively serve two-thirds of that time behind bars.

BLACKWELL: So, we know this is not the end for Derek Chauvin. Also, there are the three other officers who have been charged. What's next over the next several months?

HONIG: Yes, Derek Chauvin still has two more pending federal indictments against him. One of those charges him with the murder of George Floyd. The other one relates to an incident where Derek Chauvin assaulted a 14-year-old with a flashlight.

And, of course, the three other police officers still are facing both state charges and federal charges. The state charges have been put off until 2022. The federal charges, we still don't have a trial date. They're going to be watching what happens here really closely, because they're not going to get as much time as Derek Chauvin, but presumably they're going to get some percentage of the time he gets today.

BLACKWELL: All right, we're a little bit more than 15 minutes out from the start of procedures, as they're scheduled today.

Of course, these can float a bit because of what's happening there in Minneapolis.

Let's go now to CNN political commentator Van Jones, CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates, and senior law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey. Laura, let me come first to you.

Your expectation of the time that Chauvin will be sentenced with today?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it will most certainly be more than 12.5 years, and here's why.

Remember, there's another Minneapolis police officer, now a former Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor, who shot his weapon out and killed a woman by the name of Justine Damond when he shot one shot into an alley. Now, he served -- he's serving 12.5 years, I believe, in prison at this time.

And you compare that and contrast that to the type of crime that was committed here, what the jury was able to see, the evidence that came in, that still star witness of the video that was captured by the then-minor to show the world what actually happened, which was in stark contrast, Victor, to what the initial police report said.

If you compare a shot in the dark compared to somebody who is kneeling on somebody's neck for nearly nine minutes, you can see that a judge is going to look at both of those cases in a way that shows that one is perhaps even more egregious, if you're actually going to value human life, of course.

And we note that Justine Damond's life was valuable as well. But the idea here of suggesting that...

BLACKWELL: Laura, I have to interrupt you.

We have got to go to South Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis is speaking about that building collapse in Surfside.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): ... helping the people that have been displaced.

There was, fortunately, a lot of people that got out of that building. They don't have a home anymore. And so the efforts of the community have really been fantastic. I know there's a couple charities that we have been telling people about. They have been getting a lot of support.

[14:15:08]

We were also fortunate to get support from FEMA to provide individual assistance to people who have been impacted. We typically would not probably would this hit the threshold. Of course, you can waive that. The Biden administration waived that minimum threshold, and is stepping up to the plate.

I was able to speak to the FEMA director last night. She's been great, wants to be helpful. And then I just spoke about an hour ago with President Biden, and he reiterated his administration's full support. They're all in.

And so we really appreciate having the support of the president and the people of Florida. Really appreciate the president and his administration stepping up to help people who are in need.

We're fortunate about these relief efforts on the private sector. I just spoke with one of our great companies here in Florida, Lennar Homes, and their CEO, Stuart Miller. They're doing a million dollars for the relief efforts.

And we have people from all across the country that are donating money to be able to help for both -- we have the one at the Shul, which is TheShul.org, and then you also have the one here for the Surfside Relief Fund. Both of those are great. We're going to be supporting both of them with some of our stuff.

And I would just urge people to help out with that.

We have worked very closely with Mayor Cava, in addition to working with the federal government. As needs arise, the state's here to help and the federal government's also here. And so we feel like we have all hands on deck to be able to assist with the search-and-rescue mission and then obviously help people who have been displaced and then help the families who have loved ones that are unaccounted for.

When tragedy strikes, it's a very difficult thing for -- in any circumstance. But speaking with a lot of these family members, when they're unaccounted for, it's really, really difficult thing, because they just don't know.

And I know that first responders are working round the clock to be able to get all those answers and to save as many lives as they can, but this has been a really, really difficult thing. And so I just thank the community for really coming together, both here in Surfside, Miami-Dade, and really throughout Florida and throughout the country.

We really appreciate that.

I have also been talking with Mayor Cava, and we both agree we need a definitive explanation for how this could have happened. And that's an explanation that needs to be an accurate explanation. It's an explanation that we don't want to get wrong, obviously.

But, at the same time, I do think it's important that it's timely, because you have a lot of families here. You have families that lost loved ones in this building collapse. They have a right to know. You have other folks who were able to get out safely, but then lost their homes.

When we were walking out, one of the things that they were cleaning up were all the family photos that would be strewn around. And so they have a right to know as well. And then I think there's a lot of other people throughout this community and really throughout Florida who want to know, well, how could a building just collapse like that?

And so I think it's a really important thing. And so we have said whatever the local efforts are under way with that, the state will support whatever we can to do this right, but also to do it timely, so that we get the answers to the families and that we get the answer to the people of Florida.

And so they have our support for that. And when I spoke with the president, he indicated, if we need support on that investigatory end, they would send personnel as well.

So thanks to everybody to -- who stepped up. We have a lot of heroes in our midst here over the last day-and-a-half, and God bless them. And also just thank people who have sent their thoughts and prayers and have made donations.

I think that when you see something like this, it really is a unique type of tragedy to have in the middle of the night half of a building just collapse like that. And it's tough. It's been gut-wrenching for an awful lot of people, but, I'll tell you, nobody is quitting here, and we are going to stand by those families, and we're going to stand by everyone that's been displaced.

You can guarantee that.

Mayor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, and now Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Thank you so much.

Thank you, Governor. Thank you to our chairman, our commissioners, to our local electeds. This has been an extraordinary day-and-a-half.

And I want to start by saying that our hearts are with our first responders who have been going in, desperately seeking people, motivated to find them, hopeful that they will find them, and confident that their efforts will pay off.

[14:20:08]

And to the families who are suffering and waiting and wondering for -- wanting news of their loved ones, our hearts are with you. We are going to work as hard as we possibly can, leave no stone unturned.

And you can see the activity. These first responders are going in through tunnels. They're working from the top. They're working from the bottom. It has to be done very, very carefully. They're -- they can't dislodge pieces of debris that could injure them in the process.

They can't dislodge debris that could possibly make it more difficult to continue the search.

So, we are fully, fully behind them as they do this daring and brave work. And we are making sure that they are safe so that they can continue these efforts.

I want to say as well that these are the best first responders in the world. These are the ones that are sent to trouble spots. They have been to 9/11. They have been to Haiti. They have been wherever there is a disaster, and they are bringing that expertise to bear right here for our residents, for our visitors in Surfside.

So, while we continue to do everything we can locally and with the support of all of these jurisdictions, we are so grateful that FEMA has come to our side.

We have this extraordinary decision by President Biden to move those dollars and that support forward expeditiously, waiving the minimum amount that has to be generated before the support will kick in. And with the emergency declaration by our governor, we're able to move forward.

So this is very, very important. It's important to our search-and- rescue efforts. It's important to our rubble, debris removal. It's critical for the families, who are going to need help in the long term as they recover.

So, I think you all know the numbers have not changed since the morning. We have 127 people that are accounted for, 159 that have been identified as possibly being on the site unaccounted for. And we have four, sadly, who we have lost and we will be burying.

So, we are now providing briefings to the waiting families every four hours in the family reunification center. They are getting detailed descriptions of the operation, so they can really understand what's at stake and how critical it is that we proceed cautiously and that they have patience.

We're very grateful to everyone who's contributed. Lennar corporation, that's extraordinary. We have set up a fund that's already generated $100,000 from donations. And we welcome that support.

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

BLACKWELL: All right, you have been listening to the mayor of Surfside, Daniella Levine Cava, there, Miami-Dade as well.

Let's bring in CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

Chris, if we have you in front of a camera, we have got the split- screen here of Mayor Cava on one side. On the other side, we had those photographs, the video of the search. And they have battled fire, water, smoke, rain in this search.

All right, we have got more.

JOSE DIAZ, MIAMI-DADE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIR: ... for giving us the ability to do the work that we're doing, and for everything that's working out for us.

[14:25:02] Besides that, impact to want to out with our president and say thank you to him and his whole team, and everything that's involved on the federal side, including our senators have called in and been here, and, of course, our congressional people.

Also, I want to thank publicly, Governor, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for finding the companies that are willing to donate and put their part in to and helping, and that's incredible.

On behalf of county commission, we all want to thank you and your team.

Besides that, Mayor, thank you for the work you're doing. As far as my colleagues, too, we are all working together as a community to do the very best we can. We are blessed that we have the best team, one of the best teams in the world.

You saw our fire team that is constantly working since the moment this started, and they continue on. They do not stop. They work around the clock, in the rain, in the lightning. And small fires have taken place. They haven't stopped searching, and they will continue to do so.

This is the kind of people that really step up to the plate. When the problem is happening, everybody's running in one direction, they're running into the problem. So, we're blessed to have these kind of people within our community and doing what they're doing for all of us.

To the families, our heart goes out to them. They just want to see or hear of a solution and hope for the best for their family members. Our people are working as hard as they can to try to find their loved ones. And, trust me, they're putting their lives in peril to get -- to try to make that happen. And we're very proud of them and very thankful for them.

And that is something that's very important to be said. And to the community out there that is giving so much, that's constantly donating and helping those first responders that are here working tirelessly, and so much in donations, we want to thank them too.

Thank you to so many around the nation and around the world that have expressed help to help us with this situation. Nobody thought that this could happen here in Miami Beach.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we will know, as the governor said, and as the mayor said, what took place, how it happened, and so this will never happen again within our community.

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

BLACKWELL: Chris, I may have to interrupt you again, but I was bringing you in on the delicate nature of this search that we're watching on the right side of the screen, a team who's executing this. You know them well.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes.

We are fortunate to have experience with one of the task force teams, the one that is currently leading the search-and-rescue efforts. Florida is very fortunate to have multiple federally trained search- and-rescue teams here at its disposal.

And it's been revolving them here now, and that is why so many are correctly praising the efforts of the first responders. That doesn't mean that you're going to have progress that correlates with their level of professionalism.

This is a very difficult job, and it's been made much more difficult, as you referred to earlier, not by what has happened, but what is happening right now.

And over my shoulder, you see that there's a lot of smoke coming out of the building, because, as the heavy bands of rain came, that suppressed the effort to fight a fire that's burning inside, allowing it to get more fuel to continue to go, and now they're trying to contain it.

Here is the best optimism for the moment in terms of the process. I will give it to you right after we listen in to what's being said right now in the press conference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like this. It's like having a governor who steps up and steps in. It's having a president who cares and leads with his heart.

It's having a mayor who's out here tirelessly, a chairman and a commission who all stand together, commissioners from every part of this county, people all over this county, people all over this country actually praying.

This is -- independent of the rain and the overcast

[14:30:00]