BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,237 of the Trump administration. 147 days remain until the presidential election.
The protests and rallies that have rocked our nation after the death of George Floyd have entered their third week, and today Americans gathered once again to raise their voices against police brutality.
Today the final public funeral for George Floyd took place in his hometown of Houston, Texas, a proper home-going 15 days after his life ended while under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
Family and mourners gathered at the fountain of praise church to remember his life while calling on this nation to seize this moment as the starting point for change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: We are not fighting some disconnected incidents. We are fighting an institutional, systemic problem.
REPRESENTATIVE SHEILA JACKSON LEE, (D) TEXAS: No more eight minutes and 46 seconds of injustice and the mistreatment of African-American men at the hands of the laws of this nation and anyone else. There will be no more eight minutes and 46 seconds that you will be in pain without getting justice.
SHARPTON: To change not only this country, not only the United States, he changed the world. George Floyd changed the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden also honored George Floyd in a video message that linked his murder to the broader struggle for civil rights.
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JOE BIDEN, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We cannot leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away from racism. It stings at our very soul. As Thurgood Marshall once implored, "America must dissent from indifference." It must dissent from the fear, hatred and miss trust. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: George Floyd`s death in police custody has galvanized a nationwide movement that has taken its message even to the doors of the White House. Today the President said nothing about George Floyd. The President chose instead to spend this day spreading a conspiracy theory about a 75-year-old man who`s hospitalized recovering from a skull fracture. His name is Martin Gugino. We saw him shoved to the ground by buffalo, New York, police officers last Thursday during a peaceful protest against Floyd`s killing.
Here is what Trump posted to social media. "Buffalo protester shoved by police could be an Antifa provocateur. 75-year-old Martin Gunino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN American news network I watched, he fell harder than he was pushed, was aiming scanner. Could be a setup?"
Two officers have now been charged with assault. Gugino remains hospitalized. Trump there cites OANN American news network, the conservative cable outlet. And the report he mentions was done by a man who was reported for a Russian propaganda outlet that U.S. intelligence says tried to interfere in our 2016 election.
In a brief text message, Martin Gugino issued this statement today. "No comment other than black lives matter. Just out of ICU. Should recover eventually. Thanks."
New York`s governor was outraged at Trump`s post and was unsparing in his criticism.
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GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: How reckless, how irresponsible, how mean, how crude. I mean if there was ever a reprehensible, dumb comment and from the President of the United States. At this moment of anguish and anger, what does he do? Pours gasoline on the fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: On Capitol Hill, Republican senators were asked for their thoughts on the matter. With just a few exceptions, while it remains remarkable to watch, most were reluctant to speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that`s an appropriate move of the President at this moment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw the tweet, and I know nothing of the episodes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Cornyn, can you stop at the mics for a second? What do you make of the President`s tweet this morning, and does the President need to be more cautious about what he tweets?
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: I didn`t see it, so I`d have to -- I mean, you know, I`m sure that my office will be able to get me a copy of it, but I didn`t see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So no real response to it but --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think it should be surprising in general because he tweets a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the tweet. It was a shocking thing to say, and I won`t dignify it with any further comment.
SENATOR LISA MURKOWSKI: I just saw that this second, it makes no sense that we are fanning the flames, not at this time. This is not good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to weigh in on the President`s tweet this morning about the buffalo protester?
SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER: No (unintelligible).
SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: I`d have to take a look at it guys, I don`t have anything for you now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Some pro-files in courage there. Later, the man who leads those Republicans in the Senate did his best to not say anything at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President said that he could be an Antifa provocateur. He said that he fell harder than he pushed, and he questioned if he was set up. Was that appropriate?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MAJORITY LEADER: Well, as I said, what we`ve been talking about here in the Senate Republican conference is what we think is the appropriate response to the events of the last few weeks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the President`s tweet, though? Was that appropriate, sir?
MCCONNELL: As I said, we are discussing in the Senate Republican conference what response we think is appropriate to the events of the last two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So there was that. And not to be outdone, here is Trump`s White House chief of staff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you have a reaction to the President`s tweet earlier today? Regarding the man in buffalo?
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I beg your pardon?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you have a reaction to the President`s tweet earlier --
MEADOWS: I learned a long time ago not to comment on tweets, and I`m not going to break that practice.
NBC REPORTER: But they are official statements, regardless of the medium. Should the President be tweeting about possible conspiracy theories?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Notably no comment there from the President`s son-in-law either.
Meanwhile, this man, Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only African- American senator in the Republican Party, has been tasked with coming up with their party`s response to House Democrats` proposed bill on police reforms.
The White House is also very involved in that effort. Tomorrow one of George Floyd`s brothers is expected to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the topic of police reforms.
In another development, Politico has spoken to ten members of the National Guard, who say they were uncomfortable with the way they were used at protests in response to George Floyd`s killing. "They felt that while they swore an oath to uphold the constitution, their presence at times intimidated Americans from expressing their opinions and even escalated the tension."
One guard member, who was assigned to clear protesters out of Lafayette Square last Monday told Politico this. "The crowd was loud but peaceful and at no point did I feel in danger, and I was standing right there in the front of the line, he said. A lot of us are still struggling to process this, but in a lot of ways I believe I saw civil rights being violated in order for a photo op."
Let`s bring in our leadoff discussion group on a Tuesday night, shall we? Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for The Washington Post. Alexi McCammond, political reporter for AXIOS. And Michael Steele, Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of the great state of Maryland, now the host of the Michael Steele podcast.
Good evening and welcome to you all. Ashley, the President made the choice to tweet out what he tweeted, that this 75-year-old protester, well known by all the buffalo area western New York protesters, apparently had the technical skill to be carrying out electronic scanning of police officers via his phone. A friend of his interviewed tonight finds it remarkable he can do anything with his phone except place calls. So has the President decided to go to war with the demographic you`ve got?
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, put it this way. The President -- his aides were debating him giving a speech and they still are, sort of addressing the current turmoil. It would be a speech, not quite a speech on race, but on race and on policing and on law and order and against the backdrop of all of this, as they were discussing it even earlier this week, they knew it was possible -- in fact, they feared it was possible that the President would say something or tweet something, and then this morning he did just that.
There are moments that are controversial that the President and the White House think are good for them. There`s still a lot of belief inside there that that photo op you just referenced in front of the church was a positive. But every single person I talked to today, senior advisers in the White House, lower-level staff, campaign advisers, allies in the President`s orbit said simply this tweet was -- someone said stupid, dumb, unhelpful, a distraction, and it is incredibly frustrating to them because they think he was actually making some small inroads among black voters before this happened. And not just that, a tweet like this doesn`t just turn off black voters, but it turns off huge swaths of the electorate, including suburban women who he`s going to need to win in November.
Alexi, you spoke recently with two women a whole lot of people hope have their names at or near the top of Joe Biden`s potential VP list. Mayor Bottoms of Atlanta, who has really given a kind of clinic in what mayoring looks like during this crisis, and Congresswoman Demings, who has the added interesting line item on her resume of having been former police chief in Orlando, Florida. What did you learn from them that our audience would profit from learning?
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, thank you for having me, Brian. And that`s right. I spoke with both Congresswoman Demings and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta for AXIOS an HBO show. And, you know, when talking to Congresswoman Demings, it was interesting thinking through some of the things that she thinks we could do to move forward, similar to Mayor Bottoms.
The one thing that Mayor Bottoms said that I think is interesting about how this moment is different is that she feels there`s a lot of buy-in from a lot of different people in a way that we haven`t had before.
Congresswoman Demings, on the other hand, being a member of Congress of course and knowing how the system works from the inside out was talking about some of the things that we have achieved in the past. Of course like the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and a lot of the bipartisan legislation that she hopes they`re going to start seeing moving forward now.
We`ve seen how Senate Republicans are putting together a package led by Senator Scott. We`re seeing how House Democrats and other Democrats like Senator Kamala Harris are talking about police reform in a really kind of sweeping way to move forward.
But, you know, again, I think the interesting thing that Mayor Bottoms said is there`s a feeling and it`s almost an intangible, Brian. It`s not policy, but it`s an intangible thing that there`s a feeling of buy-in that there are a lot of Americans, to Ashley`s point, whether it`s suburban women, whether it`s older voters, whether it`s black folks, who are recognizing that there`s a massive problem happening in the country right now and that President Trump isn`t necessarily making that better.
WILLIAMS: Michael, you and I are old enough to remember 1989, and I brought you something tonight. Here now, please witness and feast your eyes and ears on Bryant Gumbel and Donald Trump from 1989.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (in 1989): I think today that a well-educated black person, male or female, has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white person, and I felt that for a long time. And I hope that anybody in the audience that`s black and is watching can hear me say this, and I`m talking now as a person that employs thousands and thousands of people. A well- educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. And I think sometimes a black may think that they don`t really have the advantage or this or that, but in actuality today, currently, it`s a great -- I`ve said on occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black because I really do believe they have an actual advantage today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: I`m sorry.
WILLIAMS: I`ll let you catch your breath, Michael. The question is how much of that man do you think survives -- how much of that man do you think survives in our president today?
STEELE: That man wasn`t real then. Look who you`re talking about. This is the same guy -- recall the Central Park Five? This is the guy who was looking at those five young black men and saying they should be executed. I mean, you know, and he qualifies it. A highly educated, not just an educated. You have to be highly educated. I mean come on. Can we not play this game and think that there`s something remarkable about what was said here?
All we got was what we know, and now we just know it more than we probably did then. And the reality of it is this idea, this notion that, you know, we`re making small inroads in the black community. Well, come to the black community. I invited the President to join me in Baltimore back when he made the comment about living conditions in Baltimore. I said, join me in Baltimore. Let`s sit down with the community and have the conversation. I mean so, you know, when you do that, then people will begin to take seriously what you say.
MCCAMMOND: Brian, can I add something --
WILLIAMS: Ashley, I brought something for you too. These are -- sure, sure, sure.
MCCAMMOND: Sorry. I just want to say, and I know it`s difficult because we`re virtual. But I just wanted to say let`s think about the 2016 election and how much the President has changed since 1989 and 2016 when he told black voters, what do you have to lose, suggesting that things are so bad for the black community that it was OK for them to take a chance on then- candidate Trump in 2016. So I think that says all we need to know. Of course everything we`ve seen from him in the last two weeks alone, but let`s not forget how he talked about black voters in `16.
WILLIAMS: Yes. And as I remember, he liked to twin that with the quote "you walk down the street, and you get shot."
Ashley Parker, I have something for you too. Marketing phrases and how they have changed over time from the guy who sees himself as the brand manager.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We`re going to make America great again. Remember the theme, make America great again. Make America great again wouldn`t work out too well, right? It`s going to be keep America great. It`s called keep America great! Ladies and gentlemen of South Carolina, the best is yet to come.
Sleepy Joe Biden. That`s the slogan we`re going to use, transition to greatness. It`s a transition to greatness, and greatness is next year. I am your president of law and order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So I gave you a couple examples there, Ashley. No one can complain at lack of variety. How are they feeling in real time, in real terms, about the re-election?
PARKER: Well, transition to greatness and the septuagenarian protester really had it coming just don`t have quite the same ring. And that`s a reflection of the fact that this is a President who even though he didn`t always rely, he cared a lot about polls, but he didn`t do focus groups. He didn`t always trust the polls, and he relied on his branding instinct and his gut instinct, and it often proved right. He did things that the political wise folks said would kill him, would doom a candidacy, and he prevailed. But this is sort of the first moment in talking to people on the campaign in the President`s orbit where that gut is kind of misfiring.
Now, they say, look, he`s dealing with a deadly pandemic. He`s dealing with racial unrest in the country. But they feel like he doesn`t have a message exactly. He is flailing and casting about. For instance, even that tweet this morning, they were saying, look, the President needs to be hammering home the idea of an economic comeback, which to be clear is not exactly happening just yet, and attacking Democrats perhaps unfairly for wanting to defund the police. And instead he`s tweeting about this protesters. So there is no real message and the brander seems to have lost a bit of his (inaudible) and that is worrying for people in his campaign.
WILLIAMS: So, Alexi, back to our previous conversation. What would this President say in a potential national address? The week is still young. In a speech written by Stephen Miller?
MCCAMMOND: Brian, don`t do that to me. Don`t do that to me, Brian.
WILLIAMS: OK. I`m sorry.
MCCAMMOND: We have seen the way he`s tweeted about this. No, no. I`m obviously giving you a hard time. That is all to say that we have seen the way the President talks about these things when he`s left to his own devices. To Ashley`s point, and to my colleague Jonathan Swan`s reporting this week, a small group of who they think are highly influential political advisers for the President`s re-election campaign meant to have a private meeting not long ago to discuss a more hopeful and optimistic message to try to balance out the harsh law and order rhetoric we`re hearing from the President. They wanted to focus, again to Ashley`s point, on this economic comeback about this great American comeback, using words like rebuilding and restoring. We`re not seeing that message from the President. We`re not seeing any type of hopeful or optimistic messages from the President other than nods to the economy or unemployment numbers, which didn`t paint a whole picture of the unemployment numbers.
So no matter who writes the speech, we know that the President will say what he`s actually feeling at the end of the day. And if it`s about race, I don`t know that we`ve heard a national speech from the President about race. So we could be in for any number of things.
WILLIAMS: And, Michael Steele, the fear among Republicans is that this President truly may be on the wrong side of history, that that sound you hear in the distance is the demographic train leaving the station. And talk to me about all the down-ballot effects of the President choosing to go his way.
STEELE: That`s a big concern right now among a number of candidates running for anything from U.S. Senate to governor to state legislatures, particularly with redistricting top of the batting order beginning in 2021, when new state legislatures come into play.
Republicans are very concerned about losing a lot of the gains that we started building on and growing back from 2010. We have lost a number of state legislatures since then, and the reality of it is with Trump at the top of the ticket, it makes it harder for them when the country is clearly moving in a very precise and clear direction on a number of issues, not just on the civil rights issue before us, but on the economy as well as on COVID-19, which we still have to deal with. These realities are making it harder when the President is just talking law and order, and the public`s perception is you`re not uniting. You`re dividing, and you`re creating more problems for that narrative. It`s going to be hard for Republicans. And we saw, you showed the line, up, down heads and no comments from the leadership and rank and file caucus members just on the President`s tweet. And if they can`t respond to the President`s tweet, what are they going to do in the hot, you know, fire of a campaign when their opponent is challenging them and they have to address that lack of response with their voters?
WILLIAMS: Much obliged to three first-team, all-Americans starting us of on a Tuesday night. Ashley Parker, Alexi McCammond, Michael Steele, thank you to our friends.
And coming up, as more of America opens for business, what Michael was just talking about, a stark warning from one of our nation`s top physicians. Tonight the words we all need to hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci.
And later, today`s primary election debacle. Long lines in the hot sun, in the pouring rain, just to cast their votes. Is what happened today in the state of Georgia perhaps a preview of what might happen in November? THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on this Tuesday night.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Now we have something that indeed turned out to be my worst nightmare, something that`s highly transmissible in a period, if you just think about it, in a period of four months, it has devastated the world. Deaths and millions and millions of infections worldwide, and it isn`t over yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Whenever that man uses a term like "worst nightmare," it is time for all of us to pay attention. As Dr. Fauci warns, there`s still so much we don`t know about this illness, a point underscored today when the World Health Organization suddenly walked back yesterday`s suggestion that asymptomatic spread of the virus was, "very rare."
Doctors say they still don`t know enough to be sure. Meanwhile, new coronavirus cases climbing just as the nation`s initial hot spots are reopening. In the past 24 hours, over 18,600 new cases reported that we know of. Another 800 people died from coronavirus in our country just since we last spoke.
We are joined once again by Dr. Stephen Sample. He`s an E.R. Doc at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana. And because so many loyal viewers have asked me, it`s in the southern part of the state, actually closer to Louisville than it is to Indianapolis. Happy to clear that up. And it`s a terrific-looking small town.
Doctor, has anyone that you know of explained to the virus that it`s summer. We`re tired of being indoors, and we`re bored, because I assume we would all get a pass, correct?
DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Everybody gets a free pass. I thought the coronavirus was over, right? The way people are acting these days. Yeah, it`s not over, but people seem to have forgotten that. How are you doing, Brian?
WILLIAMS: I`m doing fine, Doctor. And it`s great to see you again. And thanks for coming back on. There was an item that really got our attention today. We mentioned it at the top of the broadcast. D.C. National Guard, an untold number just for HIPAA reasons, an untold number of guardsmen and women have tested positive for the coronavirus. Is this the kind of thing - - and obviously the implication is they were around a huge number of public protests in close quarters. Is it your expectation that we`re going to be seeing in all these cities where the streets have been filling up new hot spots?
SAMPLE: I think it`s unavoidable. And I will level with you. I was marching on Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky. I have not -- sorry, I`ve got a fly in here, Brian.
WILLIAMS: That`s all right.
SAMPLE: I have not dropped my guard. I wear a mask. But this is not about the coronavirus right now, right? So we`re talking about that, and absolutely every physician on earth is worried about a flare in these cities that are holding these huge protests. But I will tell you who is not exceptionally worried about that. It is the people who are protesting. I was out there. I saw more masks than I saw in home depot last weekend, and I will tell you this. These people are not asking to go to concerts. They`re not asking to go to a party. Right now there is a flashpoint in our society, and these people are rising up against 450 years of a metaphorical and a physical boot on the neck of our black brothers and sisters.
So I apologize a little bit, but, yes, are we going to see hot spots? Probably. Are we equipped to care for them right now? Probably so. The hospitalizations seem to have flattened out. But I`m going to keep marching, Brian, and I hope everybody else does. Stay six feet apart. Wear your mask.
WILLIAMS: As we said before on this broadcast, the marchers see the cause very much as existential a threat to their lives as any coronavirus could cause, and they`re trying to prove that social distancing and social justice can coexist. And your testimony in mind, it sounds like they can.
I`m going to read you, Texas has seen a spike in new cases. They`re reporting a record number of hospitalized patients. Arizona`s state director urged hospitals to fully activate their emergency plans.
We always check in with the situation at your rather rural hospital compared to all of these other places. How are you doing, and how is Indiana doing?
DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Well, Indiana in general is doing pretty well. We`ve sort of flattened out on our cases. We`re still seeing rises every day. I think since the last time you and I spoke, my county has gone up probably by a couple of hundred percent. While we`re over 200 cases in our counties, and so for about four reported deaths.
For us, most of our increasing cases has been in the situation that we see all over the country. We have a very large national turkey processing plant, and they tested a couple of weeks ago about 600 employees. And one or four in five of those were actually infected, some asymptomatic, some pre-symptomatic. And so we are just now getting to the point where we`re going to see the fallout from that in our county. So we`re kind of waiting with bated breath.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Stephen Sample, thank you for letting us into your house for just a few minutes every so often. It`s a great treat to talk to you and get updated on this, and good luck in your fight on both fronts.
SAMPLE: Absolutely. Thanks, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us on this Tuesday night, to our other major issue. The death of a man from Houston, Texas, George Floyd. It has already changed the world. Will it change the world of policing?
WILLIAMS: Welcome back. And when we talk about the president`s position bumping up against a cultural demographic change, this is what we mean. According to new polling from "The Washington Post," nearly 70 percent of those respondents say the death of George Floyd represents a broader problem with policing rather than an isolated incident. And there are now growing calls for police reform as the protests continue on our streets.
As "The New York Times" reports, one powerful obstacle are police unions. Quote, they aggressively protect the rights of members accused of misconduct, often in arbitration hearing that they have battled to keep behind closed doors. And they have also been remarkably effective at fending off broader change, using their political clout and influence to derail efforts to increase accountability.
We are so happy to have back with us again tonight Brittany Packnett Cunningham, activist and former member of President Obama`s 21st Century Policing Task Force. We also welcome to the broadcast Ronald Davis. He was executive director of that very task force. Before that he served at the justice department, and before that he was in law enforcement for 28 years as a police officer and as a chief of department.
And by way of welcoming you, chief, I would like to begin with you. To paraphrase the song, what are police unions good for, and how are they making -- on the other side of the equation, how are they making the situation worse?
ROLAND DAVIS, FMR. MEMBER OF OBAMA POLICING TASK FORCE: Well, first let me start, Brian, thank you for having me on the show. I think the issue of police union, we really need to take a very careful look. When I think about police unions, I think about the phrase power -- too often we give police unions powers they should not have, and that is very inappropriate.
What I mean by that, and I applaud Brittany and her campaign and understanding more and more about this contract. We can have thousands of people march and demonstrate just (INAUDIBLE) so for these tragedies. But when we go to the council meeting to ratify the contract, they provide some provisions that inhibitor or prohibit accountability -- there`s two people in the audience.
So the first thing I think we have to do with the union is realize the job of the union is to represent the membership and negotiate for their working conditions. No different than any other union. We have taken that too far. We have changed working conditions to translate to things like how fast you can interview somebody after they use deadly force, whether they can see a body camera video after killing somebody.
So part of the -- I think reform has to be to re-evaluate these contracts, look at the state police officer bill of right laws, and to make sure that we are obligated to provide due process to the officers. We should do that. But that due process cannot result in constitutional violation to the community.
But right now too often, those provisions are a hindrance to the chief. They tie the chief`s hands. They prevent the chief, he or she, from disciplining officers that need to be disciplined. And operate within the system that allows bad officers to maintain their job and their employment and continue to plague the industry.
WILLIAMS: Brittany, same question to you, please.
BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: well, I`m glad to be back, and I could not agree with Ron more. We did a lot of work together and had these conversations, and I think it`s necessary that your audience is hearing someone who has a lifetime of experience in law enforcement saying precisely these things.
Look, I am a former union teacher. I support collective bargaining. I think it is one of the critical pieces of the infrastructure of this nation. And yet, we have police unions that are standing as the exception to that rule because as Ron already said, they continuously allow themselves to overextend the power that they should be having. There should never be a union that allows someone to actually break the law, see the evidence that will be used against them, and actually give them additional time to get their story together because no one can actually question them. These are things that we see pushed by unions and passed by state legislatures and in city councils.
And Ron`s absolutely right. We have to make sure as citizens we hold all these unions accountable, that we check and see everything that is in those police union contracts. That we make it our business to make sure that unions recognize that the just powers of the government are derived from the consent of the governed, and police unions actually have to recognize that.
WILLIAMS: Brittany, I got a tough one for you. Please explain to our audience what this phrase "defund the police" means to you because I`m hearing it get hijacked, and I`m hearing 50 different versions of it every day.
PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: There are lots of different versions that we`re hearing every day, and that happens in all movements. We`ve got folks that are trying to get that messaging together right now. I will tell your audience that if you really deeply want to understand what it means, I would look at the work of the movement for black lives. They have really broken this down.
But here`s what I think is important because it can be a scary and intimidating idea, that the systems that we`ve always known may not exist in the same way. But we are talking about actually giving ourselves the opportunity to re-envision and re-imagine what public safety looks like in our communities.
We`re watching Minneapolis take the brave first step out there to have their city council say that we can strip away the policing department as we know it and actually bring the community together, mental health professionals, parents, young people, folks who understand exactly how to build community safety from the ground up.
So what defunding the police is, is really about moving the money. It is about divesting from an institution that continues to show itself to be violent, not just against black people but against disabled people because half of the people who are killed by police every year either have a mental disability or a physical disability. The police are still killing over 1,000 Americans every single year, and that is an institution that has proven that there should be money divested from it and invested into the communities, people, and programs that we know keep us safe.
So, ensuring that when someone is in mental health distress, that they have a mental health counselor approaching them instead of somebody with a gun. That when we invest in employment programs and housing programs for some people, that we actually see crime reduced in communities without there having to be somebody with a Billy Club and a nightstick on patrol.
So we now there are community investments that work, and defunding the police means moving the money from an institution that is killing people to the institutions that keep people well.
WILLIAMS: Thank you once and for all. Chief, I`m coming to you after this commercial break. Thank you for your patience. Both guests thankfully are staying with us.
Coming up, the video from 15 days ago that was hard to watch. Even harder to turn away from, however, those who didn`t know his name early on will now forever know the name George Floyd. We`ll talk about his lasting impact when we continue our conversation.
WILLIAMS: So much to discuss, we`re going to get right back into our conversation with Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Ronald Davis, former police officer in Oakland, California, former chief of department in East Palo Alto.
And, chief, here`s the question for you about real policing, and I hope everyone paid attention to every word in Brittany`s well-thought-out answer to that critical question about what does defunding mean to you.
So, chief, it still means when you call 911, you get answered. Police officers still respond, and there are still detectives to track down whoever stole your property two weeks ago. But let me give you a real-world question. A little police talk. You have a call for an EDP, an emotionally disturbed person, perhaps waving a knife in a public place. Do you in addition to an armed officer sent to that location try to respond with psychiatric resources, the community part of community policing?
DAVIS: So let me start with the question you gave to Brittany if I may, and I think her explanation was very good. And the way I look at it is I agree with the goals of defunding, which is the idea that we need to invest in the social services that actually go to the core root causes of crime and quit responding to the symptoms. And the more you provide those services, the smaller the footprint of law enforcement can become. Then you can reinvest that funding to sustain those efforts.
And so for a good example would be the mental health crisis. Part of the mental health crisis is because the person is in crisis because they can`t get services. We hear stories where they`ve been trying to see a psychiatrist or psychologist for six months. They haven`t been on their medication. So now at 2:00 in the morning with a knife in their hand, the only response is a police officer.
If they get them the services, they won`t go into crisis. But when they do go into crisis, you see models around the country now where professionals respond. In other words, mental health professionals respond with the police department. Why that`s important? It changes the role of the police officer. The police officer doesn`t become the lead, doesn`t become the social worker. The police officer is there just to guard and maintain and let the social worker or the psychiatrist or the psychologist make the decision on what should happen with that person in crisis. That`s just a couple examples.
I think you`ll hear from every police officer in the country I`ve seen for 30-plus years that we are doing too much. We`re overrelying on the police for problems that we`re not trained to deal with, that we should not be dealing with, and the only thing we have to deal with it is what is on an officer`s utility belt. You know the saying, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
So we`re going to have to absolutely reduce the footprint of law enforcement. We are going to have to re-imagine it. But don`t take that to mean on Monday you just defund the department and cut it. You have to build the services. You have to see that it`s working. You have to reduce the need for the police so you can then re-allocate the funds from that part of public safety to others. It is about public safety, not just the enforcement of laws.
And that`s part of, I think, this movement is so strong because it needs to get away from the law and order nonsense and the rhetoric from the `90s and acknowledge that we don`t need law and order. We need peace and justice. The system should be a fair system, it should be an equitable (ph) system, it should be one that actually makes us safer and one death has collateral damage for communities of color.
WILLIAMS: And it`s in this way and many other ways from the protests we`re seeing in this country and around the world that it is hoped George Floyd in death will indeed have changed the world, our perception of it. Brittany Packnett Cunningham, former Chief Ronald Davis, let us please do this thing. Thank you so much for devoting so much your time to this conversation tonight.
Coming up for us, the voting fiasco in Georgia today. Those who are rightfully worried that this could be a perverse kind of preview of November when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Here`s a story that goes directly to the right to vote in this country. Georgia`s secretary of state is promising an investigation in today`s catastrophic primary voting problems, which one charitable headline called "A hot, flaming mess." Late into the evening voters in mostly minority counties had to wait on long lines for hours while poll workers had problems with new voting machines. In some places they reportedly did not work at all. NBC News correspondent Blayne Alexander has our report.
BLAYNE ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is primary day in Georgia. Lines in Atlanta stretching for blocks. Some standing in the rain, forced to wait hours to cast a ballot.
(on camera): You`ve been here about three hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not leaving.
ALEXANDER: You`re not leaving?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Until I`m done.
ALEXANDER: Why are you so intent upon staying here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s important. It`s important for me. It`s important for my son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we`re going on that four-hour mark.
ALEXENDAR (voice-over): Georgia unveiling new voting machines statewide right in the midst of a pandemic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Several of the machines were broken. It seemed like maybe half of the machines were down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a disappointment. This is something that should have been checked yesterday.
ALEXANDER: The biggest problems in metro Atlanta, specifically areas with higher black populations. The city`s mayor asking, is this happening across the county or just on the south end, pointing to a predominantly black area. Lebron James tweeting, they say go out and vote. What about asking how we vote is structurally racist.
Georgia secretary of state who oversees the election is blaming local officials saying poll workers were not properly trained.
BRAD RAFFENSPEGER, GEORGIA SECRTARY OF STATE: The employees didn`t understand the system. So what were they doing for all these months? All of a sudden they wake up and they say let`s have an election on Tuesday.
ALEXANDER: One county official firing back at the secretary of state, saying if there was a failure of leadership, it starts where the buck should stop, at the top.
(on camera): Now Georgia`s secretary of state has launched an investigation ahead of November`s election.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Blayne Alexander for that report out of Georgia today. Again, it speaks to the right to vote.
Coming up, how about some good news? I have a commanding presence who is making history tonight that I`d like very much to introduce you to.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is on this night of all nights, we get to offer you an introduction to the first ever African-American service chief of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in our history. Four- star U.S. Air Force general and former fighter pilot Charles Brown is the new Air Force Chief of Staff. And as you listen to him, remember of the 41 four-star generals that we`ve got in our military, only two are black. General Brown has recorded a very personal message to be viewed through the ranks.
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GEN. CHARLES BROWN, NEW U.S. AIR FORCE CHIEF OF STAFF: I`m thanking about how full I am with emotion not just for George Floyd but the many African- Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd, and thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn`t always sing of liberty and equality.
I`m thinking about my air force career where I was often the only African- American in my squadron, or as a senior officer, the only African-American in the room. I`m thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers and then being questioned by another military member, are you a pilot?
I`m thinking about the airmen who don`t have a life similar to mine and don`t have to navigate through two worlds. I`m thinking about how these airman view racism, where they don`t see it as a problem since it doesn`t happen to them, or whether they`re empathetic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: General Brown also spoke about raising two black sons in America in the year 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I`m thinking about the frank and emotional conversations my wife and I have had with them just this past week as we discussed the situations that have led to the protests around our country. I can`t fix centuries of racism in our country, nor can I fix decades of discrimination that may have impacted members of our air force.
I want the wisdom and knowledge to lead, participate in, and listen to necessary conversations on racism, diversity, and inclusion. I want to hear what you`re thinking about and how together we can make a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That is your new Air Force Chief of Staff, General Charles Brown to take us off the air tonight. And that is our broadcast on this Tuesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us as always. On behalf of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night from our temporary field headquarters.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END