KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: MSNBC coverage continues now with my colleague Stephanie Ruhle, my colleague and friend.
Hey there, Steph.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Hey there, Katy. Thank you so much.
And welcome, you all, to THE BEAT. I`m Stephanie Ruhle, in for our friend Ari Melber.
And we have got a busy show tonight, as protesters are gathering once again with brand-new pressure on Donald Trump, from the streets to the hall of Congress. Today, a final public memorial for George Floyd in his hometown of Houston, Texas. The family meeting with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for over an hour today, while, in Minneapolis, the officer charged with Floyd`s murder making his first court appearance today.
Court sketches show he`s appearing via teleconference wearing an orange jumpsuit, mask, and handcuffed.
Also today, President Trump meeting with law enforcement officials at the White House, as signs of his weakened political standing are now flashing red, Colin Powell saying he will vote for Biden. Former President George Bush and his brother Jeb reportedly not planning to vote for President Trump either.
We are going to get to all of that in just a moment.
But, first, in Washington today, Democrats unveiling a new plan to reform America`s policing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): In the 1950s, news cameras exposed the brutal horror of legalized racism in the form of segregation. Seventy years later, it is the cell phone camera that has exposed the continuation of violence directed at African-Americans by the police.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Empathy and sympathy and words of caring for those who have died and suffered are necessary, but it`s not enough. We must change laws and systems of accountability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Joining me now to discuss, Alicia Garza, special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers` Committee for Civil Rights, and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" my friend Jonathan Capehart.
Alicia, is this a genuine inflection point, and how important is it that this is a broad, multiracial coalition from around the world leading this charge?
ALICIA GARZA, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: It`s very important, Stephanie. Thank you for having me.
You know, we are at an unprecedented moment in this country, where we are finally starting to look honestly and critically at the role of policing in our communities and also at the decades-long project of defunding black and brown and poor communities across this country.
And, unfortunately, we came to this point because we have had murders in this country of people like George Floyd, people like Tony McDade, people like Breonna Taylor.
And we should just know that, in this moment, even though it is an inflection point, it will take a lot of courage and political will to start to change the rules that are shaping our lives right now.
Frankly, I`m very heartened by the conversations that are happening across the country. I`m heartened by a lot of the activity that`s happening, the multiracial character of who is out in the streets raising their voices and demanding change.
And I`m also hopeful that we don`t shy away from this moment. You know, it doesn`t -- it`s not lost on me that, at a certain point in this country, everybody said that, you know, ending segregation was not possible, that we were scared to do it because there were all of these risks that could be contained within it.
But, frankly, having the courage and moving the political will to actually end segregation in this country was a good move for everybody. And so I hope we take that history lesson into the present and start to reimagine how it is that we keep our communities safe, but, bigger than that, how it is that we invest in communities that have been disinvested in for so long.
RUHLE: Kristen, Democrats are clearly trying to make this more than just a moment. Let`s talk about what is in this new bill.
It contains a national database of police misconduct, because, as it stands right now, if a police officer does something wrong and loses his job, he can just go one town over and get a new one, also funding to investigate local departments, and it has a complete ban on choke holds and no-knock warrants.
Those are three strong points, but are they enough?
KRISTEN CLARKE, PRESIDENT, LAWYERS` COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: This is no doubt historic and comprehensive legislation that has been introduced today.
And the reality is that we have always known what it would take to really reimagine policing in our country in a way that is equitable, fair, and just. And so this really is a kind of bringing together of a lot of work that`s been done by grassroots advocates, by community leaders, by lawmakers, who are saying, you know what, let`s have A-to-Z comprehensive reform, because that`s what it is going to take.
What I think is most important about this bill are the provisions that speak to accountability. For far too long in our country, police officers have been allowed to kill, to take life, to use excessive force with impunity. We have not had the measures that we need on the books to really bring these officers to justice.
And this bill speaks to those issues. It modifies a federal law, 18-USC- 242, which is a core federal statute that can be used to criminally prosecute officers who kill without basis, by changing the standard and making it easier for federal prosecutors to bring those folks to justice.
It deals with qualified immunity, and really will move communities across our country to a place that, when these incidents happen, when an Eric Garner is killed, when a Breonna Taylor is killed, when a Philando Castile is killed, it will have laws and measures on the books that allow these people to be brought to justice, so that we can deter the bad actors that we know are out there.
RUHLE: Jonathan, it`s clear that this is important and it`s needed. And I don`t mean to be a Debbie Downer. How realistic is it that it is going to pass?
We can`t even -- we haven`t even seen an anti-lynching bill, anti- lynching...
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
RUHLE: ... make its way through the Senate. If that can`t get through, does this have a chance?
CAPEHART: The way things are right now, no. And that`s the point that Senator Harris made in her remarks at the press conference today introducing this bill.
But to the earlier point, there is momentum here. And what made the civil rights movement in the `50s and the `60s propel was that it wasn`t -- it started with the people and the people marching and the people putting their bodies literally on the line to make things happen.
But then it was having the support of the president, of Congress. And I think that`s why this election is so important. All of these things that were talked about in this bill today stand a better chance of passage if there is a Senate that will hear it, listen to it, give it hearings and give it a vote, but, most importantly, a president of the United States who will put pen to paper and sign it into law.
And so the demonstrations in the street are propellant, and then the election is the fuel. And then, you know, if Joe Biden does indeed succeed in ousting President Trump at the ballot box, then it will be on President Biden, then President Biden, to then carry it forward, but with the pressure from the people who I think will still be in the streets.
You`re not a Debbie Downer, Stephanie. You are realistic, because, of course, we`re seeing this happen because Democrats control the House. But Mitch McConnell has shown over and over again that he is not interested in doing anything, except approving more conservative judges.
RUHLE: Alicia, how important is this momentum to Joe Biden`s election?
You know, early on, even weeks ago, there was concern he wasn`t energizing voters, specifically young voters. And now we have seen Joe Biden out there, meeting with people. Just today, he spent over an hour with George Floyd`s family. Is he presenting enough? Are people energized that they will get out there and vote for him in a way that people thought maybe not?
GARZA: You know, I think it still has yet to be seen.
But I can say, without qualification that there is much more work to be done. We know that Vice President -- former Vice President Biden has faced a lot of criticism from advocates and from organizers. And, frankly, we think that there is more that should be done.
We haven`t seen, again, a clear position coming from former Vice President Biden`s campaign about what they will do to meet this moment. And it is deeply important that he sit with the families of people who have been killed by the police, including George Floyd`s family. And it`s also important that this campaign do the work that it needs to, to energize black communities.
And part of what that is going to look like in this season is making sure that we are meeting the moment. It will not be enough to be in photo-ops with, you know, kneeling. It`s going to be very important that this campaign is energizing black voters to show up in November, alongside all of alongside all of the other voters that need to show up in November.
And I think that we still have a far way to go to really hear and feel from Joe Biden that he`s leading in this moment, not just in terms of meeting with families, but meeting with organizers and meeting with folks who are trying to energize voters right now, and really listening to, what are the key things that people want to see right now, and how can I provide a platform to make sure that that message is getting out, and that people are getting energized to go to the polls in the middle of a global pandemic, in advance of what we`re hearing might be an economic depression?
And then also in the context, right, of massive uprisings and deep, deep pain around what has been happening to black communities for generations.
RUHLE: Well, in order to solve for any of this, we have to at least acknowledge what the reality is. And I want to share what Trump`s acting DHS secretary, Chad Wolf, had to say about racism and law enforcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAD WOLF, ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I do not think that we have a system of racism problem with law enforcement across this country.
You need to make sure that all law enforcement is acting correctly, are doing their jobs correctly. And when they`re not, they need to be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: What do you think, Kristen?
CLARKE: I think he`s blind and perhaps deaf to the cries that are coming out from the streets right now, that are coming out of the homes of the families who have lost loved ones.
And I think that if he hasn`t heard the protesters and their message yet, he will soon, because my sense is that these demonstrations and protests will become a new part of our reality in this country, that this time it`s different, that people are not giving up or turning back on the important work, on the project of reforming police violence, on confronting police violence and confronting racial violence in our country.
The convergence of the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery, along with the brutal, the brutal murder of George Floyd, I think, have erupted emotions in our country. And it`s why we`re seeing people, young and old, white, black, and brown in urban and rural parts of this country all coming out and saying, it`s time for justice.
So I think that, if he hasn`t heard that message, he will soon, because these protesters are not turning their back until we get it done, until we get it right this time. It`s 2020, and we are a nation at a crossroads.
And I just want to echo one important point that Alicia made, which is voting is one of the most powerful forms of protest in our country. And I hope that we will see people take their voice from the streets to the ballot box during the primary season that is afoot right now, and to the ballot box in November for the upcoming general election.
RUHLE: Jonathan, do you agree with that? Because, as awful as it was to see what happened to George Floyd, to learn about Breonna Taylor, sadly, none of it was a surprise.
"Washington Post," your paper, reporting there has been zero decline in police shootings since 2015. And that`s when they started tracking it. Do you think that now things are going to change?
CAPEHART: Well, look, hope is a great motivator. And I hope that it will change.
I mean, the three of us on this panel are not surprised by the murder of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery or Walter Scott or Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice or any of the countless numbers of African-Americans who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement or just extrajudicial killings.
What made the George Floyd murder leap off the page and leap into the hearts of Americans was that they saw it, they watched it. They watched a man who was alive at the beginning of the video die before their eyes, and die with the knee of a police officer on his neck for two minutes after he had already died.
That shocked the conscience, just in the way that, when John Lewis did at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and he and something like 600 other marchers were mowed over by baton-wielding state troopers in Alabama, how, that night, when the video of that was broad cast on television, it shocked the nation.
And five months later, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. A week after Bloody Sunday, as it`s called, President Johnson went to -- spoke before a joint session of Congress and said the words, "We shall overcome."
So, you know, we are at -- yes, we are at an inflection moment. We are at a moment where the American people of all stripes are seeing what`s happening, and saying, if not enough is enough, we have to do something to change the tide, because what I witnessed with my own eyes is not who we are as Americans, it`s not who we say we are as the United States.
And if we`re going to live -- if we`re going to be true to those ideals and live out those ideals as best as we can, then we damn well better do something about it right now.
RUHLE: Well, if it`s not who we are -- or if it is who we are, it`s not who we want to be going forward.
RUHLE: Thank you all so much. I sincerely appreciate you all joining us tonight, Alicia, Kristen, Jonathan.
I appreciate it. We`re going to leave it there.
Coming up: leading Republicans who are refusing, do you hear me, refusing to support President Trump`s reelection. Here`s a name for you. George Bush, Colin Powell. Those aren`t just anybody Republicans. Those are the big ones.
I will be speaking about it with Powell`s former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson.
Also, the new debate about defunding police. It`s a big tag line, everybody shouting about it. But what does it really mean? You will be surprised. We are going to hear from retired Captain Ron Johnson, who helped keep the peace after Ferguson.
Plus, President Trump lashing out at the NFL for admitting it was wrong on justice issues. I will be speaking live to a former pro football player who protested in Lafayette Park last week.
I`m Stephanie Ruhle, and you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
RUHLE: Tonight, there are growing calls to defund the police. You can see it right here, "Defund the police" painted in large yellow letters on the new Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C.
But I want to be really precise what that means. Defund the police does not mean that police officers will lose their jobs or their pensions, nor does it mean we`re going to have no law enforcement in America. Do not worry. We`re not talking "Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome."
What it does mean is that we have to reinvent, reorganize and reimagine how policing is done. Part of it would reallocate money to social programs.
In Minneapolis, the City Council voting to dismantle its force police force structure, allowing a new system of public safety.
The mayor there saying today that he does not support abolishing the department, and I want to show what he said over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Go home, Jacob! Go home! Go home, Jacob! Go home! Go home, Jacob! Go home! Go home, Jacob! Go home, Jacob!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: In New York City, the NYPD under fire for excessive force during the protest, as you can see on the screen, officers beating protesters with batons.
Think about this. The NYPD gets more than 60 -- excuse me -- more than 6 percent of New York City`s total annual budget.
Mayor de Blasio vowing for the first time to now cut funding for the NYPD, saying -- quote -- "We are committed to seeing a shift of funding to youth services, to social services."
But it is still unclear what exactly defunding the police would mean, what it would look like. Joe Biden`s campaign saying he does not believe police should be defunded.
Joining me now to discuss, New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart- Cousins. She`s the first ever woman and African-American woman leader of the state Senate, and Captain Ron Johnson, former Missouri Highway Patrol who led protest security during the 2014 protests in Ferguson.
Captain Johnson, when you hear this phrase defund the police, what do you think?
CAPT. RON JOHNSON, FORMER MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: I think it means that our country is saying, we just need to look at those budgets and make sure the money has been allocated properly.
Over the years, police have been given a lot of jobs, a lot of tasks that probably should be in other places. And so I think it`s just looking at it. It`s not saying we`re going to do away with policing.
It`s saying, we`re going to look at the budgets and make sure that money is being allocated properly. And I don`t think that any agency should be upset if our community and taxpayers say, we just want to make sure the money is being allocated properly.
RUHLE: Senator, school budgets see that every single year. Yet the tag line defund police has our own president and other Republicans saying, well, this is going to take us to lawless nation, suddenly, we`re abolishing the police force.
That`s not what defund the police means.
ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: Well, Stephanie, you`re absolutely right. That`s not what any of this means.
What it means, that we`re in a moment, and we have to take advantage of the moment. It`s not always that we have an opportunity to assess how we`re doing, what we`re doing. And there`s not always a time where community is so engaged.
So, I think every single one of us in elected office are looking at how we can make things happen. Here in New York, we are here for three days. We have just banned choke holds. We have just made 911 false reporting, something that cannot be done anymore without penalty.
Tomorrow, we will be putting more transparency in terms of police files and records. I mean, there are so many things to do. And, frankly, how we managed to make sure that everyone is benefiting from all of the resources we in government have is really the focus.
RUHLE: Senator, why now? Why did all the things that you just mentioned in terms of the sweeping changes in New York absolutely seem like common sense that we should have seen years ago?
STEWART-COUSINS: You know how these things are. We are all so deeply involved in how we see things and what usually happens.
And it is very, very rarely that we reach a point where everyone is watching the same thing and, for the most part, actually experiencing it in the same way. We know racial injustice -- I was listening to Jonathan earlier -- we know the story of racial injustice. We know it`s the original sin of America.
We know that so many of our systems really can do better for all people. But there are very rare times where everyone has decided this is the moment. So, that`s why now.
If I, as a black woman, a mother of three children, two of them black male sons, men, and four grandsons in this position of power, if I do not take advantage of moving things that I know will help people and ensure a better future for my kids and their kids, what would be the point?
So that`s why now. And I think the speaker feels the same exact way as a black male. So, it is a rare opportunity. And it`s a rare opportunity when not only the whole world, but certainly the nation that we all care so deeply about, really are in one accord in getting thing right.
RUHLE: Captain, defunding or restructuring police departments work. Look at Camden, New Jersey. The pivot to community policing saw a steep decline in crime there.
The department adopted an 18-page use of force policy, and we know that reports of excessive force complaints have dropped, are you ready for this, 95 percent. Given all of that, how does the president and his supporters and actually leaders in law enforcement stand by this idea that the president is for law and order, but the idea of reform is against that?
That doesn`t seem to make sense to me.
JOHNSON: Well, I think reform is something our country is asking for.
I think this is an opportunity for law enforcement to take a step toward uniting better and gaining that trust of our country I think to show that, you know what, we`re willing to say look at our budgets. If there`s things there that can be reallocated to make our country stronger, make communities stronger, I think that this is an opportunity.
I think those agencies that will take this opportunity, embrace it, they will see a better connection with their community. When we start talking about community policing, this is a step toward that, having joint efforts.
And so to defund police, it`s not saying that police services are going to go away. And I have heard a lot of people that are protesters that say, we don`t want police to go away. We just want to make sure we`re using our resources, whether it`s in policing or in other-government funded agencies, just make sure we use them properly and use them to make us all better.
And I agree with the senator.
RUHLE: That makes a whole lot of sense. That makes a whole lot of sense. But do you actually believe that the police union that has an enormous amount of influence is going to see it that way?
JOHNSON: Well, I tell you, what should drive the way that law enforcement operates in this country are the expectations of the people that live in this country.
And we have to continue to stand and be united, stand strong. We elect leaders. Our leaders have to be strong. And that`s why it`s so important to vote. But I think, when we have leaders like the senator that`s willing to stand up with courage and say, we`re going to do the right thing, and I think a lot of people are saying that. And I think we will be OK. We just have to continue in this moment and stand strong.
RUHLE: All right. Stay strong in this moment.
Senator, Captain, thank you both so much, New York State Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Captain Ron Johnson.
I appreciate both your time.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
We turn next to Colin Powell joining other military figures unloading on President Trump. We are going to find out why.
Powell`s former chief of staff with me when we are back in just 30 seconds.
RUHLE: Protests across the country tonight, as we track an extraordinary and growing rebuke of Donald Trump himself from former military leaders and diplomats.
The latest voice to speak out, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, scorching President Trump, saying he`s unfit for office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a Constitution, and we have to follow that Constitution. And the president`s drifted away from it.
He lies. He lies about things. And he gets away with it, because people will not hold him accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Powell is the fourth former joint Chiefs of Staff chair to go after President Trump and echoes the scathing letter from former Secretary of Defense James Mattis accusing Trump of dividing the country.
Trump is now pulling the National Guard out of D.C., after threatening a military crackdown on protesters, with officers reportedly using tear gas, flashbangs and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, peaceful protesters, in Lafayette Park last week.
Joining me now to discuss, retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
I`m so glad you`re with me.
Obviously, you don`t know what is in Colin Powell`s head, but knowing him for as long as you have, what he represents, his priorities, are you surprised to see him speak out like this?
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER COLIN POWELL CHIEF OF STAFF: Not really, Stephanie.
I was surprised somewhat that he spoke out as forcefully and powerfully as he did, because he usually tries to find the middle ground and, unlike President Trump, is seeking unity, not divisiveness.
But I think it had gotten to the point -- I mean, let`s look at it really closely. Lafayette Park, Lafayette Square there, the way to St. John, and what happened there looked a lot like Tiananmen Square to me, and we`re not China. And I think that really alarmed General Powell, and he finally came out and said he was alarmed.
RUHLE: On Friday, a group of more than 500 former military officials and diplomats spoke out. How much of this was driven specifically by what happened last week in Lafayette Park?
WILKERSON: I think that was a lot of it.
But you have to look at everything from the inauguration on, which Powell pointed out, by the way. The lying about the size of the crowd at the inauguration was just a precursor for nothing but a constant stream of lies from the White House.
And it`s very difficult for the American people of whatever political inclination to make up their minds one way or the other when there`s nothing but lies pouring out of the White House.
And Powell pointed out, too, this is doing perhaps irreparable damage to our significant alliances in the world. It`s encouraging our enemies. I can tell you that. But it`s doing damage to NATO. It`s doing damage to the U.S./Korea, the U.S./Japan, the U.S./Australia alliance.
It`s just monstrous what this president has done to our international relations. And I think that really got General Powell and others too alarmed.
So it`s not just what`s happened recently. It`s a whole combination, a culmination, if you will, a crescendo of this president`s actions over the last three years.
RUHLE: Given all of that, though, those who are speaking out have one thing in common. They`re former, former, former, former.
Why don`t we see current Republicans, especially ones with military backgrounds, who truly understand this, why don`t they say similar things? Last week, Tom Cotton saying, send in the troops.
WILKERSON: I think that`s an excellent question.
I understand that the editor who approved Tom Cotton`s op-ed at "The New York Times" has been released. I applaud them for that.
My big question right now, my significant question is, where is the Senate of the United States? That is the one body of our governing apparatus that is supposed to be interested in the nation, and not itself and not its personal political power.
And yet what we see from its leader, Mitch McConnell, is nothing but the pursuit of personal power, and a toadying and a sycophant attitude toward the president, indeed, helping the president in most of what he wants to do that. It is untoward and inimical to the interests of the United States.
The Senate is markedly absent from this fray. I take it from Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney and one or two others I`m hearing from that maybe that might change. But it needs to change swiftly, because, otherwise, I think the Republican Party and the Congress are going to go down in the American people`s estimation to even less than the 9 percent they now get in polls.
And that`s not good for the country.
RUHLE: But, sir, we go from absent to enabling.
Look at Bill Barr. On Sunday, he specifically said that President Trump can use the military to crack down on protesters. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Do you think that the president has the authority to unilaterally send in active-duty troops if the governors oppose it?
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Oh, absolutely. The -- under the Anti-Insurrection Act, the -- the president can use regular troops to suppress rioting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: He says, absolutely.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Esper, whose job is likely on the line because of this, has already rejected that very point.
WILKERSON: As well he should.
The 1807 Insurrection Act is a really vacuous, vague act in the first place. Second, the times that it`s been used over our history -- go back and look -- Andrew Jackson was one of those who used it frequently -- or as frequently as any president -- have been special times, almost, I would say, odd times.
The 1992 occasion when General Powell and H.W. Bush, President H.W. Bush, used it in Los Angeles, when the Watts riots were taking place after Rodney King`s ill treatment by the police, was one of the quintessential examples of how, if you`re going to use it, it should be used.
And that was when the California governor requested, and Powell actually talked to H.W. Bush and toned down his remarks with regard to that incident and that use, made those remarks unifying remarks, rather than divisive remarks.
So I take Secretary Esper and I think ultimately General Milley and other` concern to heart. They`re right. This president doesn`t know how to do that. This president is the first president in my knowledge of our history whose principal aim is to divide the American people, not to unify them.
And that`s a very dangerous scenario under which to deploy the U.S. military.
RUHLE: Then , quickly, before we go, I mentioned it earlier, 500 former military and diplomatic officials signing a letter against President Trump, military officials.
These are people rooted in chain of command, not speaking out, respect for leadership. What does that tell you historically? How odd, how unusual is it for a letter like that to be written?
WILKERSON: Well, let`s don`t leave out the diplomats either, because some of the damage President Trump has done, as I indicated earlier and as General Powell indicated, is to our international relations, our alliances and so forth.
But, yes, you`re right. This is somewhat unique that so many military people are coming out. And, in that sense, it`s bothersome to a military professional like myself, because the military ought to stay out of politics.
But as Powell hinted and Mattis hinted and others have said, you have to do something if it gets to the point where you think your nation is at risk,the Constitution is at risk. And I think we are at that point. And so I applaud these people for coming out and making the remarks they did.
RUHLE: They`re not necessarily speaking out in terms of politics. It`s about national security. It`s about public safety.
Colonel, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
Coming up next: President Trump attacking NFL players who plan to kneel during the anthem after the commissioner, Roger Goodell, admits he was wrong. New reporting and a very special guest ahead.
But, first, President Trump scrambling, as high-profile Republicans will not support his reelection. Will more GOP leaders speak out or, at the very least, not vote for the guy?
RUHLE: Tonight, Donald Trump getting a very public vote of no confidence from top leaders in the GOP.
"The New York Times" reporting that many leaders in the Republican Party, including former President George Bush, will not be supporting Trump`s reelection campaign.
And the party`s nominee before Trump, Mitt Romney, he joined protests over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We need a voice against racism. We need many voices against racism and against brutality. We need to stand up and say that black lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Tonight, a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll has Trump losing to Joe Biden by an average of eight points in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Joining me now, my friend Tim Miller, former adviser to Jeb Bush and`s 2016 and current adviser to the group Republican Voters Against Trump.
TIM MILLER, REPUBLICAN VOTERS AGAINST TRUMP: Steph, good to be with you.
RUHLE: ... in any normal scenario, lack of support from the Bush family and Colin Powell would be a huge deal.
But is there really any Republican out there today who thought George Bush or Jeb Bush were in Trump`s corner? This is kind of obvious.
MILLER: No, it is pretty obvious.
And, look, we went through a lot of this in 2016. So I`m hopeful that more and more Republicans, prominent Republicans, will come out. They can D.M. me if they want to join our effort. I welcome it.
But it`s the reason why our new group, Republican Voters Against Trump, is focused on elevating regular Republicans, not Beltway types, not swamp types, but Republicans, evangelicals all across the country who are turning on this president because of the way he`s handled the virus, the way he`s handled these protests, the way he`s handled himself, the fact that they`re sick of him.
And we`re looking forward to being able to amplify and elevate those voices, because that lets other Republicans know that they`re not alone out there. They already know that W. doesn`t like Trump. But what they don`t know is that there are people in their community that don`t too.
RUHLE: But W. doesn`t need to get reelected. Neither does Colin Powell.
We have seen lots of members of the GOP say awful things about Trump. Take your pick, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio. And they need to stay in office, and they fall right in line and stand behind the president now.
MILLER: It`s pretty pathetic, isn`t it? I mean, there`s just no way around it.
Some of these guys aren`t up for six years. You finally saw my old friend Ben Sasse, who said a lot of negative things about the president, but then just went quiet for a year. And then the day after his primary ends, all of a sudden, he can criticize him again over these protests.
There is not a lot of courage on the Hill. And the reality, what we`re seeing in the polls, Steph, is that they`re getting -- they`re behind the voters on this. Look at the numbers you showed.
RUHLE: Yes, but that`s polls. Let`s talk about who`s in office.
A group which put out a new ad featuring GOP voters who oppose Trump, you helped put this ad together. But what if the harsh reality is, we watch those ads, we watch Lincoln Project ads, and you know who thinks they`re unbelievable, damning, extraordinary? Democrats.
Does it start -- do you start to think what Republicans care about are judges and the stock market? Because they don`t seem to be as outraged as the rest of the country.
MILLER: Well, there`s no doubt that Democrats like our ads, and that`s OK.
But the purpose of these ads -- and I encourage you to go to it. It`s RVAT -- Republicans Voters Against Trump -- .org, RVAT.org. And you can see these real voters. They don`t sound like people on MSNBC, Stephanie. They sound like Republican voters who are just sick of it.
And it doesn`t need to be 80 percent of the party that does it. It needs to be 10 percent. And if 10 percent of the Republicans who didn`t like him last time, but they held their nose and voted for him because they didn`t like Hillary more, if they flip this time, Joe Biden is going to win in a landslide.
And those are the voters that we`re focused on talking to, and we are seeing them respond to these ads, and you can hear him in their own words on our site.
RUHLE: Well, there`s five months to go. A lot can happen.
Tim, thank you so much. It`s always great to see you.
MILLER: You too.
RUHLE: That`s some wallpaper you got there too.
Tim Miller, I appreciate your time.
MILLER: Thank you.
RUHLE: Coming up: Donald Trump slamming the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, after Goodell apologized for the league`s past actions and said black lives matter.
RUHLE: Donald Trump warning the NFL commissioner on allowing players to kneel in protest to police brutality during the national anthem, writing: "They would be disrespecting the country and the flag."
President Trump questioning Roger Goodell after admitting he was wrong on the players who were protesting peacefully.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: We at the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.
We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.
We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Goodell did not mention Colin Kaepernick by name, who, of course, started the protest movement four years ago, and he has been out of a job since.
Now, if you take anything away from this hour, please let it be this. This issue became a national flash point with President Trump calling protesting players sons of bitches.
Mike Pence, if you remember, staged a walkout at a game where players did kneel, and the stunt cost taxpayers 325 grand.
But I want to explain to you how Colin Kaepernick even came up with the idea to kneel. He got it after he consulted with a former Green Beret who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and played for the Seahawks, a Green Beret who thought kneeling would be respectful.
He told Kaepernick about a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. kneeling in prayer and protest at Selma. He also remembered himself kneeling in Arlington in reverence for his fallen friends.
I want to bring in Donte Stallworth. He`s a former NFL player and an activist who was at the protest last Monday that was broken up by officials.
Donte, I want to start right there. Colin Kaepernick kneeling was never about trashing our military, our flag or our country. But the president warped the truth and created this divide.
And now here he is threatening Roger Goodell.
DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Yes. It is interesting to see.
And I think one of the biggest issues going into this is that that, what you just said, Stephanie, has been lost among the entire conversation for the last three years, right? No one -- everybody talks about kneeling is disrespectful and all this, but they don`t talk about where he got the idea, who suggested that to him, and whose leadership he sought out to actually come up with the way to become -- to not be seen as disrespectful.
But in this country, for far too many Americans, police brutality has been an abstract concept. And for far too many others, it has been a stark reality. And so players have known that. We have grown up in these communities. We have friends and families who has grown up in communities where police brutality is, unfortunately, the norm, or if they have experienced it firsthand at some point.
And for the president to come in and divide, make the culture war, and try to divide everyone -- but I think a lot of people did a good job of trying to get away from that issue, although the president has the executive branch behind him, where there`s a lot of other things he can do, where he went to other countries and spoke about this, in domestic policy.
But the players have fought forward. And I think, as I said back then, three years ago, that history will validate Colin Kaepernick. And I think it has. It has shown what we have all been discussing for the last three years.
It has shown the fruits of all of that boiling to the top, within concert with us dealing with the global pandemic, with coronavirus.
RUHLE: But three years ago and today, Roger Goodell, the league, the owners, they knew the meaning of taking a knee, and they didn`t stand with Kaepernick.
Today, write and journalist Jemele Hill says she doesn`t buy Goodell`s apology.
She said that: "The NFL is suddenly worried about black lives now. But when the league had the opportunity to be on the right side of history, it chose the coward`s path."
What is your reaction, given all this information?
STALLWORTH: Yes, I agree.
I think that they had an opportunity, but they instead chose to stand with the president of the United States against its own players, which is essentially three-quarters of the NFL. And I was glad to see the players come out and make those...
RUHLE: Then, do you believe them now?
STALLWORTH: You know what? Words are a good for a first start, but what kind of ally are you going to be?
Is it going to be a performative allyship? Or is it going to be standing in front of the NFL players, even using them as -- using yourself, the NFL brand, the NFL shield, as we call it, using the shield to shield the players away from the president of the United States?
That`s what the players should have had three years ago, and they didn`t get it from anyone in the NFL, except for the players.
RUHLE: Before we go, I do want to ask you about Bill Barr`s statement about what went on in Lafayette Park last week.
You were there. He said it was normal, that law enforcement`s response was responding to some violent outbreaks. Was that the case?
STALLWORTH: No, not at all. I was there.
There was -- a lot of journalists were there. There`s a lot of video of nothing happening before, people chanting, "Say his name," "George Floyd," people even chanting, "Take a knee" before they just came out. It was mostly the U.S. Park Service, where they came out, and they started swinging their shields and batons, and using chemical agents to disperse the crowd.
Actually, the video you`re showing right now, I`m literally to the left of that just out of view. I`m right there.
And all the reporters have said that they have used chemical agents, that they were swinging their shields and batons. It`s on camera. So I don`t know how you can refute that and that be OK and to stand with the American people. That`s -- to me, that is just absurd.
RUHLE: Well, Donte, the only thing you can do is keep telling the truth. Keep showing the pictures.
Donte, I appreciate you joining me this evening. I appreciate all that you do, Donte Stallworth. Thank you.
We`re going to be right back.
RUHLE: Finally, before we go, an important note for tomorrow.
George Floyd`s family will hold a private funeral service for him in his hometown of Houston. So, he will be laid to rest next to his mother. If you recall, he was calling out her name during his last breaths.
That does it for me this evening. I`m Stephanie Ruhle. I will see you again at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning and be right back here in the seat at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.
Keep it right here on MSNBC. I will see you tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END