ROBERT COSTA: Welcome to the Washington Week Extra. I’m Robert Costa.
This week, President Trump announced in a tweet that the Republican National Convention was forced to move from Charlotte. The president blamed North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. He claimed that Cooper is, quote, “still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised.” In a statement, the RNC confirmed that it is seeking a new location for the president’s acceptance speech, but much of the party’s official business will still likely take place in Charlotte. In the event the RNC does follow through and leaves the Tar Heel State, governors in states including Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee have all expressed interest in hosting the president.
FLORIDA GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R): (From video.) To just rule out a convention at this stage I think is a mistake, so we’ve said we want to get to yes on it and I think you’ll be able to do it.
MR. COSTA: This all comes as the coronavirus continues to plague the country. Cases and deaths in the U.S. continue to rise, with nearly 2 million cases and over 108,000 deaths nationwide.
Joining me right now to discuss more about the convention debate and continue that rich conversation we had on the broadcast are four of the nation’s best reporters. Jonathan Martin may not be with us at the moment, but he may join us from The New York Times, their top political reporter, campaign reporter. We are joined at the moment by Amna Nawaz, senior national correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; Paula Reid, White House correspondent for CBS News; Pierre Thomas, chief justice correspondent for ABC News.
We’ll get to the convention in a second, but Pierre, we’re talking about race in America and what’s next, and Amna was right no one likes to speculate, but do you see this conversation in America changing after watching that memorial for Mr. Floyd, after watching what happened this week on the streets of America?
PIERRE THOMAS: You know, it’s uncertain exactly how much change there will be, but I can tell you there’s a lot of people that took to the streets to make sure there is some change. I mean, if you look at these crowds that have fanned out across the nation, they’re overwhelmingly diverse, which was not something we necessarily saw throughout the civil rights movement in the ’60s, and I think you’re going to see a push for more reform. You have seen a lot of it already in recent years. The fact that more and more police officers wear body cameras now has increased the level of transparency. Also, I think you’re going to see a bigger push for more training, more specific training, more of an emphasis on police and community policing and that sort of thing. And also, I think you’re going to see more and more people push back against the notion of these kinds of chokehold tactics, if you will, as being unnecessary and too aggressive.
MR. COSTA: Amna, what’s on your radar in terms of reform? What should we be paying attention to? We didn’t have all the time in the broadcast to get into this, but you’ve been following this story so closely.
AMNA NAWAZ: Well, on the policing reform front I think some of the specific things have been sort of in the ether in the conversation for a while, right – the idea of a national standard for use of force rather than leaving it up to department by department and city by city; the idea of getting rid of no-knock warrants, right; bans on chokeholds and strangleholds. I mean, part of the problem in this is that the policies can be in place; it’s really the enforceability and the accountability on the backend. Let’s not forget after the death of Eric Garner New York banned those kinds of chokeholds, and yet still in the years since there have been dozens of complaints about exactly those kind of chokeholds being used by police officers with impunity. Those officers remain on the force. And so I think the accountability part is huge, but on the broader picture when it comes to reform there is this conversation we’re having right now about the fact that police officers in America are basically asked to kind of answer for all the social failures along the way. They have to act as social workers or act as catching sort of the failures of our – failures to invest in education or mental health or education and health care. And so how do you make sure that the resources in every city are allocated so that some of those problems are stopped well before it ever ends in up in the hands of law enforcement? These are all conversations that have been going on for quite some time. As we’ve said again and again, the size of these demonstrations, the diversity of these demonstrations shows us it’s not just about one issue; it’s about all of these issues cumulatively that have disproportionately affected black Americans for so many years, and this is the time to have that talk.
MR. COSTA: We are joined right now by Jonathan Martin. What a time we’re all living through. We’re in trucks outside of homes and on Skype and all of that. Jonathan, we are talking about the convention to open up this conversation.
JONATHAN MARTIN: Sure.
MR. COSTA: What does your reporting tell you about where this GOP convention actually ends up?
MR. MARTIN: Well, I think it’s pretty clear that they’re going to try to do some level of business in Charlotte, the actual nuts and bolts of the convention, but President Trump wants a packed house, Bob, and so – for his speech. So I think it’s got to be a state where you have a GOP governor, which is easy enough to find. Now, the challenge is also finding a venue in a locality that will allow that kind of a crowd indoors, and so that kind of narrows the list because a lot of these cities have Democratic mayors who are going to be uneasy about that. The one city I would keep an eye on, Jacksonville, Florida – crucial state, must-win state for President Trump. Jacksonville does have a GOP mayor, and the greater Jacksonville area the last few years has gotten a lot more competitive politically, so it wouldn’t be a bad place to be for President Trump.
MR. COSTA: Paula, what are you hearing inside of the White House about how this all plays out on the convention front?
PAULA REID: Well, the president wants normalcy. He wants your typical acceptance speech, nomination speech. He wants the pomp and circumstance. He want the confetti. He wants to signal to America that we are back in business and that he is the one who can continue to steer the economy back to better numbers. Today it was such a ray of hope for him because they were having to think about having to campaign on sort of a law and order platform.
But they feel that their real winning message is on the economy, is on economics, is selling President Trump as the one to get America back on track. And even though the current economic numbers are terrible – 13.3 percent unemployment, tens of millions of Americans unemployed – they believe that they have a successful campaign strategy to address those voters. And it helps to get a little bit of hope from numbers like today. But again, their goal is all about normalcy. They want to bring everything back to how it would have been pre-COVID.
MR. COSTA: Pierre, I’ve been dying to ask you all week about this correctional police force in Washington. How does this actually work? Many protesters are curious about where these people are coming from around the country, how they’re being called to Washington, where are they staying in Washington. Can you tell us anything in detail about how this is working operationally?
MR. THOMAS: Well, basically the attorney general and his office has been the engine for converging all these different forces. And the primary thing that he’s done is said to the FBI, he said to the U.S. marshals, he says to the Drug Enforcement Administration, even the Bureau of Prisons: I want you as parts of the Justice Department to come here and help keep the peace. And that’s what they’ve done. And you combine that with the fact that the president asked some of the governors to provide some National Guard support to him, the president also had some military police on standby, they did not come into the city.
And I must tell you, Bob, as I drove into the city tonight to do your show I was struck by the number of military vehicles I saw throughout the city. And it’s a fascinating question because, you know, can a police department – and the Washington Metropolitan Police deals with, along with the U.S. Park Police and other federal police agencies – huge crowds on the 4th of July. You know, in excess of 500,000. And they deal with those crowds pretty effectively. And they do things like having a bus or two across streets. They put up barriers to control the crowd and movement of vehicles. And effectively doing the same thing that these military vehicles are doing. And a lot of people are asking the question, why?
MR. COSTA: In terms of other people watching all this, Amna, you were formerly a foreign correspondent and you’ve traveled around the world as a reporter. How does the world see this, this moment in America?
MS. NAWAZ: You know, I’ve been talking to a bunch of my friends who are fellow former or current foreign correspondents. And we were thinking how we’d be covering this week in Washington as a foreign country. And the thing is, we have written this story dozens of times over in many of our years overseas, often in places where the president or whoever is in charge has some kind of direct control over the military or the law enforcement, in places where you wouldn’t necessarily call it a strong democracy. We never thought we’d be writing these stories here in the United States, certainly not in Washington, D.C.
And so I think you’ve seen from a number of leaders across the country already kind of recognizing that the U.S. no longer holds the place, certainly not the moral leadership, that it used to hold in the rest of the world. You’ve seen protests around the world too. People remembering the life of George Floyd and paying tribute to him. And you’ve seen foreign sports teams taking a knee in support of some of the movement and the demonstration here as well. This is something that the world is certainly watching. It’s not necessarily a story any of us here thought that we’d be writing.
MR. COSTA: Just to finish up here on politics, Paula, real quick, is it all about the economy now for the Trump campaign?
MS. REID: That’s certainly their hope. They’re hoping there will not be a resurgence of COVID, that there will swiftly be a vaccine, and that much of the unrest that we’ve seen will begin to calm down. But, yes, they are absolutely hoping that they continue to see positive economic numbers and they can focus on that in 2020, and not COVID, civil unrest, or a bad economy.
MR. COSTA: And, Jonathan, to finish us up here I’m going to ask you a tough one. I hope you can reveal a little bit. Who’s the front runner right now for VP for the Biden campaign?
MR. MARTIN: (Laughs.) I think the only person who knows that definitively is Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. But look, I think clearly Kamala Harris, among Democratic insiders, is seen as having the best shot at this moment. But we’re still at least a month away, probably a little bit more, Bob, till Biden decides. So it’s not totally clear who it’s going to be. I think the scale of the economic challenge and her experience with the economy gives Senator Warren, I think, a shot. And I think it’s also possible that, you know, Stacey Abrams will get a look too. But I think we’re still, eh, six weeks away from that, or so.
MR. COSTA: We’ll have to have you back six weeks from now, or sooner. (Laughter.) You’re always welcome, Jay Martin.
MR. MARTIN: Thanks, Bob.
MR. COSTA: Anyway, that’s it for this edition of the Extra. Thank you to Jonathan Martin, Amna Nawaz, Paula Reid, Pierre Thomas, for their time on this Friday night. And you can listen wherever you get your podcasts or watch on our website. While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter. It’s getting pretty good and you’ll get an advanced look at our show each week, a look at everyone’s reporting. I hope you check that out. It’s a good newsletter. We’re trying to build up our leadership and involve you more in this program and hear from you. Send us a note once in a while.
Anyway, for now have a great weekend. I’m Robert Costa, and we’ll see you next time.