Republican response: Sen. Tim Scott says ‘the President and his party are pulling us further and further apart’
“President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership,” Scott said in his remarks. “He promised to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans no matter how we voted.”
While rebuttals typically offer the opposing party a chance to critique the President’s message, Scott’s speech directly called out Biden and his party, as the Republican senator touched on a wide range of issues, offering up praise for the Trump administration and slamming Democrats as divisive.
“Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes,” he said. “We need policies and progress that bring us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the President and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, was selected by his party’s leadership to deliver their response, giving him a prominent national platform to speak to the country and the opportunity to draw a contrast between the GOP and Biden’s agenda.
‘America is not a racist country’
Scott waded into an array of hot-button policy debates and issues, including infrastructure, voting rights, policing reform and racism and discrimination, saying at one point that “America is not a racist country.”
“Republicans support making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Scott said.
Scott used his remarks to speak in deeply personal terms during the speech, saying, “I have experienced the pain of discrimination,” though he cited his experience as a critique of left-leaning politics.
“I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the N-word — by progressives, by liberals,” he said, “Believe me, I know firsthand our healing is not finished.”
In his remarks, Scott criticized higher education institutions as well as businesses for “doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal” and profiting off of racial politics.
“From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all,” he said.
Later he added, “You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.”
Scott credits Trump administration for vaccines and slams Biden infrastructure agenda
Scott credited the Trump administration with the development of effective vaccines to address Covid-19 and cited school closures during the pandemic as a key issue.
“The coronavirus is on the run. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding,” he said. “So why do we feel so divided and anxious?”
He criticized school closures, a hot-button issue amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future,” he said. “Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe.”
Scott also slammed Biden’s sweeping infrastructure push, saying that Republicans are ready and willing to work to advance traditional infrastructure priorities, but that Democrats “won’t even build bridges to build bridges” and instead are trying to jam through a liberal wish list of unrelated agenda items.
Scott at the center of policing overhaul talks
The Republican rebuttal comes as Scott has been seen as a key negotiator on Capitol Hill, known for working across the aisle and being praised by Democrats.
Scott has served in the Senate since 2013 and previously served in the House of Representatives representing his state’s 1st Congressional District.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, he drafted legislation aimed at overhauling policing, an effort that ultimately failed on the Senate floor. Now he’s at the center of a new bipartisan effort.
Scott’s discussions over a bipartisan Senate bill overhauling policing with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, the author of the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, have intensified in recent weeks.
Their goal remains crafting a compromise bill, according to a source familiar with the talks.
During his speech Wednesday, Scott said, “In 2015, after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year, after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal. But my Democratic colleagues blocked it.”
“I extended an olive branch. I offered amendments. But Democrats used the filibuster to block the debate from even happening. My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution,” he lamented.
“But I’m still working. I’m hopeful that this will be different,” he said.
A new political environment in a non-election year and an increasing sense of urgency spurred by a number of police shooting deaths across the country have given this effort a better chance of bipartisan success. But key sticking points remain — a challenge that will put the ability of the lead negotiators to forge compromise to the test.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Daniel Dale, Diane Gallagher and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.
The secrets of Profitable Organization Signs
business signage led fashion
The achievements this business is extremely influenced by the signage. Ideal company signs results in a beautiful and beneficial picture of the business while watching men and women. Intending to attain a far more considerable basic of human population, business signs is vital.
Whether it be a well established company or even a start-up, the need for both is equally important for business signage. But there are some techniques for designing productive organization signage. Allow us to take a look at them:
●Legible letters which are not only obvious from a extended distance but they are attractive at the same time.
●A cautious check from the business signage is essential. One particular error may cost you badly.
●There is no principle like one best installation but numerous suitable installations. Look at your business signs need and installing place based upon visibility.
●A powerful message and beautiful signs that requirements low upkeep is the key.
●Keep your small business signs appealing yet uncomplicated and unforgettable.
Are you currently wanting to know what we must provide you? Certainly, we offer the finest business signs working on each and every secret to help you become along with your enterprise out of your audience. With technologically sophisticated equipment and specific slicing, this site offers an effortless accomplish and class that looks appealing and elegant.
Minimalism is vital, therefore we surely understand this. The company signs with straightforward installation and reduced upkeep requirements is our unique marketing position.
So, make a decision your business signage sizing, choose the colour, pick letter design and style, and obtain the best signage that matches your preferences most effectively. Consider getting your customized and tailored organization signs these days and make preparations to attract a whole new client base.
But unlike other high-profile incidents across the country, officials in Columbus released clips of both shootings within a day and, in the most recent case, within hours. They followed that up with more body camera footage later.
Since the rise of body cams, police departments across the country have grappled with whether and how to release videos of violent incidents involving officers and the people they’ve shot or killed. Mayors sometimes want to get the footage out to mollify protesters, police chiefs can use the clips to defend their officers, and prosecutors are left worrying about tainting the jury pool. In some places, local officials may not have a choice because state law prevents or spells out how it can be released.
Official videos of fatal police encounters are coming out faster than ever, adding clarity to tense situations where rumors can thrive and disinformation flourishes online.
In Ma’Khia’s case, the first video to emerge showed her still legs and rainbow-colored Crocs while an officer stood nearby. There was no sign of the apparent knife she was wielding when the officer opened fire — that was first publicly revealed in the body cam clips released that night.
“There were a lot of things being said and shared out in the community that may or may not have been consistent with what we’ve seen with our own eyes here,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said about releasing the tapes at a Wednesday press conference. “And I think, critically, during a time of crisis, it’s very important to be as transparent and responsive as possible.”
“It wasn’t just social media, it was regular (media) as well. What we knew was that — residents, our black community in particular, basically has been holding their breath for a year on this verdict and barely had an opportunity to exhale before this tragedy,” said Robin Davis, a spokeswoman for the city of Columbus. “So, it was extremely important we get the information out as soon as we could. To be able to respond as quickly as possible. That’s always, always how we want to be able to do this.”
The press for transparency after an incident is driven, in large part, by social media and online influencers weighing in on evidence of shootings surfaced by bystanders or witnesses and media interest in cases that garner that attention.
At the time Ma’Khia’s on camera swinging toward the second woman, she’s holding what appears to be a knife in her right hand. Reardon fires his first shot five seconds after Ma’Khia first appears to be fighting, seemingly when Ma’Khia raises her right arm toward the second woman, who Ma’Khia has pinned against a car.
Ginther said the video was released “because the public deserves to know what happens. They needed to have this footage … to have this information, to have this transparency, to have this power, given to the community. So, it’s no longer about an officer’s word versus a resident’s word or different neighbors’ takes on things, but we have this footage. And we know that having this footage increases accountability on both sides of a camera.”
‘Be prepared to get that video out’
The moments after an officer shoots someone is chaotic. Depending on bystander video and because of the ease of sharing video on social media, the call for release of the video can become public before officers are finished hanging tape around the scene.
Mayors, police chiefs, police unions, prosecutors, attorneys for families of those shot by police, and activists all have separate and often competing interests in weighing whether to release or advocate for the release of video. The release by a mayor or police department may be an attempt to correct rumors or speculation on social media or to mollify protesters, or an attorney may seek the video’s release if they suspect wrongdoing or that the video would be helpful to an eventual lawsuit.
Just the act of affixing a body-worn camera to a police uniform is telling the public that what police do is a matter of public record, said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a research organization whose goal is to “advance professionalism in policing.”
“If (departments) adopt body worn camera videos, they need to be prepared to get that video out as soon as possible because the expectation is: ‘Well, you gave them the cameras, what’s your timeframe for getting it out?'” Wexler said.
Wexler said there could be some compelling reason for holding off, but “by and large I think departments are better off getting the video out as quickly as possible.”
In Columbus, he said the department did two things right: released the body camera quickly and “showed compassion,” adding that a big part of public trust and how events play out comes down to “how these stories are told in the first days.”
David LaBahn, president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said prosecutors would prefer police not release videos until it’s gone through some agreed-upon process and authorities can decide whether a shooting was lawful. That process is different depending on the jurisdiction. In some places, an outside law enforcement agency handles the investigation; in some cases a charging decision is made by prosecutors or a grand jury.
There’s no category of crime where police officials routinely release evidence of a potential crime prior to a police department, prosecutor, or grand jury choosing whether to file charges, LaBahn said. But in his perfect world, after a determination is made on the shooting, prosecutors would either file video evidence as a public record in court or could release the material if a decision was made to not file charges.
“In that way, everyone would get to see everything. It’s just a matter of when,” he said. “But we don’t live in a perfect world, we’re in a 24/7 media cycle, and not just police but other people taking pictures of something. It becomes quick response model … and that’s where we’re at with the question of law enforcement agencies, do they even want to go to the area of creating a policy. And if they did, what would it say.”
“I have responded to many officer-involved shooting scenes and spoken with many officers following these critical incidents,” the city’s report stated. “There was something very distinct about the officers’ engagement following this critical incident that is difficult to describe for this letter.”
A grand jury indicted Coy and he pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. He was charged with murder during a felony, felonious assault, and two counts of dereliction of duty. Coy pleaded not guilty and a judge initially set bond at $3 million. Bond was later reduced.
After Reardon shot Ma’Khia on Tuesday, the mayor of Columbus and other officials gathered to discuss a way to get video out as quickly as possible, said Davis, the Columbus spokeswoman.
“The discussions were about being as transparent as we could with the public,” Davis said. “We don’t rush every bit of body-worn camera footage we have. But we aren’t looking at if this is going to reflect poorly on us, that’s not a concern. How quickly we got out the Andre Hill footage speaks to that. That was not something that reflected well on the Columbus Division of Police and there was no hesitancy to get it out.”
Not all cities are the same
Police in at least three other cities across America have found themselves dealing with intense media and public pressure to release videos of officers killing people.
The city agency that investigates shootings released the footage more than two weeks later, after family had a chance to see it, and then the police department released an edited compilation of videos.
“Our special agents are working this investigation as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. We understand the need for transparency and will release what information we can when we’re able to release it,” a statement from the State Bureau of Investigation stated Thursday. “As for the release of any body camera video, it is not the SBI’s decision as to when and how body camera video is released. In North Carolina, body-worn video shall only be released pursuant to a court order.”
LaBahn, of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said the best practice would be to either always release videos, or never release videos. But only releasing them if the shooting’s thought to be lawful would likely lead to community unrest if videos are then withheld in cases where it’s less clear. In either case, releasing videos has the potential to taint juries and lead to a venue change where people from that city won’t be able to serve on either a grand jury or as a juror in a criminal trial.
“In the light of everything going on, they were … mayors, and the public interest in their department using force versus an accused’s right to a fair trial … those are two things you’re balancing,” LaBahn said. “If an agency gets into habit of releasing, releasing real quickly what they believe to be lawful shoots, lawful uses of force, and have another incident and they don’t release, that’s going to have (the media) and the community realizing something’s wrong with case.”
While there have been a flurry of efforts at local levels, the usual outcome at moments like this is political paralysis as Washington — where national polarization is institutionalized — fails to produce even marginal reforms to law enforcement or gun safety.
The question now is whether a nation that has lost more than 560,000 people in a pandemic, which disproportionately affected minorities, is willing to accept a return to its old normal. Events of recent days suggest that there is no end in sight to a grim cellphone video showreel of Americans of color dying at police hands and regular mass killings.
Jurors in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minnesota cop who left his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds while he died last May, will hear closing arguments on Monday before retiring for their deliberations.
But that has not stopped the trial from being seen in the United States and around the world as a watershed moment that will highlight unfairness in how the American law enforcement system treats Black and minority Americans.
Given the deeply disturbing footage repeatedly aired at the trial of Floyd’s agonizing last moments, the need for unanimity among the jury, and the high profile of the trial, there is concern about what could follow not guilty verdicts.
Verdict is only the first step
If Chauvin is convicted, the sentencing phase of the trial will also be crucial, Bass said. “The verdict is step one, but what we’ve seen in too many of these cases, in the rare time there is a guilty verdict, we have seen people get off with minimal sentences,” added Bass, the sponsor of the Democratic police reform bill named for Floyd.
Her comments were an example of the extraordinary political pressure surrounding the trial in Minneapolis, from which the jury will be insulated by being sequestered for as long as it takes to complete their deliberations.
The idea that the case, which stirred massive nationwide and global activism after Floyd died last year, would prove in itself to be a change agent has been belied by a stream of recent police killings and harassment of Americans of color.
Still, despite the continuing violence, some activists see the Chauvin trial as a highly consequential moment.
“The outcome that we pray for in (the) Derek Chauvin trial is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd because we believe that could be a precedence of finally making America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Sunday.
“We have to finally have this racial reckoning, America, because if we don’t, then people are going to continue to have these emotional protests,” Crump, who acts for Floyd’s family, said on ABC’s “This Week.”‘
Whatever the outcome of the trial, it will be up to America’s political leaders to determine what level of action is required to tackle a culture of impunity that reinforces discriminatory and even lawless behavior in police dealings with minorities.
The realities of a deadlocked Senate
But like most other issues before the Senate, the package faces an uncertain future in a 50-50 chamber amidst a tense political atmosphere that is prone to demagoguery from radicals on both sides of the political aisle.
Republicans, for instance, have seized on demands by a minority of left-wing Democrats to defund and dismantle police departments, to portray the entire bill as a passport to eliminating policing entirely. That’s a position that even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he disagrees with.
But those attacks, portraying the bill as part of an extreme liberal crusade, put moderate Democrats, like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — a crucial vote in the caucus — in an uncomfortable position. Other Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to object to the bill by arguing that it imposes unworkable and undesirable federal solutions on local jurisdictions.
It is also unclear how much political capital President Joe Biden will invest in the effort, given his personal political priorities including infrastructure, a desire not to alienate moderate Republican voters he has courted and given his historic kinship with police unions. Still, Biden is under intense pressure on the issue given that his victory in the Democratic primary was largely based on the support of African American voters — who were also critical constituencies in big cities in the swing states like Georgia and Pennsylvania that handed him the White House.
Bass, however, said on “State of the Union” that she was hopeful common ground could be forged in the Senate, especially under the leadership of South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott.
“I believe that the Republicans that I am working with are operating in good faith,” Bass said. “Again, it’s one thing to pass legislation in the House. It’s a super hurdle to get it passed in the Senate.”
The mass shootings just go on and on
The weekend brought no respite from the firearms deaths.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, who is most identified with the fight against Covid-19, bemoaned the incessant loss of life from gun crimes during an appearance on “State of the Union.”
“I mean, in this last month it’s just been horrifying what’s happened,” Fauci told Bash when asked whether gun violence was a public health emergency. “How can you say that’s not a public health issue?”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that he planned to bring legislation to the Senate floor to address the “epidemic” of gun violence. Given that there is little sign that the political dynamics of gun control have shifted, Schumer’s efforts seem most likely to amount to symbolism.
Republicans have little political incentive to cooperate with Democrats given the antipathy to any form of firearms restrictions among grassroots conservatives persuaded by GOP arguments that any restrictions are unconstitutional. But there is often less attention on the freedoms to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness denied the multiple victims of mass shootings.
For example, when Biden recently used executive power to enforce some modest measures, including limiting self-assembled or handmade firearms made from directions and materials available online, he was falsely accused by former President Donald Trump — still the most powerful voice in the GOP — of seeking to overturn the Second Amendment.
Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have been seeking Republican votes for a set of limited reforms to background checks and restricting gun sales to the mentally ill.
But Republicans argue that Democrats use mass shootings as an excuse to take away guns from law-abiding Americans who need weapons to defend themselves in such situations.
So the chance of any serious gun control measures reaching the threshold of 60 votes in the Senate to overcome Republican blocking tactics remains slim. Hopes for police reform could dissolve for the same reason, rooted in the entrenched politics of an internally estranged country.
Daunte Wright shooting: Protesters and police clash for a third night in a Minneapolis suburb as prosecutors weigh charges against officer
“I hope to have a charging decision by tomorrow,” Orput said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “I just received voluminous documents and with enough coffee I’ll have something tomorrow.”
Wright’s death during a traffic stop Sunday, which then Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said appeared to be the result of Potter mistaking her gun for her Taser had sparked widespread anger.
Protests, some violent, have taken place each night while related developments have occurred in quick succession, including the release of body camera footage on Monday and the resignation of Potter and Gannon by Tuesday.
The third day of protest began peacefully, but by Tuesday evening, there was chaos around the Brooklyn Center police station. Officers used pepper spray and fired flash bombs at protesters, who hurled water bottles and other projectiles at officers in riot gear.
Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol Matt Langer said the unified command in Brooklyn Center made “upwards of 60 arrests” Tuesday night, many of which were for “riot and other criminal behaviors.”
Speaking at the same late-night news conference, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said there was recognition of the pain suffered in the community on Sunday night. “The person [Kim Potter] is no longer a police officer, and they’ll be held accountable for their actions,” he said. “But we can’t have people hurting our communities, we can’t have people hurting the men and women who are paid to protect them.”
Protesters were also seen scaling a fence outside of the FBI office, holding a banner reading “Justice for Daunte Wright.” Members of the National Guard were on the ground in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
By the time the city’s 10 p.m. curfew went into effect, the once hundreds of protesters had dwindled to a few dozen. With officers and police vehicles forming a line across front yards and the street blocking the police precinct, those remaining draped themselves in blankets and lit a small garbage fire in the falling snow.
On the street where protesters were once shoulder to shoulder, the few remaining chanted: “Say his name Daunte Wright,” and “I smell bacon, fry the pig.”
Two families come together in tragedy
Floyd’s family left the courthouse during Chauvin’s trial Tuesday “because they thought it was important that they give comfort to Daunte Wright’s mother” and family, attorney Ben Crump said at a news conference with the two families.
“We will stand in support with you. … The world is traumatized, watching another African American man being slayed,” said Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd. “I woke up in the morning with this on my mind. I don’t want to see another victim.”
The losses of both Wright and Floyd were acknowledged in Tuesday’s protests. Demonstrators knelt for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, to symbolize the amount of time authorities say Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
And just as the Floyd family did last year, the Wright family is looking for more answers surrounding their loved one’s death.
One of the family’s attorneys, Jeffrey Storms, told CNN that Gannon’s explanation — that the shooting appeared to be an accident — “is by no means proper or enough.”
“There were a number of intentional events that led to (Daunte Wright) being dead, and we need to find out exactly why each one of those intentional events happened,” Storms said.
“Grabbing your sidearm that you’ve likely deployed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of times is an intentional act,” Storms said. “A sidearm feels different than a Taser. It looks different than a Taser. (It) requires different pressure in order to deploy it.”
Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC on Tuesday that he couldn’t accept Gannon’s explanation that Sunday’s shooting was accidental.
“I can’t accept that — a mistake. That doesn’t even sound right,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He cited the officer’s length of service — authorities said she’d been with Brooklyn Center police for 26 years.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said she wanted to see the officer “held accountable for everything that she’s taken from us.”
“It should have never, ever escalated the way it did,” Katie Wright told ABC.
What happened in the traffic stop that ended Wright’s life
Wright was with his girlfriend Sunday afternoon, driving to the house of his older brother, Damik Bryant.
Officers pulled him over in Brooklyn Center for an expired tag and learned he had an outstanding warrant, police said.
It was not immediately clear what the warrant was for.
Wright gave officers his name before calling his mother, Bryant said.
“They asked him to step out the car, and you know his first instinct was, ‘What did I do, what’s wrong?’ And they were like, ‘Well, put the phone down, get out the car now, we’ll talk to you about it when you get out,'” Bryant said.
“So, I heard the phone get either put on the dashboard or dropped, and I heard scuffling, and I heard the police officers say, ‘Daunte, don’t run.’ And then the other officer said, ‘Put the phone down'” before it sounded like the phone was hung up, she said.
Body camera footage released Monday shows Wright standing outside his vehicle with his arms behind his back and an officer directly behind him, trying to handcuff him. An officer tells Wright “don’t,” before Wright twists away and gets back into the driver’s seat of the car.
Gannon said Monday it appeared from the video that Wright was trying to leave.
The officer whose camera footage was released is heard warning the man she’s going to use her Taser on him, before repeatedly shouting, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Then, the officer is heard screaming, “Holy sh*t! I just shot him.”
The car’s door closes, and Wright drives away. The car crashed several blocks away, police said. Police and medical personnel attempted life-saving measures following the crash, but Wright died at the scene, Gannon said.
CNN’s Amir Vera, Jason Hanna, Adrienne Broaddus, Carma Hassan, Keith Allen, Hollie SIlverman, Peter Nickeas, Holly Yan, Jessica Schneider, Jessica Jordan, Christina Carrega, David Close, Shawn Nottingham and Brad Parks contributed to this report.
During an hour-long conversation with CNN, the military spokesperson was steadfast in upholding the junta’s official narrative: that the generals are merely “safeguarding” the country while they investigate a “fraudulent” election. The bloodshed on the streets that has killed at least 600 people is the fault of “riotous” protesters, he said.
The interview took place during a week-long press tour of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, and Naypyidaw from March 31 to April 6. Prior to the trip, the military assured CNN it would be able to report independently and be given freedom of movement, but the journalists’ request to stay in a Yangon hotel was denied and the team instead were housed in a walled military compound, given only intermittent and heavily controlled access to the public.
CNN was provided with military interpreters, but conducted its own translations afterward.
The back story
Hours after commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces Gen. Min Aung Hlaing ordered his troops to seize the capital before dawn on February 1, he announced on television that a state of emergency would be in place for one year, after which elections would be held. His takeover came as newly-elected lawmakers were due to take their places on the opening day of parliament.
The state of emergency caused all legislative, executive, and judicial power to be transferred to Min Aung Hlaing.
Zaw Min Tun said the state of emergency could be extended for an additional “six months or more” over “two terms” and “if the duties are not done yet.” He did not give a firm date for when elections would be held, but said that according to the 2008 military-drafted constitution, “we have to finish everything within two years. We have to hold a free and fair election within these two years.”
“We promise that we will make it happen,” he said.
Many observers have questioned whether the military, which ruled Myanmar for half a century between 1962 and 2011, would be willing to relinquish power again, whether elections would indeed be “free and fair” — and whether ousted leader Suu Kyi and her popular party the National League for Democracy (NLD) would be allowed to contest.
Zaw Min Tun pointed to a string of reforms the quasi-civilian government embarked upon in 2011 after the military gave up direct rule, which paved the way for the 2015 elections, in which Suu Kyi won a resounding victory. “If we didn’t want her from the beginning there would be no process like this,” he said.
However, the 2008 constitution was designed so the military would retain power despite a civilian government. It allocated the military a quarter of seats in parliament, giving it effective veto power over constitutional amendments, and the generals kept control of three powerful ministries — defense, border and home affairs.
“What happened is because of the corruptions on national level and errors on state level procedures and we are accusing on the facts,” Zaw Min Tun said. “Daw Aung San Su Kyi is a well-known person both in Myanmar and the world and we will not accuse that person without any reason.”
But slapping perceived opponents with charges under vaguely-worded colonial-era laws has been a well-used tool by the military throughout its rule, and during the reform period. The charges against Suu Kyi have been described as “trumped up” by her lawyer, who called the bribery accusations a “complete fabrication.”
To justify the coup, the junta has alleged widespread election fraud in the November vote that would have given the NLD a second term and a mandate to continue its reform agenda, which included attempts to amend the constitution to limit the military’s power. Zaw Min Tun said the military had tried to negotiate with the NLD government but “no action was taken.”
Zaw Min Tun said the junta had “solid evidence” the elections were fraudulent, but did not show any to CNN.
“The voting fraud we found in the election is 10.4 million, the number of eligible votes announced by the Election Commission was around 39.5 million and the voting fraud is a quarter of the vote,” he said.
The election commission denied there was mass voter fraud and independent election monitors said there were no substantial problems that would be enough to overturn the result. Suu Kyi won with 83% of the vote.
Bloodshed on the streets
It is evident from the interview that Myanmar’s military leaders want the world to believe they are acting in line with the country’s laws and constitution, and say they are committed to building a “multi-party democratic county.”
On Wednesday, a special envoy of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government to the UN warned of a civil war if the world fails to stop the junta from seizing power and killing pro-democracy protesters.
“The bloodbath is real. It is coming, more people will die. I am afraid,” Dr. Sasa said on CNN. “It is the time for the world to prevent another genocide, another ethnic cleansing, another massacre, so the world has the power to stop it before it’s too late.”
Zaw Min Tun blamed the violence on protesters “provoking” the crowd and said security forces cracked down because protesters “blocked the civil servants” from going to work.
In reality, thousands of civil servants, as well as white- and blue-collar workers, including medics, bankers, lawyers, teachers, engineers and factory workers, left their jobs as a form of resistance against the coup. The strikes, called the Civil Disobedience Movement, have disrupted sectors of the economy.
“The crowds were throwing stones and slingshots at them in the beginning but later the crowd are blocking with sand bags, shooting with handmade guns, throwing with fire, throwing with molotov (cocktails) and the security forces have to use the weapons for the riot,” Zaw Min Tun said.
Asked whether he was seriously comparing slingshots to assault rifles, Zaw Min Tun said the security forces were using “minimum force.”
“There will be deaths when they are cracking down (on) the riots, but we are not shooting around without discipline,” he said.
According to the military, the death toll at the time of the interview was 248 people, including 10 police officers and six soldiers, he said — less than half the toll documented by multiple human rights groups, which have repeatedly said security forces are violating international humanitarian law by shooting indiscriminately into crowds of peaceful protesters.
The killing of children
When asked about three teenagers who have died at the hands of security forces — Kyaw Min Latt, 17, Htoo Myat Win, 13, and Tun Tun Aung, 14, — the military spokesperson blamed protesters for “using” children on the front lines.
“In some places they provoke the children to participate in violence riots … Because of that they may get hit when the security forces were cracking down (on) the crowds,” he said. “There is no reason we will shoot the children, this is only the terrorists are trying to make us look bad.”
He said it was “not possible” that a child would be shot inside their house and an investigation would be carried out if that was the case. Videos posted on social media corroborate that security forces have shot at houses.
Htoo Myat Win’s father said his son was shot when several bullets smashed a glass window in his house in Shwebo city on March 27. “I dodged the bullet but my son was coming up to the glass window and got hit,” he said, adding that his son was hit in the chest. “I don’t understand why they have to shoot us when we were inside our house.”
“They were shooting at protesters before and the protesters were running and we hid some of them because we worried that they might get arrested. They (army) must have positioned themselves in this neighborhood,” he said.
Video widely circulated online showed Htoo Myat Win’s distraught father screaming with grief in the back of a taxi as he rushed to his son’s lifeless body for help. Forced to go to a military hospital, Htoo Myat Win’s father said doctors there did an autopsy and told him to sign a document stating there was no bullet.
“I asked them my son die with a bullet wound why you want to say it is not from a bullet?” he said.
In another incident, a military hospital claimed Kyaw Min Latt died after falling off his motorbike in Dawei city. CCTV footage, however, captured the moment a soldier standing on the back of a truck shot at the teenager as he rode with two others, who managed to run away. His mother verified the footage to CNN.
“The doctor told us that my son is suffering from the injuries of fall from motorbike, we couldn’t say back anything except just kept say yes to everything,” his mother Daw Mon Mon Oo said. She said X-rays of her son’s body conducted at a second hospital were taken away by officials from the military-run hospital.
His death certificate, seen by CNN, states Kyaw Min Latt died on March 30 because of “the primary brain injury due to the fall from cycle (motorcycle).”
When his family were able to take his body home, his mother said “there was no injury from the fall of the bike but only when there the bullet went in and out, and bruised on his right eye.”s
Pressed by CNN about the allegations from families of soldiers shooting into houses and of the military attempting to cover up the causes of deaths, spokesperson Zaw Min Tun demanded CNN show him evidence. “If that kind of thing occurred, we will have investigation for it,” he said. “There may be some videos which look suspicious but for our forces, we don’t have any intention to shoot at innocent people.”
It is unclear whether the military has launched any internal investigations into repeated claims of extrajudicial killings.
Zaw Min Tun confirmed security forces detained three people from the first market and eight others at a second after interacting with the team on the ground. When asked by CNN what crime they had committed, he said they hadn’t broken the law.
“The security forces were worried they would provoke others and start the protest in the market, and that is why they got arrested,” he said, adding the military expressed “regret” over the arrests.
CNN has since learned those eight are now in hiding, fearing rearrest.
However, while Zaw Min Tun insisted elections would be held in the future, he warned the military’s version of democracy would perhaps not be a Western-style liberal system.
“The democratic country we are building is the one suitable with our history and geography. The standard of democracy in Myanmar will not be the same as from Western counties,” he said.
Having grown up with a level of democracy, and political and economic freedoms their parents and grandparents didn’t have, Myanmar’s young people leading the resistance movement remain determined to fight for what they see as their future — and they say they will not give up.
CNN’s Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong.
There are two key things the US can do to prevent more infections, more hospitalizations and more deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.
“A, you keep pushing down and doubling down on public health measures and B, you do whatever you can to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible,” he said on Saturday.
That’s why experts urge continued safety measures for now.
“We say it over and over again and we need the local people, we need the governors and the mayors and others to be able to say, we’re not out of it yet,” Fauci said. “People say, ‘Well you just want to confine us forever.’ No, this is not going to last forever because every day that you get four million, three million people vaccinated, you get closer and closer to control.”
“What we’re saying is double down, just hang in there a bit longer,” Fauci added, “And the vaccine, and the vaccinations of people in this country are going to override the surge of the virus. There’s no doubt the vaccine is going to win out.”
States sounding the alarm
Already, officials across several states have reporting alarming data.
“These are much more contagious and we’re seeing that whether it is at youth sports or it is the reengagement of some of our restaurants,” Whitmer said.
And variant activity is also on the rise, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the chief medical officer at the Ohio Department of Health, said.
“Ohio remains in a race against a virus that is now more contagious and right back on our heels,” Vanderhoff said. “We can win this race as long as we don’t falter; as long as we press on with consistent masking and vaccination.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also expressed concern Friday over the state’s latest case and hospitalization numbers.
Vermont officials said Friday they were worried the rise in Covid-19 cases that their state is experiencing could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.
“My optimism is for the future, and the future is very near. But when it comes to the present, frankly, I am very concerned,” Dr. Mark Levine, the state health commissioner, said.
The role vaccinations will play
Experts and state leaders have highlighted that Covid-19 vaccinations will be the country’s quickest way toward a return to normalcy.
Fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, but travel is still not recommended currently while the US sees rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.
Meanwhile, different parts of the country are navigating the role that vaccinations will play in the return to normalcy.
The governor cited freedom and privacy concerns as the primary basis for that action and argued that the implementation and enforcement of vaccine passports would “create two classes of citizens based on vaccinations.”
“Individual Covid-19 vaccination records are private health information and should not be shared by a mandate,” the order reads.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Sahar Akbarzai, Anjali Huynh and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.