Transcript: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on "Face the Nation," May 31, 2020

Atlanta mayor: Trump "making it worse," should "just stop talking"
Atlanta mayor: Trump "making it worse," shoul... 05:21

The following is a transcript of an interview with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms that aired Sunday, May 31, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Good morning to you. 

ATLANTA MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The National Guard is now in Atlanta. Has that quelled the violence that we saw Friday night when the CNN Center was attacked?

BOTTOMS: Last night was not as bad as Friday night. I think there were several reasons for that. Of one, many people just decided to- to heed my advice and stay home. Also, there were many more- much more support that we had for our officers last night with the National Guard. And we also had a curfew last night, a 9:00 p.m. curfew and so that helped tremendously.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And will that stay in place for the foreseeable future?

BOTTOMS: We will make that determination later today. You know, last night was a long line. It's been a long few days. So we will reassess today and make a determination soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something your police chief said at a press conference yesterday about some of the more violent actors that we saw on Friday. She said they were part of a highly calculated terrorist organization. Who are the groups that you think are behind this?

BOTTOMS: You know, I can't say who they are. I know that it was just- it was a very different protest than we are used to having in Atlanta. Obviously, we are the home of the civil rights movement. So we- we have a long history of protest in our city. But our organizers in Atlanta, many of whom don't agree with me quite often as mayor, were very clear that this, by and large, after things turned violent, was not an Atlanta-based protest. It looked differently racially in our city than our normal protests looked. And it was- it was just- it was a different group. So we don't know who they were, but many of them were not locally based. I'll say that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But when the Justice Department when the attorney general spoke, he said something about radical left. Do you have any indication of organized groups who are plotting in your city?

BOTTOMS: No, I don't. I don't. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. The president has issued a series of tweets in the past few days, as I'm sure you know, and he has said that liberal governors and mayors must get much tougher or the federal government will step in and do what has to be done and that includes using the unlimited power of our military and many arrests. Have you heard from the White House? Do you know what they're asking you to do?

BOTTOMS: No, I don't know. And this is so reminiscent of Charlottesville when President Trump just made it worse. And there are times that you should just stop. And this is- this is one of those times. He's making it worse. This is not about using military force. This is about where we are in America. We are beyond a tipping point in this country. And his rhetoric only inflames that. And he should just sometimes stop talking.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In Georgia, you recently saw the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black man who was shot by two white men. You called it an on camera lynching. The president has said the video, he watched it, it was disturbing. The Justice Department is investigating it as a civil rights crime. Do you have faith that the Justice Department will see this through?

BOTTOMS: I don't have faith in this Justice Department, but I do have faith in America as a whole. So it is my hope that between the Justice Department, between the state of Georgia, that there will be appropriate charges that will be brought, that will be prosecuted and that there will be a conviction. And so, you know, I don't have faith in this Justice Department, but if this Justice Department does what it was created to do, then justice will be served. But we also have the backstop of the state of Georgia and the charges that can be brought here as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't have faith in the Justice Department. What is your- what is your message then to your- to the people of Atlanta who- who also don't have faith, who are also very frustrated and want to go out still and protest? Since there has been this eruption of violence, should they still be on the streets?

BOTTOMS: Well, I think that there is a place in America for peaceful protest, and we know that peaceful protests have had a history of changing things in this country. But it has to be organized and it has to be for a purpose. And when you have violent eruptions like we've seen across America, then we lose sight of even what we are talking about. Yesterday, all we talked about was how our cities were erupting across America, but we weren't even talking about George Floyd and so many others who have been killed in this country. So that's my concern about what happens when we get lost in the violence. We- we've got to be more organized in the same way that we were during the civil rights movement and many other challenges that we faced in this country. I understand the frustration. The frustration is real and the anger is warranted. But the violent eruptions won't offer us any solutions right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mayor Bottoms, thank you for your time. Good luck to you.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.