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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

6 House Dems Say Biden Should Leave Race; Defiant Biden Says He's "Committed"; Parkinson's Expert Visited White House 8 Times In 8 Months; Tonight: Biden Meets Virtually With Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Discusses About The Congressional Black Caucus Meeting With President Joe Biden; Rep. Mike Quigley (D- IL) Calling On President Joe Biden To Step Aside; WI Voters Weigh In On Biden's Campaign After His Poor Debate Performance; RNC Panel Approves New Trump-Backed Platform Softening Abortion And Same-Sex Marriage Language; Beryl Floods Parts Of Texas; Millions Left Without Power. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 20:00   ET



MIKE BOYLAN, STORM CHASER: Actually June, right? It started out in June and no, we, you know, we have friends that were down in the Caymans going to Jamaica, had no idea this was even coming. They canceled their plans because - I was talking to one of them and he's like, you're kidding me, right?

So this is not normal for this time of year and it's very unheard of. So we're going to have a busy season ahead, I'm afraid.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. Well, Mike, I appreciate your time and thank you very much for sharing this with us. And thanks so much to all of you for being with us tonight. We'll see you back here tomorrow, AC360 begins right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, President Biden says he's not going anywhere as another Democratic congressman says he should quit the race.

Also tonight, new reporting that an expert on Parkinson's disease made eight visits in eight months. The White House exactly why, unclear.

And we're joined by two Democratic lawmakers on opposite sides of the question, should President Biden bow out, including Bennie Thompson, a critical member of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting with the President this evening.

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

When Congressman Thompson joins us, we'll learn how that meeting with the CBC went. Today began what could be a decisive week for President Biden's viability as a candidate. He's defiant and determined to run, but it's hard to say his week began especially well. Democratic lawmakers returning to Washington from the holiday recess were greeted this morning by this from him.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line here is that we're not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere.

I don't think I should run - run against me. Go ahead, announce the president. Challenge me at the convention.


COOPER: That's part of the message Democrats heard this morning. They also heard this as the President struggled to do what he's been trying to do for the last 11 days, put the debate behind him.


BIDEN: Look at my career. I've not had many of those nights. It was a terrible night and I really regret it happened. But the fact of the matter is, how can you assure you're going to be on, you know, faith backing interview on your way to go to work tomorrow? Age wasn't, you know, the idea that I'm too old.


COOPER: Those first three sentences made sense. The last two did not. Now for any wavering Democrats, that's not reassuring nor was reporting over the weekend that his staffers are now scripting out his appearances in large print handbooks with point of view photos, mapping out his every step to the podium nor were moments during his taped interview on ABC Friday night, like this one, after being asked how he would feel if he stays in the race and loses.


BIDEN: I feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do. That's what this is about.


COOPER: Well, late today, a sixth Democratic House member called for the President to leave the race. And this time it was a member of the leadership, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith.


REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Our constituents are bringing it up. The country is bringing it up. And the White House - sorry - campaign strategy of be quiet and fall in line and let's ignore it simply isn't working right now. Elections are a choice. And in this field, even in the current situation, Joe Biden, far and away the best candidate. But I know in my heart, and my soul and my brain that we can do better and I know what the stakes are.


COOPER: On the Senate side, speaking about the President, Oregon's Jeff Merkley said serious issues have been - have to be raised. Colorado's Michael Bennet called on the party to have an open debate, in his words, about the election.

Importantly, however, the President still has the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who said this tonight to CNN's Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Leader, do you support Joe Biden staying as your Democratic nominee?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Yes, I made clear the day after the debate, publicly, that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed.


COOPER: The President also has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus. What he does not have and did not have even before the debate was the kind of bedrock support that could see him through this. Something CNN's David Axelrod underscored today.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's not winning this race. He's more likely - if you just look at the data and talk to people around the country, political people around the country, it's more likely that he'll lose by a landslide than win narrowly this race. And if the stakes are as large as he says, and I believe they are, then he really needs to consider what the right thing to do here is.


COOPER: So there's that and all the questions about the President's viability as a candidate now swirling around the White House and the campaign. There's also more new reporting that Walter Reed neurologist, a specialist in Parkinson's disease, made eight visits over eight months to the White House and met once with the President's doctor.

Questions about it led to a near shouting match today with the President's Press Secretary.



KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Has the President been treated for Parkinson's? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson's? No, he's not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson's? No.

I'm not going to confirm a specialist, any specialist that comes to - come to the White House out of privacy.

I'm not going to confirm a specialist, any specialist that comes to the White House.

I am not sharing confirming names from here. It is a security reason. I am not going to do that, Ed. It doesn't matter how hard you push me. It doesn't matter how angry you get with me. I'm not going to confirm a name. It doesn't matter if it's even in the log. I am not going to do that from here.

I am telling you that he has seen a neurologist three times while he has been in this presidency. That's what I'm saying.


COOPER: Joining us now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University. His latest op-ed piece for raises questions about the President's fitness and begins this way, quote, "There's a tenet of medicine that states, 'You only find what you look for.'" He closes by saying, "It's time to look."

Dr. Reiner, thanks for being with us. When you hear the President speaking on Morning Joe and some sentences are fully formed, make total sense and some seem to get away from him, that happens with regularity. If this was anyone else, a person in your family, would you want them to get a cognitive test? Is there a reason not to get a cognitive test?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Sure. And, you know, our treatment guidelines support evaluating a person of the President's age if they start to show any symptoms that might possibly be consistent with cognitive decline.

I think it's much more controversial whether we should be testing asymptomatic people over a certain age. And I think the jury is really out on that. But once - one starts to develop symptoms, then I think it's reasonable to evaluate whether that really is the beginning of an organic process that would result in significant cognitive decline.

And again, there aren't a lot of medical issues that I think would absolutely disqualify somebody from running for president of the United States. But cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease I think would.

I was in Japan a couple of weeks ago and visited Hiroshima. And if you ever want to get a sense for how important the power of the President of the United States is, visit Hiroshima and understand really the magnitude of the power that that office holds. And I think the voting public should have a good sense for whether there is any significant cognitive issue with any of the candidates, including the former president who's running in this election. It's just - it just makes common sense to me.

COOPER: White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, was asked about why the President has not had a cognitive test. I just want to play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEAN-PIERRE: The neurologist has said it is not warranted. The President himself, he said it today, he said it multiple times and the doctor has said this, everything that he does day in and day out as it relates to delivering for the American people is a cognitive test.


COOPER: What do you make of that argument?

REINER: You know, as I said at the outset, you know, you only find what you look for. The flip side of it - the flip side of that is, you know, sometimes, you know, you don't look for what you don't want to find. And if the President had no symptoms at all, I think it would - it makes a lot of sense not, you know, to do this sort of gratuitous testing.

But the President had a very concerning performance at the debate 10 days ago. Even if one discounts any other sort of lapses in his speech, you know, over the last several months, that one debate raises, you know, I think important questions. And I think at this point, there's a lot of noise surrounding the President's competence which can be just, you know, erased.

If the President has a comprehensive mental status exam now, let's put that away. And then there's nothing else to talk about. And then, you know, they can focus on what's really important to this country, which is policy and the differences between the candidates. But this has become a giant distraction.

And the refusal to do the testing has become the big news, rather than, you know, the results of the test. And I think if the President is fine, he'll do fine on the exam. And if he is having significant cognitive issues, then he really needs to know, as well as the voters.

COOPER: The White House said that President Biden had not been treated for taking medications for Parkinson's disease. They avoided directly answering questions about the Parkinson's specialists who visited the White House. Do you - does that, I mean, the idea of, you know, I guess there's a lot of reasons why someone might visit the White House. Do you make much of that?

REINER: Well, we know the President has been evaluated by a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders.


Dr. O'Connor put that in his February summary of the President's annual exam. So we know the President has at least been evaluated once this year by that specialist. Now, the White House Medical Unit sees a lot of people at the White House, and it's certainly very possible that the Walter Reed physician who has visited there on eight occasions has seen other people.

It would be a different story and if we learned that the neurologist has come basically once a month to see the President of the United States, that raises a different issue. And again, I think what we really need to see with both candidates is just an effort to have some transparency about the health of the people who are running for the highest office, perhaps the most important office on the planet.

We know nothing about Trump, absolutely nothing. We don't know what medications he's taking. We certainly don't know how much he weighs. The - his note from his physician in November was basically three paragraphs, completely devoid of any data.

We actually know a lot about the President. I think they've tried to be very - to give a very comprehensive report. It was about six pages long and had a lot of data in it. But this one issue has really come to the fore. And I think the best way to dispense with it is just to be transparent, turn all the cards face up on the table. And if there's nothing to see, there's nothing to see and we don't need this distraction anymore.

COOPER: Dr. Reiner, thank you.

Joining us now is former Biden White House Communications Director, Kate Bedingfield, the aforementioned David Axelrod, Ashley Etienne, who served as Vice President Harris' Communications Director and Democratic Strategist, Paul Begala.

David, I mean, what do you make of these visits to the White House from a Parkinson's specialist?

AXELROD: Well, I don't know what to make of it. I will say this, Anderson. I have - I don't believe the President has Parkinson's disease. They say he doesn't, that he's not being treated for that. I think it would be irresponsible to run if he were being treated for that. I don't - I have no question in my mind about that.

But questions are going to be raised if you're not simple and direct and - about these kinds of issues. It was predictable that people would have curiosity about why this doctor was there, given the issues that were raised by the President's debate performance. And the fact that press secretary didn't have direct answers to those questions only intensifies the hunt for answers. The media is going to not take her non-answers at face value at this point.

Members of Congress who are trying to decide what to do here and whether they should take a position on the President's candidacy are probably going to want to know before they do, well, what is this all about? And I think you can be very sure that the House Republicans are going to treat this like a ball of wool.

And I think at this point, they need to be very, very direct on all these questions, or they're going to continue to get more questions and it's going to propagate more trouble for the President. They need to jump on this issue and they need to be clear and direct about it.

COOPER: Kate, I mean, if there was no issue with President Biden's cognition and his ability to speak without a teleprompter and answer questions, why wouldn't the White House - I mean, to David's point, have a press conference and just let the President answer questions from reporters? KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's going to do that this week. We know he's going to do that on Thursday, so we'll see him doing that there. And I would also say, you know, in listening to Karine today, which by the way, the White House Press Secretary has an incredibly difficult job. And anybody who's worked in White House communications can tell you that there's a - there are a lot of factors that go into what you make public. There's often - it's often the role of the White House press secretary, the White House communications director, to advocate to others internally in the building, to make information public. And sometimes you get pushback based on, you know, what the lawyers think or what the legislative team thinks.

So I have to imagine there was a robust conversation about this inside the White House today. And I think if you look at what Karine said, she answered a number of these questions directly. She said, he's not being treated for Parkinson's. He's not - he doesn't have - he's not taking medicine for Parkinson's. And the White House has put out ...

COOPER: They're never talking about dementia or, I mean, with the more obvious things, which is what the subtext of all of this is, isn't it?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, but they put out a detailed medical analysis of the President every year in which the neurologist says there's no evidence of any of these issues. But I would also say, you know ...

COOPER: Well, he actually just said Parkinson's or MS. He actually didn't specifically say anything about dementia or any kind of form of dementia, but ...

BEDINGFIELD: Well, he said - in the section of the report, he says no reason to be concerned about neurological - I think he was using the word deficiencies.


But, you know, they have put this out annually, every single year it is dramatically more detailed than - as the doctor was mentioning that Donald Trump has.

You know, but the other thing I would say is the White House Medical Unit, and again, anybody who's worked at the White House knows this, Axe, Ashley, Paul could all speak to this too, the medical unit is a doctor's office that treats all of the staff. If you have a cold when you're at the White House and you're a staffer, you go to the medical unit, there are rotating - a rotation of doctors who come in who are there to be available to staff. They don't just treat the President.

And so, you know, I think the desire to jump to conclusions here when the Press Secretary was clear that he's not being treated for Parkinson's, I think it's problematic. I would also note if you overlay the President's schedule, and I haven't had a chance to do all of this, but if you overlay the President's schedule, you'll see there were times in those visitor's logs where the doctor was there, the President was out of the country. So I think, you know, look, I understand that people have these questions. I certainly agree with Axe that the White House needs to be clearer. I think that the Press Secretary did the best job she could do today with the information that she was allowed to share. But I don't think there's any reason to believe that the President's being treated for Parkinson's.

COOPER: Okay. Paul, I mean, nobody can explain or has offered any explanation for the debate performance other than a bad night. And the President has said, you know, I was tired from international trips, even though it was, you know, more than 10 days or so after his last international trip. I mean, nobody can really - has spoken to why sentences - some sentences are totally fine and make total sense and others like on Morning Joe trail off into just kind of a word salad. Do they need to answer that question?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they do. The question was best posed by Nancy Pelosi. Not exactly a MAGA Trumper. Speaker Emerita Pelosi said that, I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the exact quote, but she said, we want to know if this was just a bad night or if there's a condition. And that's Nancy Pelosi. She's not exactly a Biden hater. She spent more time with President Biden than most people have.

My own advice to these folks, and they're my friends and I love them. I love this president. He's really a wonderful man. He's done great things for the country. But they've got to be more transparent. They need to listen to Dr. Reiner, you know. Nobody wants their medical records released in public, but you know what? He's got his finger on the button. He's got 5,000 nuclear weapons. He's got a million troops under arms under his command.

And Mr. Jefferson said, this is our third president, when a person assumes a public office, they become public property. So I think both candidates, both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, should waive doctor-patient confidentiality and send their personal physicians out to, say, Sanjay Gupta, right? Because a political reporter is not going to know the right questions. But we should have more transparency about both of these guys, because I think there are really important questions about each of them.

COOPER: Ashley, I mean, a number of senators are voicing concerns about the President's candidacy tonight. What more would you like to see him to do to try to address these issues?

ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VP HARRIS: Well, you know, I've been on the phone all day with rank and file members, as well as members of leadership in the House. And essentially what I'm hearing, Anderson, is the message is that stopping the bleeding doesn't solve the problem. You know, what they've said to me is that if we accept the President's word that it's episodic and not a condition, then we should all anticipate that there's going to be another episode.

And so the fear is that, you know, that the episode is much more profound, comes at a much more consequential time, and also comes at a point in which we've run out the clock and there's no options left to solve the problem. So that's what I'm hearing from members. I'm also hearing that they were not satisfied with the President's explanation because many of them have seen them in his - in their districts and they've seen him perform.

They weren't satisfied by this letter that he sent over today. They feel like they need to touch and feel the President. So, I mean, the overwhelming message I'm hearing from members is that, you know, is that they're feeling like sitting ducks waiting for the next shoe to drop, but they're holding out some level of patience and giving the President some time.

COOPER: David, I mean, let's talk about time. You know, obviously he seems determined and defiant and thinks he can do this. As long as he feels that, how does anything change?

AXELROD: Well, I mean, this has always been the case. It has always been his decision. You know, what he said in that interview was that he didn't expect the leaders of the House and Senate to come to him and say, you're jeopardizing us and our members and, you know, that you don't want this to be your legacy. He said, that's not going to happen. They're all with me.

And if they don't, I don't know what else would intervene.


I don't think God Almighty is going to play a role here. It really has to be the leaders of the Congress. That letter he sent over this morning was pretty dismissive. I mean, there was no real acknowledgement of the concerns or addressing of the concerns that people had. He basically said, I'm done talking about it. I'm running, live with it. And here's my case against Donald Trump.

And, you know, that - as Ashley said, that didn't really resolve the fundamental question. So I do think he's trying to run out the clock. I think he very much wants - expects to be the nominee. He has NATO this week. The Republican Convention is next week. And then time gets very short. If you were to make a change.

The only thing I would say that he should consider is, and I've said this from the beginning, can he make a straight face case to the American people as to why they shouldn't be concerned about this and why he is the best candidate for the next four years. We can honor the President's achievements for the last four years and the last 50 years of his public service, which is distinguished, important, I think what he's done as president has in many ways has been historic, but that doesn't address his ability to do this for another four years. And he seems unable to address that.

COOPER: Yes, everyone. Thank you.

Coming up next, Congressman Bennie Thompson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus meeting tonight with President Biden, we'll talk to him. And Congressman Mike Quigley, one of six now publicly calling on the President to bow out of the race. Later, CNN's John King all over the map, this time in a swing town, in a swing state, talking to voters torn over their choice after the debate, coming up.



COOPER: I mentioned the Congressional Black Caucus is meeting tonight with the President. It's just wrapping up. Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson took part in it. He joins us now, so does Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley, who recently called on the President to step aside.

Congressman Thompson, thanks for being with us. What can you tell us about the meeting and how it went?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, the President spoke to the Black Caucus this evening. He talked about continuing the support of his administration. He talked about the policies that he had put forth that had benefited many of our constituents. And basically, just like any other person running for re-election, he asked us for our continued support.

COOPER: And you continue to support him, as does the Congressional Black Caucus. Do you - what do you make of - I mean, are you concerned, A, by what you saw on that debate stage and even in interviews since then, sentences that don't make sense?

THOMPSON: Well, I think everyone who's been involved in politics or, Anderson, you've been in media, you have good days and bad days, but you don't judge a person like that. You look at his - their policies. From what I've seen, the policies have worked. We have low unemployment. Our children are getting better education. They are able, if they can't afford it, we've created policies to help them. We've alleviated the debt.

The Biden administration has been open and above board. And so for all of this, as you know, the Congressional Black Caucus historically has been very supportive of the Democratic nominee. Joe Biden is no different. In return, the policies that he's promoted have been very beneficial to our constituencies.


THOMPSON: So we heard from him, we felt very good and we understand, but we will take Joe Biden any day over a convicted felon.

COOPER: So Congressman Quigley, you're one of the few House Democrats saying publicly that the President should step aside. How many of your colleagues do you think feel the same way you do but don't want to come out publicly and say it?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Yes, I talked to members on the floor tonight. There's quite a few. They have to come to terms with that on their own. I know it's a tough choice. I suspect you'll be hearing from quite a few this week regardless of that.

COOPER: And what - for you, Congressman, was it just the - what you saw on that debate stage? What else - what - was there anything else?

This all is focused under the specter of a second Trump presidency. And quite honestly, I started talking about this congratulating the President on an extraordinary record, and I thought I was respectful and thoughtful in talking about it, but that's not what this is about. You know, I was told this was a bad night and everything's good.

No, it's a horrible night and nothing is good. The polls are trending the exact wrong way in a hurry. A robust candidate would have a hard time turning this around. We have donors walking away at an absolutely critical time. You know, what I said at the beginning was I'm worried about not just who controls the White House, but who controls the House and the Senate.

You know, there's a very real concern about a red wave because, as you know, in the Presidential years, the top of the ticket is so critical.

COOPER: Congressman Thompson, what do you make about those concerns?

THOMPSON: Well, it's a campaign, I hear it. Obviously, being a Democrat, we have differences, but at some point we come together. My plea to my Democratic colleagues is, sure, you can express yourself, but at some point, if Joe Biden continues to run the campaign and he's a nominee, we all have to rally behind him. His record speaks for itself.

I can't imagine, just like my friend, a Trump administration, he would be bad for this country. He said it. He'll be a dictator for a day. He'll do everything that's against American values. But as Democrats, we'll have to come together, work with the Biden administration. As long as Joe Biden is running for president and decides on his own he'll continue to run, I think a majority, if not an overwhelming majority, of the Congressional Black Caucus will be with him.


COOPER: Congressman Quigley, I mean, how do you see any change actually happening? I mean, if the president is determined to run, his family supports him, what kind of -- what would it take for him to change his mind?

QUIGLEY: You know, I don't know the inner workings of the president and his inner circle and his family. The campaign is -- most president -- the campaigns are very insular, you know. I'd like to think common sense and the realization that they've done nothing but go backwards since the time of the debate and that there's so much at stake.

So is it donors? Is it money? Is it House and Senate leadership saying, hey, we're going to get blown out and we're not going to have control of any of these things and you're not going to clear it up in 2028. You know, I'll tell you, the next opening days of a Trump presidency are going to be a continuation of the last days of the last Trump presidency and I was in the room on January 6th. There's no guarantees that our fragile democracy can handle this. So given there's so much at stake, I would like to think that people would stand up and show them the reality of the polling numbers. He's losing in Wisconsin.

Mark my words, in the next day or so, there'll be another poll that shows him trending downward in that state. All the swing states are being lost right now. He doesn't have the ability, the capabilities of changing that course. It has to happen now. A change has to take place.

COOPER: Congressman Thompson, just in terms of voter excitement, to Congressman Quigley's point, this race is going to boil down to a handful of battleground states, just like it did the last time. 20,000 votes or so in Wisconsin, you know, and a few other states made the difference, do you worry at all about enthusiasm?

I mean, there's one thing about the hardcore Democrats coming out to supporting the Democratic candidate because of the policies, but just getting every voter out with excitement getting them to, you know, take time off work or, you know, get childcare so they can go vote or whatever it may be.


COOPER: Do you not have any concerns about that?

THOMPSON: Look, Anderson, it's -- well, any person running for office would have concern, but it's all hands on deck. Democrats know what's required to get the vote out. We're good at it. We get our friends in labor. We get the environmental community. We get everyone who has an interest, women who have an interest.

And having the right to choose, they need to get out and work. All those things come together, form a campaign. Hopefully it will be a winning campaign. I look forward. Joe Biden stays in the race to work my -- behind off on his behalf. I understand what the posters and other folks say, but most of us came to Washington -- spite of the posters, and we're still here in spite of the posters. Because most of the people who vote for people like Bennie Thompson, the posters never talked to.

COOPER: Congressman Thompson, I appreciate your time. Congressman Quigley as well, thank you.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: We mentioned Wisconsin. Next, CNN's John King heads to a small battleground town there. President Biden won it by just 19 votes in 2020. How do people there feel after the president's debate? It's all part of John's All Over the Map series next.


[20:37:36] COOPER: Well, just moments ago, Patty Murray, president pro tem of the Senate, just put out this statement on the president quoting from a piece of it, "More than a week since the debate and after talking with my constituents, I believe President Biden must do more to demonstrate he can campaign strong enough to beat Donald Trump. There is such a case to be prosecuted against Donald Trump. President Biden has to lead the charge in making that case."

CNN's John King joins us now with some thoughts on that. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, that is a senior Democratic lawmaker from a very blue state out on the West Coast, a former colleague, close colleague of Joe Biden in the United States Senate before he was vice president saying, Mr. President, you have to do more.

Not saying Mr. President gets out. The conversation you just had was so telling. You know, President Biden is playing trying to keep the support of his friends in the Black Caucus. He's trying to keep that support because it's such a foundational element of the Democratic Party and it causes strife for other lawmakers.

If the Black Caucus stays with the president, it's hard for many other Democrats to stand up and say, get out. But you have Democrats who are looking at all the data and now a member of the Senate leadership who does not want Republicans to take charge of the Senate, saying, Mr. President, you need to lead the charge.

What does she mean by that? You need to change the numbers. That's what she's saying. They want to see the numbers in the polling changed, and they want to see it fast, Anderson, and that's hard to do. The president this morning said it's just the elites in the Democratic Party trying to push him out.

But I'm just back from another trip on the road, Anderson. I want to take you to Wisconsin, right? And I want to show you, here's Milwaukee down here. This is blue, the president has to win here. Then you go just north of Milwaukee, you get to Ozaukee County.

Just over the line down here is a little town called Cedarburg. This used to be reliably red country. If you see in the county, Trump got 55 percent last time. By -- Trump struggles in the suburbs. Cedarburg is right down here.

We spent some time with voters. They are not elites, Anderson. Many of them Democrats. Many loyal Biden voters. Many of them say, Mr. President, please, think about getting out.


KING (voice-over): Cedarburg, Wisconsin. The 4th of July. The city's legendary parade runs two hours. That's Middle America as it gets. Locals call Cedarburg a living Hallmark movie. Picturesque, polite.

Gina Cilento was parade grand marshal this year.


KING (voice-over): And carries the keep it civil theme over to her growing pickleball studio.

CILENTO: It just really is a place for people to forget what's going on in the real world. And they can focus on just having fun and getting along.

KING: Do you think they need a place to forget what's going on in the real world?

CILENTO: They do.

KING: Why?

CILENTO: They do. Because it's extremely -- you know, people have these anger issues. It's so polarizing what's going on.


KING (voice-over): Yes, signs of polarization even here. But anxiety among Democrats is what jumps out now.

TROY REISSMANN, WISCONSIN VOTER: I think it's last week hurt so much that he's really got to think of the party and the country before he thinks of himself.

KING (voice-over): Lisa and Troy Reissmann own a moonshine business, are Biden voters, and are still stunned by his debate disaster.

LISA REISSMANN, WISCONSIN VOTER: Quite frankly, I didn't even finish watching. I was really having a hard time watching it.

T. REISSMANN: Yes, it was definitely scary. The first people that I called were my parents, who are really old, and yes, I said, what did you guys think about that? Because, obviously, I still know where I'm going to vote, where my vote's going to lie, but they don't, and they were equally as scared.

KING (voice-over): Tiny Cedarburg, population 12,000, is a new battleground community within one of America's most competitive battleground states. Not long ago, it voted lopsided Republican, but Donald Trump struggles in America's changing suburbs.

He won Cedarburg in 2016, but with just 55 percent. Joe Biden won in 2020, just barely, by 19 votes. Biden's voters say a repeat win here suddenly feels less likely.

L. REISSMANN: We just need fresh leadership, new leadership, and somebody who's a little bit more -- I like Joe Biden as a person, you know, I think he stands for good things, but I'm just not sure he's there anymore to lead the country.

T. REISSMANN: Think of the future. Think of our kids and grandkids. And maybe you should step aside only because there's a -- this future doesn't look too bright with the other side taking over. KING (voice-over): Allen Naparalla is a fiscal conservative and social liberal.


KING (voice-over): Like many here, disgusted with the choices.

NAPARALLA: There's something wrong. You know, are we going to keep going for the better of two evils? I mean, it's -- something's going to change. We need a logical party. We need an independent party that makes sense.

KING (voice-over): Naparalla leans Biden because he can't vote for Trump.

NAPARALLA: It's embarrassing how he speaks to people, how he treats people, how he responds to other countries.

KING: What was going through your mind watching the debate?

NAPARALLA: Watching Biden try to get through his words was just bad. Just bad. Now, yes, everybody has a bad day. I get it. I get it. But the thing is, is this was a time that -- was your time to shine.

KING: Did he look to you like someone who could serve for president for four and a half more years?

NAPARALLA: I don't -- I think that what's -- let me put it this way, I'm voting for the party right now.

KING: Do you think Vice President Harris is qualified to be president?

NAPARALLA: No. I don't think so.

KING: But you might vote for Joe Biden.


KING (voice-over): Before the debate, Naparalla thought Biden could eke out another Wisconsin win. Now, big doubts. Yet he worries switching candidates might backfire.

NAPARALLA: Who's going to do it? And it's so late in the election process that, you know, Trump will be a shoe in anyway.

KING (voice-over): Naparalla moved here to care for his aging mother. His wines are made in California and sold in small town Cedarburg with a flashy slogan that draws fewer complaints now and when he first opened shop five years ago.

NAPARALLA: I've seen the demographic change a little bit. So now you're kind of getting on a, you know, an even keel between conservative and liberal.

KING (voice-over): Gina Cilento calls herself an independent libertarian. A good teacher. Very competitive. A past Trump voter, very unhappy with the present.

CILENTO: This is the best our country can do. There's certain things I feel just overall sadness for. And to me, the biggest issue is that, a house divided cannot stand. That's just -- there's truth to that. And I'm seeing our country erode instead of thrive.

KING (voice-over): Cilento can't see herself voting Biden, but won't commit to voting Trump. Proof there, Biden's setbacks aren't automatically points for Trump. But in politics like pickleball, it helps to set the pace.

Nothing interrupts treasured tradition here. But as the election year calendar turns another page, the mood change in this battleground is stunning.


COOPER: Well, John, the Biden campaign has a theory that voters who are concerned about Biden's health aren't going to turn around and vote for Trump. Does that theory capture the whole picture?

KING: It's a risky theory, Anderson. The Biden voters we spoke to, even the ones who said, please, Mr. President, step aside, say if he does not, they will vote for him in the end. But those are strong Biden voters. You heard Troy Reissmann there. He said he called his parents. They're still undecided. What are they going to do?

In a place like Cedarburg, there are a lot of soft Republicans or Independents who don't like Trump. But if they saw the debate, and they're like, oof, people at a picnic approached me and said, oof, here's the danger. If it's just Trump, Biden, sure, maybe they stay with Biden.

But remember 2016? Third party candidates matter. Third party candidates matter. There are already one or two on the ballot in Wisconsin, several on the ballot in Michigan.


If there are third party candidates on the ballot and you are demoralized and don't want to vote for Biden, you have an option. You will have an option. And we learned in 2016, that option can make the difference.

COOPER: And how critical is Wisconsin to Biden's path to victory?

KING: Simple math. Let me pull out to the 2016 map. You see, Donald Trump wins Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. These three tend to go together. The three of them, they're democratic states, the demographics are lined up, but Donald Trump flipped them.

The great blue wall, right? And he's president of the United States. Joe Biden flipped him back, and he's president of the United States. Wisconsin, only 10 electoral votes. Yes, you can mathematically make it up somewhere else, but it's part of the Democratic blue wall.

If you are a Democrat, you need it.

COOPER: John King, thanks so much.

Just ahead, a look at the former president's return to the campaign trail this week. Democrats continue to grapple with what happens now.


COOPER: Despite staying mostly out of the public eye as the Democratic Party grapples with the future of President Biden's campaign, the former president returns to the campaign trail this week, just days ahead of the Republican National Convention, and it comes as the RNC platform committee today adopted a new Trump-backed platform for the party.


CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Southern Florida, where the former president is going to hold a campaign event tomorrow. So the platform that was approved today has some stark differences from the party line in years prior.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. It's not just Trump backed. Trump actually authored parts of this platform. So it's not really a surprise that it really mimics who he is as a candidate and as a person.

Now, normally what you see in these kind of platforms is dozens and dozens of pages of a detailed outline of the vision of the future of the party. That is just not what we saw today. This is a much shorter document. It is much more vague and it really ignores some of the hardline Republican stances that have been in place for decades.

For example, abortion. The part of -- on abortion in this platform is just severely watered down. There's no mention of any kind of national abortion ban. Remember, this is something Donald Trump doesn't think is a political winner and has said that he would not sign if it came across his desk.

The other interesting part of this platform is no reference to traditional marriage, particularly as between a man and woman. This is not something that Donald Trump believes should be part of the Republican platform.

And the last one is something that is a stark difference from what we have seen in decades of the Republican Party, which there is no emphasis on reducing the national debt. Instead, the emphasis is on curbing inflation.

Now, the rest of it really sounds exactly like what you would hear at a Trump rally. It talks about immigration, mass deportations, stopping the weaponization of the government. But overall, Anderson, what this does, it just shows the cement grip that Donald Trump has on a very changed Republican Party.

COOPER: And what about the Trump campaigns game plan in the run up to the convention week? What do we know about it?

HOLMES: Well, right now, they're just preparing in general for what that convention is actually going to look like, getting those speakers in line. But when it comes to messaging, there are two schools of thought here. One, they are going to mention Joe Biden.

But remember, there's a reason Donald Trump has been laying low. He's essentially watching Joe Biden and the Democratic Party spiral by themselves. He doesn't need to insert his own messaging, but you are likely to hear attacks on Kamala Harris as they are trying to figure out what exactly is going to happen next.

Also expect to hear this argument, that if Joe Biden steps down from the ticket, that he should no longer be president. That is something that Republicans are really beating the drum on, and that's messaging we expect to hear at the convention as well.

COOPER: And we haven't heard much in terms of the actual speakers.

HOLMES: That's right. All we know right now is that celebrity Amber Rose is going to speak. That is the only person that we actually know is going to speak other than Donald Trump. But I am told that there's going to be a number of lawmakers, really a who's who, likely of the people who are on Trump's shortlist for vice president.

Remember, he still hasn't actually made his vice presidential pick. The other thing we're likely to hear from is people who have been impacted by, quote unquote, "Biden's policies". They're talking about everyday Americans.

Imagine a focus on immigration, people who have had family members who have been harmed by migrant crime. Obviously, we know that that number is low, but those -- there still have been high profile cases. Also, small business owners who have been impacted by the economy, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks very much.

Coming up next, the destruction and rescues after Hurricane Beryl comes ashore in Texas.



COOPER: Tropical Depression Beryl is moving through Texas tonight, headed for Arkansas, bringing a threat of tornadoes and heavy rain. Early this morning, the storm made landfall along the Gulf Coast, not far from Sargent, Texas as a Cat 1 hurricane.

Beryl unleashed powerful winds, dangerous storms surge, and as you see from this drone video, a large part of the community was flooded. Farther north in Houston, highways and city streets turned into rivers. This man was trapped on top of his pickup. A rope was lowered from the ladder of a fire truck and thankfully he made it to dry land.

CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now from Houston. So what are you seeing on the ground?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Anderson, I'm seeing a very battered city of Houston. As we were driving in, we saw toppled billboards, toppled trees, downed power lines, and of course, the flooding that inundated this very road. It's receded since then but this is a major thoroughfare for people who work in downtown Houston trying to exit the city. This was completely covered in several feet of water, not three hours ago.

This storm has had a dubious track record, rewriting history books, and now it made its third landfall the first of the Atlantic 2024 hurricane season here in the United States and slamming into the Texas coastline. Where does it go from here? Well, that's the big question.

We know it's impacted Houston in a major way. There was at one point this morning over 400 calls to 911 per hour asking for assistance. There is of course power outages significant here within Harris County where Houston Metropolitan is located. Even the mayor of Houston is saying that he does not have power at his very house as well.

So where's the storm going? Well, it's exiting quickly out of Texas and it's got its eyes set on the Arkansas and mid-Mississippi Valley, and it's bringing a tornado threat along with it. There's already been multiple tornado warnings this time across Louisiana, Arkansas and into Missouri.

But, you know, when we compare that to the winds that we experienced here in Houston, we had wind gusts in excess of 85 miles per hour. That is a Category 1 hurricane. The last time that happened here in Houston was 2008 from Hurricane Ike. So that's really saying something.

And, you know, with the storm creating so much wind damage, it also increased the power outages. So now currently sitting at 2.5 million plus customers without power. And the problem with that is here in Houston, we have a heat advisory going forward over the next couple of days.

So without that ability to cool your home down with air conditioning, no electricity, it is going to be a very difficult next couple of days. The good news out of all of this, this is not a Hurricane Harvey. This system is moving quickly and it's got its eyes set on the Canada-U.S. border, and are set to clear by Wednesday.

COOPER: Derek, thanks so much, I appreciate it.

The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.