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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Tonight: Biden Meets With Dem Govs Amid Debate Fallout; How Trump Plans To Use Immunity Ruling To Fight Four Criminal Cases; Vanity Fair Reports On RFK Jr.'s "Darkest Secrets"; Former ATL Mayor: Newspaper's Call For Biden To Drop Out Is "Undue Influence" On Election; Campaign Aide: Biden Keeping Harris Close, Sending Message "He's With Her" As Succession Plan Takes Shape; Conservatives Brace For Likely Defeat In U.K. Elections. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. In a moment the dire situation in which President Biden finds himself. Plus, Donald Trump's Miami rally plan. Is he close to making a VP announcement?

And then there is the Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who is currently denying a rather devastating article in Vanity Fair, it describes how he once ate a dog apparently. He's also not denying a much more shocking and hideous accusation one of an alleged sexual assault.

Leading this hour, Democratic governor standing by to meet with President Joe Biden in the next 90 minutes, some of them will do so virtually others will do it in person at the White House as a source told me yesterday. Many governors pushed for this meeting, many of them looking for reassurances after hearing almost nothing from the White House or the campaign in the days immediately after the debate, the debate where were they watched President Biden stumble through lines and apparent -- appear to lose his train of thought midsentence. Today, I also spoke with multiple House Democrats who described panic within the larger Democratic Party people on the ballot in November, especially one of them telling me, quote, "The phones don't stop ringing. Everyone's talking. There is a split between staying the course or moving to Kamala. Seems those that have a relationship with Biden want to stay the course," unquote.

Another House Democrats said, quote, "The ultimate goal is to make sure Donald Trump is not the president again," unquote. And the third House Democrat said this about those close to President Biden, quote, "Sometimes when you're with someone every day who's declining you don't see as clearly, you see what you want to see," unquote. Those are just the opinions of only three Democratic lawmakers. There's still many who support Biden. The White House said today that the President is, quote, "Absolutely not contemplating stepping down from running for reelection." Listen to CNN's MJ Lee pushing White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during today's briefing just a few hours ago.


MJ LEE CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I know you will remember this back in 2020 referred to himself as a transition candidate. He also said back then that he would be a bridge to the next generation of Democratic leaders. Does he still believe that?

KARINE JEAN-PIERE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, I mean, I think his statement stands. I mean, one of the reasons why he picked the vice president, President Kamala Harris, is because she is indeed the future of the party.


TAPPER: We now know that Vice President Harris is going to be at tonight's meeting with President Biden and the Democratic governors. And one of those Democratic governors joins me now.

John Carney of Delaware, Governor Carney, thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it. What do you -- what do you want to hear from President Biden at the meeting today?

GOV. JOHN CARNEY (D-DE): Well, I'm that here too as the President's biggest cheerleader as the governor of Delaware. Of course, we know Joe's service for the last 50 years as first as a United States Senator, then as vice president and now as president, he's got a tremendous record. He cares about people. He's honest, he's got the character. And he's proven that to all of us.

We ought to get focused on this comparison between the President and the former president and really get on with it. I hope that he lay some of the concerns of some of my colleagues across the country.

TAPPER: You don't have concerns?

CARNEY: I don't have concern. I'm confident that he can do the job. He's proven that he can do the job. We know the character of this man. We know the character of this man compared to the opponent.

And everybody's eager to get on with. We need to bring people together, when you answer some of the questions that you've been talking about prior to this segment. And tonight, I hope that that will happen with the President and my colleague, governors across the country.

TAPPER: You know that there are a lot of Democratic governors and Democratic officials who are more worried than you are apparently, based on his performance at the debate, but also other moments that they've seen here and there. What do you tell them?

CARNEY: I tell them just fine. Joe is a leader, Joe is our nominee, Joe is ready to go, Joe is the best person to beat Donald Trump. And by the way, let's look at the comparison between President Biden and Donald Trump. And it's not even close. The contrast is dramatic. Joe's a much better person. He's focused on the people. He tells the truth, all the things that we should look forward to in the leader of our country. And I know my Democratic governors understand that. And hopefully some of the concerns that they're hearing from their constituents, understandably, can be answered tonight.

TAPPER: He could settle this right now if he just like did a long extended press conference and took a lot of questions and showed himself to be agile and able to, you know, deliver coherent thoughts the way that you're doing so right now with me, why hasn't he done so?

CARNEY: Yes, I think he has. I mean, he has since the debate. I mean, I don't if you saw him the next day. I don't -- sometimes we -- in Delaware we all say let Joe be Joe, get up there and show the enthusiasm, show what he has to that crowd in North Carolina, he needs to get back out there on the campaign and do that and get the race focus back to the contrast between President Biden and Donald Trump. There's no question.


And of course, I've heard you talk about the polls. It's really a narrow part of the voters that's going to decide this election. And that's what we need to focus on. And we need a full Democratic team to do that.

TAPPER: Do you -- how do you respond to people who say, it's -- you know, whatever happened at the debate, it's not going to get better. These concerns are there, they're not going to get better. And it would be better for the Democratic Party, better for people like Josh Stein, the Attorney General of North Carolina, who's running in a competitive state for governor, better for the senators. I mean, you're from a true blue state, generally speaking.

CARNEY: Right.

TAPPER: But people in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey is running for reelection, Jon Tester in Montana, Sherrod Brown in Ohio. What do you say to people who say, you know what, it would be better to have somebody else at the top of the ticket. They agree with everything you say about Biden's record and his performance and his service and his character. They agree with all that, but they say it, we need somebody else.

CARNEY: Yes, we say, we have this somebody else. And he's our best opportunity, our best candidate to beat Donald Trump to show that contrast between a guy that cares about other people and a guy that just cares about himself and a guy that's dealing with the facts and with the truth against the guy who couldn't find the truth and get focused on that difference. He's our guy. He's our nominee, he's the candidate. We -- he needs us to rally behind him to get those undecided voters in our column.

TAPPER: What about -- there was a CNN poll yesterday that suggested that Kamala Harris was actually more competitive in a head to head race with Donald Trump than President Biden was. It's just one poll. CARNEY: Yes.

TAPPER: I understand.

CARNEY: And I don't know what to do about the polls, other than to say it's always been a bad bet to bet against Joe Biden. He likes to say it's always been a bad bet to bet -- a bet about the United States of America, the same is true betting against Joe Biden. And our job, my job is to help my Democratic governors relieve some of their concerns and let's get going. Let's pull these folks together and help our president get reelected.

TAPPER: But what do you say to the battleground folks who don't see it the way you do?

CARNEY: Same thing. You know, I say the same thing. Obviously, they'll have their perspective and they'll be working with a campaign to do the things necessary to win in those states. And I don't pretend to be an expert in any of that and how to win in Delaware. The President knows how to win in Delaware.

We know Joe Biden, he knows us. And that's why we're standing behind him strongly.

TAPPER: All right, Governor John Carney from the great small wonder state of Delaware, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Good to see you, sir.

CARNEY: Thank you, Jake. Good to see you.

TAPPER: I want to get back to the new CNN reporting interrupted before the President spoke to the White House Donald Trump using this week's immunity ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court to try to fight every criminal case against him. The reporter is breaking that story. We'll come back and we'll tell you all about that. That's next.



TAPPER: Let's get back to our law injustice lead, which was interrupted when President Biden started speaking, we were talking about new reporter from -- new reporting from CNN's Paula Reid on how Donald Trump plans to use this week's immunity decision from the Supreme Court to attack the evidence in all four of the criminal cases against him. Paula is back here with me along with CNN's Katelyn Polantz.

So you were saying that the evidence is an issue here?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was an unexpected gift that the justices gave the Trump legal team when they gave former president some immunity. And they also said that official acts also, in many cases, cannot be used as evidence to support whatever charges survived immunity. And this is where they're going to be focused over the next few months. They're going to use this, for example, down in Florida to attack the Mar-a-Lago documents case. They're going to say --

TAPPER: But that was post presidency.

REID: Well, here's what they're going to argue, they're going to argue that the way he came to have these classified documents and how they got into the boxes, that this was all part of his official duties. Now that requires a very expensive interpretation of the opinion. But that's the argument they're going to try to make. Now, when it comes to the January 6 case, they're going to try to argue that anything that happened before he left the White House was part of some sort of official act, that's going to be the focus of their litigation, because they say, look, whatever charges survive, this analysis by the district court judge, they're not covered, right, that are covered by this opinion, they're going to try to undercut them by getting evidence tossed out.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, one of the things that we're going to see is a very big difference between the way these two judges handle it. Judge Tanya Chutkan in D.C. where the immunity challenge arose, she can't have the case back for 30 days. But when she does, she moves fast.


POLANTZ: She doesn't like to hold a lot of hearings, she has arguments written to her and then writes very quickly, and she will be able to take action with some of the input from the Justice Department that's going to have to tell her what they want to do, possibility for hearings, witnesses, things like that. And then in Florida --


POLANTZ: -- with Judge Aileen Cannon, she loves the hearing. And this presidential immunity question that Paula is talking about that the Trump team is still arguing to her, that actually has had a part of it sitting before her in court totally briefed with no arguments scheduled for months now. So, she is very likely to have to take this up as well, how these two judges eventually land on the question. They could go totally different ways. They're in totally different jurisdiction.

TAPPER: It sounds like, and tell me if you disagree with my prediction, OK, but it sounds as though like there will be an evidentiary hearing on the January 6 case, the Federal January 6 case from Jack Smith, but probably not enough time to do the actual trial before the election. And then the other three, it doesn't sound like you're saying that there -- anything's going to -- well, I guess it's the Florida case and the other Jack Smith case, those probably won't happen before. And then there's the reviewing the New York case --

REID: Yes.

TAPPER: -- and that could actually potentially even overturn the conviction potentially?

[17:15:01] REID: I think it's a long shot but they're trying. And already the judges push back sentencing. I mean, that's the big victory there. They have clearly staved off any additional trials before the election. They could potentially even delay sentencing until after the election.

TAPPER: It already is delayed. It was supposed to happen next Thursday. Now it's --

REID: Exactly, early --

TAPPER: -- September?

REID: Yes. Early September, if needed, because the judge recognizes that this is going to kick off a whole new round of litigation. The Trump team is specifically focused on testimony from Hope Hicks during her time -- from her time at the White House, and some tweets. They believe that this evidence is covered by this opinion. Now, the judge also chose to proceed with this trial and not wait for the Supreme Court to rule.

Will this litigation result in a new trial? That's a long shot, but they're succeeding here by delaying the sentencing and again, finding a new line of attack. Of course, it's also Georgia out there, which is pause that case. If and when it resumes, they believe by that point, they'll have already seen how judges are assessing this opinion and they'll have a roadmap for exactly how to attack that case as well.

TAPPER: Is the Georgia thing just about, at this point, in addition to the immunity which we --

POLANTZ: It's pause, it's really pause as appeals courts look at --

TAPPER: Just about the immunity thing or does it also have to do with Fani Willis and the relationship?

POLANTZ: No, it's largely about Fani Willis. But in the two federal cases, the big picture going forward, the phase we're going to be in pretty soon is bringing witnesses in both in Florida and in D.C. to testify about exactly the parts of the case that are in dispute, whether it's a presidential immunity question or other challenges. Judge Cannon already said she wants to have evidentiary hearings, potentially about the government where people from the FBI could be put on the stand like Fani Willis was in Georgia. And then in D.C. we could see potentially people up to and including Mike Pence brought it.

REID: Yes.

TAPPER: Wow. All right. Thanks to both you. Appreciate it.

Back to our politics lead, as the nation focuses on Joe Biden's future in Donald Trump's trials, there is another candidate running for president, one that you've heard of. And a new article in Vanity Fair is raising a lot of questions about Robert F. Kennedy Jr's, quote, "darkest secrets." Warning, this includes a photo that might be disturbing to some dog lovers, a photo that we're going to show you now. The article -- somebody pretending to eat a dog, Robert F. Kennedy pretending to eat a dog. The article claims that RFK Jr. texted a friend this image telling the recipient that he on a trip to Korea should try dog.

This is Kennedy posing with a carcass as if he's about to eat it. The article also reports on allegations that Robert Kennedy Jr. sexually assaulted a woman working as a babysitter for his family at the time. Kennedy has responded that the piece is, quote, "A lot of garbage." I don't think so.

And the author of the story, Joe Hagan, joins us now.

Congratulations, Joe, on the story deeply reported very credible. Let's start with the photo. You report that Kennedy texted it to a friend just last year.


TAPPER: The metadata from the picture indicates it was taken in 2010, likely around the time he says --

HAGAN: Right.

TAPPER: -- that he got a brain worm. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. responded to this part of the story saying that that is a real photo. It took me at a campfire in Patagonia on the Futaleufu River eating a goat, which is what we eat down there. Vanity Fair said they talked to veterinarians who assured them it was a dog, that they had meta- analysis that showed it was Korea and that it was in Korea meeting the dog and the statement is emblematic of the entire article on the lack of sort of journalistic standards of that entire article, unquote. Your response, sir.

HAGAN: Well, what I would say is that what we report is that Kennedy himself identified that as a dog to our source who received the picture. So it's really a Kennedy versus Kennedy story at the end of the day. But the reason this picture in this story was shared along with a lot of other stories by this very lifelong friend of Bobby Kennedy, by the way, and along with the members is to the question of his judgment. Throughout the last couple of months of reporting, in which I talk to brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, longtime friends go dating back to college, and even before, they are all saying to me, either on the record or on background, this guy's judgment is off. And here's why and here's what -- you know, here are the myriad ways in which we think that's true.

And, you know, this is a story that I hadn't seen in the media before. In fact, I think the media generally has dropped the ball on reporting about his personal history. And how is it that 20 years ago, he was a leader of the environmental movement and kind of a sterling example of the Kennedy name, and 20 years later, he's got crackpot ideologies and he's talking about -- telling people not to take vaccines, and by the way, leading to a lot of unnecessary, you know, tragedies as described in the story, an entire events that nobody talks about really as much as they should. In 2019 him telling people in Samoa not to take a measles vaccine -- a vaccine in a measles outbreak occurring, and many people died. So that's really the point of it.


TAPPER: Yes you also outline these very disturbing allegations that Kennedy assaulted a woman in her early 20s. He was in his 40s. She was working as a babysitter, a caretaker to watch his kids. Kennedy did not directly deny the allegation. He said, I'm not going to comment on it.

And then I want to roll a little bit about what he said. Now, keep in mind for those watching at home, this is in the context of this allegation reported in this Vanity Fair story that he sexually assaulted a 23-year-old woman when he was in his 40s. Here's his response in part.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., (I) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not at church boy. I am not running like that. I said in my -- I had a very, very rambunctious youth. I said in my announcement speech that I have -- if I have so many skeletons in my closet, that if they could all vote I could run for king of the world. So, you know, the Vanity Fair is recycling 30-year-old stories, and I, you know, going to comment on the details of any of them. But it's, you know, I am who I am.


TAPPER: I'm not a church boy is quite a thing to say in the context of a sexual assault allegation.

HAGAN: Yes, I would say it's disturbing. And by the way, I thought this was a race for the president United States, we're not allowed to look into your closet? So that's a little odd. And by the way, that's what our story is about. This is about going through his personal history and asking the question, how is it that he came to be a candidate for president United States believing and saying the things he's believing?

You know, I, myself, was surprised by what I found. And yet, not everybody knows about this personal history, and maybe they should. And the other thing I found was that the family, the Kennedy family is highly reluctant, many of them to tell what they know in public because it's their brother, it's their cousin, it's their nephew, they're, you know, they're conflicted. I get that on some level. On another level, there's a country at stake.

Last week -- you know, starting last week, we're now in disarray about who the Democratic candidate might end up being, and whether Biden should be running right now. And if you saw that poll, the big break away for Trump in this latest poll, that's giving Robert F. Kennedy quite a bit of oxygen in this election. And so now it's time to ask the hard questions.


HAGAN: This guy have the substance, the credibility and the judgment to be president and we'll ask the hard questions. Yes.

TAPPER: We only have a minute left. But I want -- your story opens, and I do recommend that people go to and read it. The story opens with this incredible anecdote. His sister, I believe, is a documentary filmmaker, and she's doing a profile of him as this, you know, righteous environmentalist. And he says so many false things that she can't use a lot of her interview with her own brother.

HAGAN: That's right. Well, that anecdote was telling to me for a very strong reason, which is that well before he became the Kennedy we see today, you know, spouting misinformation about science and vaccines, he was already known within the family to have this predilection for, you know, blending facts and fiction and seeming very convincing at it. The man is a very charming and, you know, charismatic figure. But the content of what he's saying can't always be trusted, and people need to take a look.

TAPPER: Joe Hagan with Vanity Fair, thanks as always. Good to see you, sir.

HAGAN: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up, one VP, two VP, three VP. One is flush with cash, one's a TV natural, another lives in the Sunshine State. We're going to bring you inside the Trump campaign as the former president quietly, or not so quietly, molds (ph) his next race defining move.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, former President Trump appears to be showing relative restraint as he watches his opponents candidacy seemingly self-Emily. Right now Trump is hunkering down and waiting for the perfect moment to make a big race defining announcement his running mate who on Trump's shortlist will be his vice president. CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us.

And Kristen, we hear there's a big rally in Florida scheduled for July 9. But sources tell you it's just a coincidence that it happens to be near the home of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Apparently, even though there's a rally in Miami, we should not look into it. But obviously we're going to look into it because we're speculating about everything when it comes to the vice presidency.

But here's one thing we know. We know that right now everything is in flux when it comes to timing because of what we are seeing happen on the other side, what we are seeing happen with President Joe Biden. They knew, the Trump team, that obviously they believed Donald Trump outperformed Joe Biden on the debate stage, but they didn't quite realize how this was going to spiral until earlier this week. And that's also when I started getting calls from the campaign asking me what I thought was happening when it came to Joe Biden. So clearly, they're trying to find any source of information they can as they move forward, and then also pertains to how they look at when they announce something like vice president.

Now, if you talk to anybody who's on the campaign, they will tell you that is ultimately Donald Trump's decision. He could announce it at any moment. But there is of course, his first public event since the debate as well. He did have that rally in Virginia. But in the last couple of days in Miami, as all of this speculation is building and we'll just go over who we have been told by sources are at the top of the list, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator J.D. Vance.

So obviously, a rally in Miami, Florida. Trump's Doral Resort has spiked interest in possibly Senator Marco Rubio but we are told over and over again not to read too much into anything right now. Donald Trump is the ultimate decision maker. And when he decides well, know.


TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

And joining us now to discuss Jonah Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and CNN political commentator. Jonah, is this kind of sit back and watch mentality the right move for Trump?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is. And it's like, I think it's freaking a lot of people out. I mean, the -- one of the things that we've known about Trump for a very long time is that he would prefer negative attention than no attention. He likes positive attention more, but if you can't get it, he'll get negative attention. And he is shown remarkable discipline in again, grading on a curve.

TAPPER: Right, right.

GOLDBERG: For staying out of the way during all of this. And it does point to the idea that his current political team is probably better than any team he's had before.

TAPPER: Yes. Or he's grown and changed. Is that possible? I'm not --


TAPPER: It's not possible. OK. The National Republican Congressional Committee just put out a new attack ad. Let's listen to part of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Biden administration did task Vice President Kamala Harris with the issue of migrant crossings naming her the so called border czar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Migrant encounters in the southern border have skyrocketed since Biden took office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm confident that border is secure.


NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: He's very politically astute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Vice President Harris is uniquely qualified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked at her as a successor.


TAPPER: So, I mean, she's not the nominee.


TAPPER: But there it is. That's what is common for her if she ever ends up being it.

GOLDBERG: Yes, look. And look, that's fair. I mean, the Biden was going to get dinged on immigration no matter what. She was made, essentially, the immigration czar at the beginning of the administration. And it's one of those things that, you know, in all these conversations, which everybody in Washington is having right now, that people bring up is that if Biden steps aside, Harris is the most obvious person to fill in the spot. But she has got vulnerabilities to run on Biden's record. She's got vulnerabilities of her own, and one of them is the immigration issue.

But are those liabilities so onerous that will convince a lot of Democrats to bypass both of the can, you know, both Biden and Harris, that's hard to see. But it's definitely part of the conversation.

TAPPER: I also want to get your take on how Democrats are handling the Biden debate and the fallout. "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" was one of many newspapers to post a house editorial in this -- calling for Biden to step down as the nominee saying "The Journal- Constitution" wrote, it's time for Biden to pass the torch. The former mayor of Atlanta, current senior adviser to the Biden campaign, Keisha Lance Bottoms, this was her response to "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution," posting this editorial.


KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ADVISOR, BIDEN ADMINISTRATION CAMPAIGN: Let me just say I was very disappointed with "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution," as we've talked about making sure that we are protecting elections and making sure by "The Atlanta there's no undue influence. This was the undue influence Journal-Constitution" nor an attempt to influence.



GOLDBERG: Yes. So I think that's ridiculous on its face, the idea that newspapers and editorial boards aren't supposed to comment on politicians. It also gives me profound deja vu. Back when I was at "National Review," where I was an editor for 21 years, give or take. I was part of the effort to put out this sort of now notorious issue called the against Trump issue.

ROKER: Right. I remember that.

GOLDBERG: And when -- and that came out, prior to any caucus votes, came up before the Iowa caucuses. Round the clock, we were getting attacked and denounced, who does "National Review" think it is to tell people how to vote, all kinds of answers. "National Review," we've been endorsing and non-endorsing candidates for a half century. That's what newspapers, that's what publications, that's what journalists do. And if we're in the place now, we're now made it a bipartisan argument to say that expressing literally what the core understanding of what the First Amendment is about criticizing and opining upon people in power, if we're going to call that election interference, we've just made the idiocy of the last 10 years profoundly bipartisan.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, and that's the thing because like, election interference is China hacking or Russia putting out misinformation or whatever, to say that editorially -- I mean that -- are we supposed to take anything that they say about election interference seriously, if that's actually their argument?

GOLDBERG: It reminds me of the arguments that Trump made in 2016, about how he took the term fake news, which originally meant like literally, like crazy server farms in Sarajevo --

TAPPER: Right.

GOLDBERG: Inventing fake news stories --

TAPPER: Right.

GOLDBERG: And he turned it into any criticism of him was fake news. Now the idea of any criticism, Biden is election interference, it's a similar sort of taking serious concepts and treating them on seriously for partisan gain. And there's no defending it.


TAPPER: Well, welcome to N days. Good to see you, Jonah Goldberg.

Breaking news in the Caribbean, warm ocean waters helping to energize Hurricane Beryl, a massive category 4 storm, one of the strongest to hit Jamaican more than a decade. We have a CNN reporter on the ground there in Kingston. And we're going to take you there next.

And this breaking news just coming in discussions of a potential succession plan as pressure builds in the Democratic Party for President Biden to step aside, that reporting is next.


TAPPER: Just in to our 2024 Lead, a senior campaign adviser says President Biden is keeping Vice President Kamala Harris close to him today inviting her to attend his evening meeting with the governor as this comes as new CNN reporting shows that several Democratic Party officials and advisors say plans are underway if, if Biden were to step aside for the President to throw his support behind his vice president and release his Democratic delegate. CNN's Jeff Zeleny, broke this reporting. He's here with me now. Jeff, what are you hearing? What's the story here?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, IT'S notable that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are spending considerable time today, including they will be -- she will be at that meeting tonight at the White House with Democratic governors. And she of course shared lunch with the president, which is not unusual. That's something that presidents and vice presidents do. But the timing of it is significant.


And one advisor explained to me like this, he's with her. So as the President makes his decision against his decision to make a contingency plan, if you will, a secession plan is underway. The discussions of it are for what would happen if Biden makes the decision to leave. And I am told by several advisors that if he makes that decision, he would be expected to immediately throw his support behind his vice president, and ask his delegates to also support her.

And then a former presidents and party leaders would also be asked and likely agreed to support her as well all may not they will be asked to do so. One adviser telling me this, who would stand up against our historic Vice President to be our nominee for president? The bottom line here is time is running out. Time is running short. The Democratic Convention is next month. No one is sure how long Biden will decide this. So again, a contingency plan, a succession plan, if he makes that decision, will everyone be pleased by this? Perhaps not. But that's where this looks like it is going. People thinking, how could you possibly bypass the Vice President?

TAPPER: Yes. Let me --

ZELENY: She of course, I should say --


ZELENY: Is not involved in the contingency planning.

TAPPER: Right. Then, is he even aware of this contingency plan?

ZELENY: I don't know the answer to that question.


ZELENY: Because most of it is happening. It's not happening at the White House.

TAPPER: Right.

ZELENY: It's happening in the upper levels of a Democratic Party elders and things. And I think once we have a little bit of time, removed from this yesterday, significant things happened. Look what Speaker Pelosi said.

TAPPER: Right.

ZELENY: Look at what other people are doing behind the scenes. So time is of the essence here. And the meeting that you reported with the Democratic governors interesting that she will be in the room, perhaps with some a one day challengers, perhaps with some potential running mates, should President Biden decide to make a decision here.

TAPPER: Which he has not as far as we know at the very least.

ZELENY: -- all of these, maybe for not.

TAPPER: Right.

ZELENY: But again, one advisor say it had to be malpractice to not --


ZELENY: -- talk about this and have a plan underway.

TAPPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny, great reporting. Thank you so much.

Right now Hurricane Beryl is slamming Jamaica. It's one of the strongest storms in 15 years. A CNN team is in the capital city of Kingston. We're going to go there next.



TAPPER: In our Earth Matters Series, you're looking at live pictures out of Jamaica where Hurricane Beryl is bringing damaging winds and floods. CNN's Rafael Romo takes a look at the conditions in Kingston, Jamaica, for us now. Rafael?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hurricane Beryl is now here in Jamaica and it's hitting the southern tip of the coastline with this might. It's hard to remain standing because the winds are just very, very powerful. This is not over yet. We have seen lots of debris have been blown off in the last few minutes. And also how the roof was blown off on top of that building right there.

And the big danger is that there's a possibility of the ocean getting into the street because the storm surge is supposed to rise at least 10 feet. So these are very dangerous conditions here in Kingston. And of course authorities are asking people to remain in shelters. They tell us that nearly 500 people are in shelters right now. Again, this is only the beginning. And you can tell how strong the winds are here in Kingston, Jamaica.

And people are wondering here, why is this happening so early in the season? And after seeing what happened in Barbados, and places like Grenada, they feel like it's possible that the same devastation scene there can be seen here as well.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Kingston, Jamaica.


TAPPER: All right, our thanks to Rafael Romo in Kingston, Jamaica.

In our World Lead now, as America celebrates its Independence from Britain tomorrow, the British people will be simultaneously going to the polls. And they could deliver a political reckoning. Polls indicate that the Conservative Party could face, quote, extinction tomorrow, according to one British pundit, this after 14 years in power and a chaotic revolving door of Prime Ministers, five in just eight years. CNN's Nic Robertson is in London for us. And Nic, the candidates and the campaign platforms are showing some notable parallels, it seems to what's going on in our election here in the United States.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Absolutely. The campaign issues, there are parallels there. I think what isn't a parallel is the outcome. That is that one side will win massively not looking at a tight race here at all. Indeed, it's estimated that the Labour Party, the opposition may have a victory that is so big, it won't have been seen since 1832, so almost going back as far as United States Independence. So that's what we're looking at.

Well, the issues that are the same. Immigration is one of those issues. We know the current government has got a policy to send migrants, illegal migrants, to Africa, to Rwanda for processing. Now that's something that is an important issue to all voters. But the incoming party expected to be incoming Labour Party would turn that over as soon as they come into office.

But there are other similarities like the economy is really bad here. Part of this is a reaction revolt against the Conservative Party driving the country into double digit. Inflation like going through five prime ministers in the past 14 years, three of them in the space of just two years. One of them I think you interviewed, Jake, Liz Truss, really managed to turn the economy and turn the population decisively against a Conservative government. And it's really since her tenure, that the build of the lead for the opposition candidate, opposition leadership, Keir Starmer, has really gotten traction here. But there are similarities, but I think we're going to see no uncertainty and a very quick delivery on the outcome.


TAPPER: And Nic, as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza continue to drag on, how hot of an election issue are these for British voters? And how closely are the allies of the U.K. watching what happens?

ROBERTSON: They're watching closely. I think the U.K. is going to be pretty much the same in terms of foreign policy on Ukraine and Israel when the Labour Party comes in as the -- same policies that the Conservative government had. There'll be little change. Perhaps what you might see change Labour Party are saying that they will become a global leader advocating energy reducing carbon neutral efforts to try to stymie climate change. But I think, you know, when it comes to those wars, Starmer and Sunak, the outgoing, expected to be outgoing prime minister, there's very little between them. And that's something that it does cause consternation for some of the electorate here. They don't think that there's going to be a huge change either in the economy or in foreign policy. So that has some people worrying that turnout might be low a bit of voter apathy might creep in, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Nic Robertson thanks so much. We'll be right back with Last Leads. Stick around.



TAPPER: In our National Lead, an investigation is underway into why and who vandalized dozens of gravestones at two Jewish cemeteries in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Jewish cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati say nearly 180 gravestones were damaged including some dating back to the 1800s. Let's bring in CNN security correspondent Josh Campbell. Josh, what more do we know about this?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know the FBI and Cincinnati Police have launched an investigation. Some of these gravestones were knocked down. Some of them were split in half. Authorities believe this occurred between June 25th and July 1st, no indication of any suspects at this hour. The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati issued a statement saying they unequivocally condemn this hatred and desecration of the sacred spaces.

Nevertheless, they say that the Jewish community there remains resilient. Now our colleague, Kit Maher, went to that cemetery to see the vandalism up close. And she ran into a man who went to the cemetery to check on the gravestones of his own relatives. They were thankfully not destroyed, but he spoke to her about the utter devastation of seeing this happen in his community.


JANSON BECKER, PARENTS BURIED AT CEMETERY: A combination of anger and sadness, you can't help but being angry at what happened here. And on the other hand, you're just tremendously sad. You can't understand that until it's happened to you. You read about it in other places. And you hear about it in other places, and you try to empathize, but you can't do it until you feel it yourself.


CAMPBELL: Now, Jake, it's worth pointing out that among those gravestones that were desecrated, our colleagues noted they included members who had served in the U.S. military, there were some gravestones with medallions from the armed forces. So again, among those who were desecrated, were those who had served in the armed forces of the United States. And finally, it's worth pointing, Jake, this comes as the FBI has warned of this uptick, an anti-Semitism across the country.

TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

In our Last Leads, in less than an hour, President Biden is set to meet with Democratic governor, some in person at the White House, others joining virtually by Zoom. Vice president Harris will also attend this meeting. As CNN is learning the President Biden is intentionally keeping Harris close to him. And several Democratic Party officials say advisors say that plans are underway if Biden were to step aside for Biden to throw support behind Harris and release his Democratic delegates. That's outside Democratic officials doing that.

Senator Bob Menendez's defense rested in his federal corruption trial this afternoon. Senator Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, did not take the stand in his own defense. Prosecutors claim he tried to sell his influence for gold bars and stacks of cash. Lawyers for Menendez, his co-defendant, Wael Hana, will present their defense next. Closing arguments are expected next week.

In our sports lead, LeBron James reportedly has agreed to a two year $104 million in trade deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. This comes just days after James's son, Bronny, was picked by the Lakers in the 2024 NBA draft. The contract would make them the first ever father-son duo playing for the same team in NBA history. CNN has reached out to the Lakers for confirmation, but has not heard back yet.

Tomorrow, the Fourth of July, Happy Birthday America. Join CNN in celebrating Independence Day. We'll have fireworks from across the country and musical performances by T-Pain and The Killers and Ashanti and more coverage of the Fourth in America starts tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Until then you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter and on the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can follow the show on X at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show all two hours once you get your podcasts.

The news continues on CNN with Pamela Brown in for Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. See you later.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden is about to meet with Democratic governors who want answers about his shaky debate performance that thrust his campaign into crisis mode. I'll ask one of those governors what he wants to hear from the President just minutes from now.


The White House Press Secretary says President Biden is, quote, absolutely not thinking about stepping down. But tonight we're getting some new information about a potential succession plan --