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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Defiant Biden Insists He's Committed To Staying In The Race; Interview With Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA); Interview With Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL); Wisconsin Democratic Voters Weigh In On Biden's Campaign; New Center-Left Victories Conter Far-Right's Big Gains In France; Storm Kills Two In Texas, Millions Without Power. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 16:00   ET


JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Mars walks, communication delays, and growing and harvesting vegetables.


There are two more missions like this scheduled by NASA.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yeah, that's tough. Those are transporters --

DEAN: That's a real commitment to science, you know?


DEAN: You have to tip your hat to them. That's not easy.

SANCHEZ: And you may not get along with everybody that's there, the food, the veggies.

DEAN: And you're not even on Mars but thank God they did it. I mean, we appreciate it.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Well, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon.

Jessica, great to be with you as always.

DEAN: Yeah.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The White House this afternoon would not explain why a Parkinson's specialist met with President Biden's staff.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A shouting match inside the White House briefing room just moments ago as the press secretary faced blistering questions over President Biden's health. This as President Biden hits back at critics in a letter to congressional Democrats, some of the very voices calling for the president to step aside in the 2024 race. I'm going to be joined by one of those House Democrats, in just moments. Plus, Beryl's bashing from the Texas coast to major cities such as Houston. The onetime hurricane roars ashore with deadly consequences. And now, millions are without power our and the flood threat is far from over.

And, political paralysis in France. And abrupt turn to the far left there, that after the country seemed to be headed to the bar right. But the election surprise still leaves major questions as to whom it is going to lead this country. We'll explain to you what's really going on.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our 2024 lead where what can be called operation defiance appears to be in overdrive. How effective operation defiance will prove to be as an altogether different question.

Earlier today, President Biden called into one of his favorite TV shows, "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, and he railed against what he called the elites.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm getting so frustrated by the -- by the elites. No, I'm not talking about you guys, but by the elites in the party, who they so much more.


TAPPER: President Biden seems to be trying to frame what's going on right now as the average voters who want him versus the elites of the Democratic Party, donors and lawmakers and opinion makers, many of whom have serious concerns about Biden's ability to be the candidate and have called for him to step down after that debate performance that let's call baffling.

In reality, 72 percent of voters say that they believe President Biden is too old. That's according to CNN's most recent polling. Voters have been saying this for quite a long time. The reality is that the Democratic elites are mostly late to acknowledge these age and ability issues compared to the rest of the public. The elites have been forced to reckon with it after the debate, just 11 days ago.


BIDEN (through telephone): Look at my career. I'm not at many of those nights with a terrible night and I really regret to happen. But the fact of the matter is, how -- how can you assure you're going to be on, you know, fate doesn't intervene (ph) on your way to go to work tomorrow? Age, age wasn't, you know, the idea that I'm too old.


TAPPER: The fact of the matter is, how can you assure you're going to be out on, you know -- on your way to go, you know, work tomorrow? Age -- age wasn't, you know, the idea that I'm too old.

Keep in mind that sound bite is supposed to be reassuring to those Democratic supporters who have gone wobbly. Many Democratic officials with whom I've spoken are worried that president Biden and his family and his inner circle appear to be in complete denial, not just about whatever might be wrong with him, but the state of his candidacy right now.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did, no.


TAPPER: He doesn't think he did?

After facing increasing pressure to demonstrate in public an ability to take questions and respond cogently for a lengthy period of time live about what he wants to do with the United States, his message, his plans, his policies. The president and his team have not held a press conference to demonstrate to us that he can continues to do what he has done sparingly in the past, a short taped sit down with an anchor, in this case George Stephanopoulos, of ABC News.

But before the president did that, he called into a couple of Black radio stations where he said, among other things, this:


BIDEN: By the way, I'm proud to be, as I said, the first vice president, first Black woman, to serve with a Black president, proud of the Frist Black woman in the Supreme Court.

There's just so much that we can do because together we -- there's nothing. Look, this is the United States of America.



TAPPER: He is proud to be the first Black woman? Not coherent.

And even then, we later found out later from the radio host that the Biden campaign had given her a list of questions to ask President Biden. That is a huge no-no in journalism. And the host was fired for it, but it remains quite telling that in the Biden campaign's efforts to show that the president has not missed a step, his campaign felt the need to feed questions to the hosts for a call-in radio interview. And the president still even then failed to deliver in many of his answers.

Now, many elected Democrats are expressing concern about this answer too, although it was quite coherent. George Stephanopoulos asking him how he would feel if he ultimately loses to Donald Trump, which pulls up suggested he -- he will.


BIDEN: I will feel, as long as I gave it my all, and I did the -- good a job as I know I can do -- that's what this is about.


TAPPER: As long as he gave it his all in, did the good as job he could do, that's what its all about. Is it?

The president has said that Donald Trump, his opponent, poses an existential threat to democracy in the United States. Is his giving it his all and doing the good as job he can do enough?

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who is running for Senate in California, he doesn't seem to think so.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This is not just about whether he gave it the best college try but rather whether he made the right decision to run or to pass the torch.


TAPPER: President Biden told ABC News and MSNBC this morning that he alone can do this job. He alone can fix it.


BIDEN: (INAUDIBLE) step in here and do this. I expanded NATO. I solidified NATO.


TAPPER: Most voters think that Democrats have a better chance of keeping the White House if Joe Biden is not the nominee, according to polls. And now so do some congressional Democrats on the record, and a lot more off the record.

Though this morning, President Biden told them he is going to continue his reelection bid despite mounting pressure not to. He said, quote, the question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now, and its time for it to end. We have one job and that is to beat Donald Trump, unquote.

And elected Democrats agree, but a lot of them just don't think Joe Biden can do it.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): What I was stressed to the president is, this isn't just about you. It's not about loyalty. It's about being pragmatic. We have to be honest with ourself. This is not just the White House at stake. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Right, of course, there's the House and the Senate and governor's offices and all of the things that they vote on, of course.

Let's start with CNN's MJ Lee, who's outside the White House -- after the White House press briefing today, devolved into a shouting match, MJ.

CNN and other media outlets are reporting that a Parkinson's specialists met with President Biden's physician at the White House earlier this year. The White House would not detail why.

What do we know about this meeting?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Jake. CNN has now confirmed what "The New York Times" first reported, that a top Parkinson's specialist was at the White House to meet with the president's doctor earlier this year. And in fact, according to White House visitors logs, this neurologists actually has been to the White House, visited the White House multiple times over the course the last year or so, of course, raising important questions about the purpose of this neurologist's visits.

Remember, Dr. O'Connor, the president's physician, has previously said, including after the president's last physical, that the president isn't showing any signs of Parkinson's and that he is not being treated for it. But the White House today repeatedly refusing to answer the question of whether this specialists have come to the White House to consult about President Biden specifically. Take a listen.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We cannot share names of specialist broadly, from a dermatologist to a neurologist. We cannot share names. There are security reasons. We have to -- we have to --


JEAN-PIERRE: I understand that.

REPORTER: It's public.


JEAN-PIERRE: Ed, I hear you. I cannot from here confirm any of that because we have to keep their privacy. I think they would appreciate that, too. We have to give them --

REPORTER: -- the doctor.

JEAN-PIERRE: We have to keep their privacy.

REPORTER: It is public. It is public.

JEAN-PIERRE: I -- I hear you.


JEAN-PIERRE: Guys, guys --

REPORTER: And you would allow this to fester longer, Karine, unless the White House answers the question.

JEAN-PIERRE: Hold on a second. There's no reason to get back and go back and forth to me and this aggressive way.

REPORTER: We missed around here by how information has been shared with the press corps about here.

JEAN-PIERRE: What do you missed about?

REPORTER: Everything he just asked about.

JEAN-PIERRE: What do you -- and then every time, I come back and I answer the question that you guys asked.


REPORTER: And you answered incorrectly and have to come back and clean up -

JEAN-PIERRE: I never answer the question incorrectly. That is not true.


LEE: Jake, what you saw there was a particularly tense moment in the White House press briefing.

You can see there are a number of my colleagues were frustrated and exasperated the White House couldn't answer the yes or no question of whether this neurologist was at the White House in order to consult about President Biden.


As we have talked about so much up, particularly last week, the White House has so far refused to make Dr. O'Connor, the president's doctor, available for questioning. They have refused to release the full results of the president's last annual physical.

So I guess we can add this to the growing list of issues that are related to the president's health and medical records that the -- that the White House is refusing to be he fully transparent about.

TAPPER: MJ Lee, thanks so much. And for the record, that was Ed O'Keefe from CBS News doing that excellent job of demanding information. MJ, thanks so much.

Joining us now in studio, Congressman Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

And, Congressman, for the record, we usually have you here to talk pure policy and foreign policy and armed services, not politics. But this is a fraught moment in our -- in our democracy.

Where are you on this issue? What's your message to President Biden and to your fellow Democrats?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Well, look, I think he should step aside. I think it's become clear that he's not the best person to carry the Democratic message.

And here's the thing, we have an incredibly strong message and record to run on. And all, you know, respect to the president, he's done a great job. Okay?

When you look at where the economy was, when he came in, how our economy dealt with COVID so much better than any other economy in the world, the progress that we're making, the employment rate, you know, stock market, look, there's a lot of work left to do, housing's too expensive, income inequality is still too great, but we've made progress in that, too.

The lowest Black unemployment, Black poverty rate came under this president. I saw a report today in "The New York Times" that some of those areas that have seen the manufacturing jobs fully are actually starting to get better. Okay?

And then on the other side, you've got Donald Trump, who's a complete disaster, Project 2025, and his promise to cut taxes more for the rich and corporations while raising tariffs to tax poor people.

We got a good message. The president has shown he is not capable of delivering that message --

TAPPER: Is this --

SMITH: -- in an effective way?

TAPPER: Just because not -- I shouldn't say just, because that 90- minute debate was a lot. But is this based entirely on that event? No?


TAPPER: What is it?

SMITH: I mean, there's concerns leading up to it in the terms of the president's ability to deliver a message, and it hasn't gotten better since the debate.

The overall package shows we've got a great message. I mean, when you looked at that debate, what all of us were feeling, my son was in high school was, you know, we should -- sorry, he's in college now, but, you know, any good debater could go back on what Donald Trump is saying. And so many missed opportunities were out there. And we want to

deliver an effective message. And then there are the health care concerns.

And look a lot of Democrats are saying, well, let's move on. Let's stop talking about it.

We're not the ones who are bringing it up. We're not the ones who said anytime any place. And only Joe Biden was on that stayed with Donald Trump, 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.

TAPPER: One of your colleagues talked to me on background and said that the problem with this issue with President Biden is and I'm paraphrasing what this member of Congress said to me is every American has seen this in their --

SMITH: Exactly.

TAPPER: -- own life. Everybody knows what it confused older person who is having -- struggling with cognition issues, what it's like and it's not consistently 100 percent 24/7 like that, but it is a process.

SMITH: Yeah. No. And look, the president, as I said, is done a very good job as president. We've got a great record run on. He's just not able to deliver it right now and the health care -- it's a distraction. We should be talking about the record. We should be talking about Trump. And you saw in the press conference.


SMITH: We're not the ones who are forcing it.

And so, I got to make one other point.


SMITH: So the president talked today about how now it's all the elites were trying to force him out.

TAPPER: Yeah. Right.

SMITH: Let's remember what happened in 2020, okay? The president did not run a great primary campaign. He lost badly in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. It came out in Nevada and Bernie Sanders look like the presumptive nominee.

And this exact same group of people --

TAPPER: The elites.

SMITH: -- that the president is now deriding as elites. And, by the way, they're not, they're Democrats. Okay? They're party

operatives, they're donors, they're volunteers, decided, and to all the Bernie supporters out there, I'm not judging this positively or negatively. They decided they didn't want Bernie Sanders be the nominee. They decided that Joe Biden would be the better nominee.

And credit again to the president. He decided that because he did eight years as vice president, he did the years in the Senate. He had the record to be a strong president.

And so, they threw their support behind Joe Biden --


SMITH: -- and Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg and Amy Klobuchar, and I may be forgetting a few others, stepped aside.

TAPPER: Right.

SMITH: -- for the candidate who is better.

This myth that somehow Joe Biden came in and rescued us, it has been a nationwide movement since Donald Trump was elected president.


And in 2020, that nationwide movement said Joe, you're the best guy, let's go. Right now, they don't think he is.

TAPPER: So what happens then in this scenario that he steps down, which we should note, he shows absolutely no indication, and I -- I don't think it's just faking it for the cameras. All the reporting indicates that he, the first lady, Hunter, and some of his top aides or just 100 percent behind him and think that this -- this is just the elites going after the Biden's again.

But put that aside for one second. What is the plan? What would the plan --

SMITH: Two quick things? One, I hope and I completely agree with Adam Schiff and Mike Quigley and others who've said, let's put Joe Biden's ego aside. As candidates, there's this tendency to believe, oh, it's all about us.

No, the candidate is always secondary. The primary thing is the constituents you're asking to represent. So I would ask them to put their personal feelings aside for Joe Biden.

This isn't personal. It wasn't personal in 2020 when all of those people said it should be Joe, it was business. You're the guy we think can win.

So, I'm pleading with them, all right? I hear you. I think you're probably right. I'm pleading with them. Take a step back. Look at what is best for the party, what is best for the country. What happens? Personally, I think Kamala Harris would be a much better, stronger candidate, and because she is constitutionally his second, that's the way it's supposed to work. If the president is no longer able, Kamala Harris is there with --

TAPPER: Oh, you think he should step down from the president?

SMITH: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.


SMITH: I'm talking about with the -- within the primary process.

TAPPER: The primary process.

SMITH: But they ran as a team --

TAPPER: Right.

SMITH: -- from the very start, okay?

TAPPER: So, you don't agree with Congressman Jim Clyburn who said there should be at least some sort of mini primary process so that she's not anointed? So --

SMITH: Let me say, there's 1,000 ways to do it, and that's fine, okay? The president is not the nominee. He got a little testy this morning when I think Joe said he was the presumptive nominee.


SMITH: He is -- he's the presumptive nominee. And let me also say and I put this in a statement and I'm about to put out.

If we get through the convention, he is the nominee, I'm all in.

Look, 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, all right?

And if you've seen it, even after the debate, he didn't come out and show that he could deliver the message. They didn't address the health care issues.

So I just passionately believe that we can pick a better candidate. Like I said, I think it should be Harris. Ultimately, that's up to the delegates. What do you make the selection?

TAPPER: What do you make -- what do you make of the fact that there's this visit by a Parkinson's doctor with the White House physician? And they won't answer questions about it? I know you don't know the details about it. Well, here's the thing -- it just seems to me, I've been in this town a little bit, you, too, and like you have an issue about a candidacy based on ability and health concerns. So what do you do? You try to resolve them. One, you put the candidate

out for two hours and let them take questions from the press, show, not just phone interviews, and not just -- I mean, George did a great job. The 22-minute taped interview is not what we're talking about.

A full hour-and-a-half, two hours to take questions, blah, blah, blah. And he pulled out all the health records. But they're not doing either of this.

SMITH: Yeah. It's -- I don't know. It's not good. I know that, because the doubts linger, the lack of transparency lingers. And again, the president has done a great job, okay? We have a great record to run on.

But what we've seen over and over again, he can't deliver that message and the questions about his health -- again, I did this all this, oh, Democrats, you just shut up and get in line, don't crush. We're not the ones bringing it up.

TAPPER: Right.

SMITH: The president's debate performance and what has happened since then, as well as some incidence before that are bringing. We have to deal with it.

And here's another point -- it undermines our credibility.

Now, it doesn't all have to be on the candidate. Messengers can be good -- Wes Moore, Shapiro, Gretchen Whitmer, Gavin Newsom, we got a -- really good messengers out there.

But your credibility takes a blow if you can't answer questions about the president's health and his ability to deliver a message. If you act like, ahh, not important, shouldn't talk about it.

So, I just -- look, I think I can do about -- I don't know what's going to happen, like I said.

Gets the nomination, I'm all in. Right now, just like in 2020, when everyone said Joe Biden's the guy, let's get behind him, I think we need a different choice if we're going to be able to beat Donald Trump and that's what matters.

It's not about Joe Biden. It's not about individuals. It's about making sure we move this country in the right direction going forward.

TAPPER: Congressman Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington state. Thanks so much for being here. Thanks for your candor also. I appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: What voters in the critical battleground state of Wisconsin are now saying about President Biden's staying in the race? CNN's John King has been talking with some of them. He joins us coming up.

Plus, a house divided cannot stand. I'm going to talk to another Democratic lawmaker about who should lead the party. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with more in our 2024 lead, the mounting calls on President Biden to drop out coming from inside the House as it were.

With me now is another Democratic lawmaker, Congressman Brad Schneider of Illinois.

Congressman, you just heard your colleague, Congressman Adam Smith, tell me that he would like to see President Biden bow out of the race. What's -- what do you think?

REP. BRAD SCHNEIDER (D-IL): Well, I was proud to be -- four years ago, I was proud to be the first member of the Illinois delegation to endorse Joe Biden. I knew then that he would be a great president and he has demonstrated that in his first term, whether it's passing the American rescue plan, the infrastructure bill, the Chips and Science, the Inflation Reduction Act. He has a legacy that we are proud to run on.

I also saw the debate that everyone saw two weeks ago and have the concerns that everyone else has.

Here's what I know: that debate showed us the significance and the stakes in the coming election in November. I'm going to do everything I have to do and we all should be standing shoulder to shoulder to make sure that Donald Trump can't win.

But we also know that Donald Trump was the worst president we ever had. He lies, he threatens our democracy. He's threatening retribution. We cannot let him win in November.

So my commitment is to do anything and everything necessary to win in November.

TAPPER: Does that mean sticking with Biden or do you need somebody else on top of the ticket such as in Congressman Smith's view, Vice President Harris?


SCHNEIDER: You know, it doesn't matter to me who ever it is. The Democrats have to stand united. President Biden has done a great job leading us. He has to demonstrate that what we sought two weeks ago was an aberration whoever is our leader. It is Joe Biden right now.

We have to stand united and make sure that we cross the finish line on November 5th. We have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and hopefully a Democratic Senate.

TAPPER: So, Congressman Smith said that it wasn't just the debate. He had had episodes -- there have been episodes before of the president having glitches of some sort, not speaking cogently or coherently. And then, of course, the president has gone out and done interviews.

Has he demonstrated what you want to see?

SCHNEIDER: I think we're all watching. I was home this past week in Illinois. We love our parades. I did eight parades. I probably walked past 50,000 to 60,000 people.

And I heard for many of them that they want to see the president demonstrate that he has what it takes to lead for the next four years.

We understand what's at stake. We understand our democracy. The future of our country is at stake. The opportunities were going to provide our kids and the world that we're going to live in. And that is what we need to address.

My commitment is to make sure we win in November and I think all of us are committed to that irrespective of who is at the top of the ticket.

TAPPER: Right. But you're not really answering my question, which is I understand you want to win in November, you want to beat Trump in November, is Joe Biden the guide to do it? I mean, if he hasn't yet demonstrated what you want to see from him to make the debate performance a bad memory, then why hasn't he?

I mean, isn't that the question?

SCHNEIDER: I think that's the third question. I think he needs to continue to get out and be in front of the American people, to speak, to speak without a teleprompter in front of people, show us the Joe Biden that we knew four years ago, the Joe Biden who was our vice president. The Joe Biden who can connect with people, who understands the challenges we face as a country and has a plan and has the fortitude to lead us into the future and I think if he shows that, we'll be just fine in November.

TAPPER: I want to turn to another topic because you and your office have been targeted by protesters. I don't know if you want to call them pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel or I guess there are other terms that might come to mind.

On July 4th, somebody ripped down posters hanging outside your office. The posters were of the more than 100 innocent victims still being held hostage by the terrorists in Gaza, including eight Americans, five of them believed to still be alive.

And this comes after for more than a week ago, a group of demonstrators came to your home in the middle of the night protesting I guess your views on Israel. The groups, they were beating drums and using bullhorns.

Why do you think you are being targeted specifically? And what's your reaction in general?

SCHNEIDER: I think the folks who came to my house as you said, in the middle of the night, faces covered with mask banging, drums, blowing on horns, with megaphones chanting antisemitic, anti-Israel chants along the way, literally waking up and terrorizing my neighbors.

They weren't there to pursue peace, or advocate for a better path. They were there to intimidate, to scare, and in their words, they were there to punish me. That's not what we need.

My office is always open. I talked to anyone and everyone. I've talked to people on all sides of this issue. That's what we should be doing and having that constructive conversation.

I know Israel is our most important ally in the region. They were attacked by Hamas on October 7th. They have every right to defend their nation, to protect their citizens, secure their borders, and rescue their hostages. That's what I'm working, too.

But I'm also working as hard as anyone to get aid into Gaza and make sure there's a future -- a peaceful future for all the people region.

But these protesters coming in, they're coming into intimidate. They are chanting anti-symmetric slurs. They are burning the American flag on the Fourth of July, truly un-American demonstration. Not calling for peace or calling for a better path, but calling for destruction, and really I think not doing their -- what they say -- their cause, any good.

What we saw in my office on July 4th is we put posters up of the hostages shortly after the attack on October 7th. We want to show the world and the hostages that they are in our hearts. They're not forgotten. And we're doing everything we can to bring them home and bring them home as quickly as possible.

The attack in my office wasn't an attack on me. It was an attack on all my constituents on the Capitol, saying we're not going to let you put that display to show solidarity.

These are eight Americans are held hostage. As you said, five thought to still be alive, three that we know are dead, but their bodies are still held. There's more than 100 people being held hostage.

Hamas should release them. And we need to move forward to the ceasefire agreement that is on the table and hopefully move to a better place.

TAPPER: Congressman Schneider, are they targeting you because you're Jewish?

SCHNEIDER: I don't know. I can tell you that when they came into the neighborhood last week, a week and a half ago, they were -- they were chanting antisemitic slurs. I live in a neighborhood that is a lot of Jews, many of whom -- of whom have signs on their yard who say we stand with Israel.

Their chants were not peace, or a state for the Palestinians. It was "Zionist go to hell".

[16:30:13] So there are certainly antisemitic chants being said. They -- they targeted me. They targeted our governor, who also happens to be Jewish.

So I can't read into their minds. I can only know what they say. But what they're saying is vile antisemitism and has no place in our communities.

TAPPER: Congressman Brad Schneider, thanks so much. Appreciate it, sir.

While it is important to hear from lawmakers, it is, of course, the view of voters that counts the most, especially those weighing their choice in a key battleground state of Wisconsin.

CNN's John King is keeping up his election road trip. He's going to bring us the latest from the Badger State, next.


TAPPER: In our 2024 lead, President Biden today telling MSNBC that he's been trying to understand whether average Democratic voters want him to stay in the race after watching the debate.

Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): I'm all over the country, number one. And I've gone over a country for several reasons. One, to make sure my instinct was right about the party still wanting me to be the nominee.

But I wanted to make sure I was right that the average voter out there still want Joe Biden and I'm confident they do.


TAPPER: Presumably based on reception at crowd -- you know, of crowds cheering him on.


We do happen to know someone else who has been all over the map talking about to voters. That's that CNN's John King.

John, I kind of trust your instincts and your methodology a little bit better. Biden says average voters still want him.

Is that what the voter is you've met with tell you?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And no. And to be clear, the president hasn't been all over the country. He was in Atlanta after the debate. He went to Wisconsin. He went to Pennsylvania. Three critical states for him, absolutely, but that's not over the country. But here's -- I was just in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, for the July 4th.

They have an epic July 4th parade there. It's a city of 12,000 people. Donald Trump won it with 55 percent in 2016, Joe Biden won it by 19 votes. So it's become one of these suburban swing areas.

We did not meet any Biden voters who say they would vote for Donald Trump if he stayed on the ballot. But we met a lot of Democrats who are range of saddened, angered scared despondent demoralized by the president's debate performance, and some of them, some of them like Lisa and Troy Reissmann, listen here, say, Mr. President, please step aside.


LISA REISSMANN, VOTER IN CEDARBURG, WISCONSIN: He didn't seem as strong as what he has in the past. So quite frankly, I didn't even finish watching. I was really having a hard time watching it because he did seem a little off.

KING: But if it were the president sitting here and not me sitting here, what would you say to him at this moment?

TROY REISSMANN, VOTER IN CEDARBURG, WISCONSIN: Think of the future. Think of our kids and grandkids, and just know that if -- if you're not the same guy that was at the debate four years ago, which was an incredible difference. Then maybe you should step aside only because there's a -- the future doesn't look too bright with the other side taken over.

And maybe I'm wrong and I hope I would be. But, you know, I mean, it's scary.

KING: And you said it would be hard. It would be extraordinarily hard, but it can be done to replace it. You think that's the best course?

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


KING: So, Troy Reissmann, he did watch the entire debate. His wife just couldn't finish. He called his parents right away. They have not decided who to vote for. He said they were scared.

That's what they're worried about. The swing voters, soft Republicans after the debate performance are not going to vote for Joe Biden. Right down the street, we met Allen Naparalla. He has a somewhat different take.

He says he will probably vote for Biden. He says he is undecided, but he says he can't vote for Trump and he doesn't see a third-party candidate, like he's mad. Number one, that we didn't hear about this a long time ago, but he's also worried Jake, can you do it this late? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: (INAUDIBLE) watching that debate?

ALLEN NAPARALLA, VOTER IN CEDARBURG, WISCONSIN: It's just -- it's an embarrassment for Biden -- watching Biden tried to get through his words was just bad. Just bad.

Now, 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, you know, now you've got to fight that even more now. You know, and then all the parties like all we've got to find another candidate. We had to find another candidate okay. You're just getting this crazy that now is this.

KING: He would have to step aside. They're not going to -- the Democratic Party it's not going to fight him for it.


KING: I mean --

NAPARALLA: That's fine.

KING: -- one or two fringe elements. But there are people tried to convince him to step aside.

NAPARALLA: There are, but I mean, again, I just don't think that -- I think if it was earlier in the game, yeah. I think -- but then you'd have to find a strong candidate. I mean, if there was a release, I know that people don't want to step on your toes. I get that. But at the same time, if you're really concerned about your party, then do some done something before this, do you want I mean?

I mean, you knew he wasn't, you know, not in the best of health, you know, going into this a few years back already, the thing is, is as bad as it is. He's still more presidential than Trump is.


KING: So you see there again, Biden voter last time, probably a Biden voted this time, not going to go to Donald Trump, right? So if your team Biden, you say see, they're going to stay with us even if they didn't like the debate performance.

But what was interesting, Jake, is these are all people work in the hospitality industry so they talk to their customers, they talk to their clients, they talked to the people who deliver at the door. They talked to their employees and they live in a swing area.

The conversation is just changed completely. They all said if I was there a week before the debate, they would have told me Biden would eke it out again in Wisconsin. They all said this time, they doubt it very much.

TAPPER: There's a term that's emerged on social media called blue MAGA, referring to those supporters of the president to deny that there's anything afoot, deny that there's anything wrong here, that its all immediate creation or a bunch of disloyal Democrats, are you seeing any of this when -- when you get out? I know social media is not the real-world, but are you seeing any evidence of that?


KING: No, that's why I spend my time in the real world. Are there are people who say it wasn't as bad as you think? There are people who say it was bad but not miserable, or not horrible. Sure. Somewhere in there.

But there's a great picnic after the big Fourth of July parade in Cedarburg and we went thereafter, it wandering around and half dozen or so Democrats, couple I approached, a couple of approach me because I recognize me all of the conversations were oh, my God, what happened? Oh my God, that was horrible. Oh, my God. Can they fix it? Oh, he's going to get out, right?

And so, no, when you go out in the real world, the people who watched the debate, were stunned at the president's performance. They thought it was horrible. Now, does that mean -- does that mean the Democrats are going to go vote for Trump? No. But again, enthusiasm matters and if Democrats are demoralized in these close states, that a one by 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 votes, that could matter, which is why you have Democrats like the congressman, you spoke to earlier.

Some kind of pulling back a little bit, but others like Congressman Smith saying he's going to go because they're looking at the data, Jake and they're looking at 17 weeks left in the election and if the president cant be out campaigning doing 3, 4 states a day because he doesn't have the energy or the vigor to do that or a staff doesn't trust him to do that, can you change the numbers in time? They're saying no. They're saying that it would be almost a miracle to do that, and they're worried about the House and the Senate as well.

They're trying to tell him go out as the guy who beat Trump, don't go out as a guy who lost to Trump and then lost the House and the Senate. But the president, as you hear is being stubborn.

TAPPER: Well, just -- I mean, I said this to Congressman Smith, really easy way to put this in the rear-view mirror, release all your health information, and do a two-hour press conference that shows that you completely are agile in the same guy that was doing these debates ably in 2019 and 2020. What does it say to you that they haven't done either of those?

KING: The lack of while you saw the White House briefing room today, we both work there. That's what happens. When you're in the room, there are people -- there will be people at home and I actually get it saying, well, we calm down people, calm down media, but -- but if you have not been told the truth or if the answers keep changing, that's what happens in that room.

That's what happens in that room because people who are there to ask the questions starting to think, wait a minute, the last week you said something else, but I can tell you, this matters out in the country, too. A lot of people were asking about how long have they known about this? Have they not told us things?

The lack of transparency can matter. Again, if you're on defense, you're losing.

TAPPER: John King, as always, great stuff. Thank you so much.

The political divides are clear and not simply here in the United States, voters in France were asked to choose their future. They did not follow the polls. We'll explain, next.



TAPPER: For all you out there who are annoyed by the stalemate here in Washington, D.C. between Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, not to mention the resulting acrimony and chaos created by fringe members of Congress on both the right and the left, you may be amused to learn that are supposedly more sophisticated friends in France are apparently going through a similar thing.

As CNN's Melissa Bell reports now.


MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Disbelief and joy on the streets of Paris, as news of the far-right's defeat was announced.

JEAN-LUC MELENCHON, LEADER, FRANCE UNBOWED PARTY (through translator): The united left has shown that it has risen to this historical occasion.

BELL: Even that, unified left seemed astonished by its own success, an improbable coalition of ecologists, socialist and communists, that was only created a month ago.

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FORMER FRENCH PRESIDENT AND SOCIALIST: I am indeed a leftist and I probably wouldn't have won if the last hadn't come together. And I'm well aware of that.

BELL: As Paris celebrated the coalition's victory, there were already questions though about how such a varied group of parties will actually govern.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are quite happy because the left is getting a majority of the parliament but we are bit scared as well because the union is not really solid. So maybe there will betrayal. But tonight, we're celebrating.

BELL: The biggest disappointment of all, of course, for Marine Le Pen. She has hopes that that her National Rally party will finally be able to govern. In fact, it came in third, but still recorded the party's best ever electoral success.

Doubling the number of its parliamentary seats, with a far-left doing well, too, the Radical Party's gains largely made at the expense of President Macron's centrists, a reflection of growing anger much of it outside of Paris, like here in Normandy, where the National Rally won outright in the first round.

DEPUTY MAYOR JEAN-PAUL RIBIENE, TALMONTIERS, FRANCE (through translator): The vote here is more of a disapproval of what's happening in Paris compared to what's happening in the rural world, which is that no one listens to us. No one hears us.

BELL: Yet, the images of the far-right celebrating their first-round success appear to a focus the minds and the votes of those who wanted more than anything else to keep them away from power for now.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Melissa Bell for that report.

Firefighters in the Houston area performing numerous water rescues today as what's left of Hurricane Beryl dumps inches of rain on southeast Texas. The storm has been destructive and deadly. We're going to take you there live.



TAPPER: Our "Earth Matter" series now.

Tropical Storm Beryl is slamming parts of Southeastern Texas right now. The storm roared ashore overnight south of Houston as category 1 hurricane. Flooding from wind driven storm surge and heavy rains is impacting both the coast and inland areas. And those strong winds have been tearing roofs and walls off homes, and businesses.

More than 2 million customers, many in the greater Houston area, are without power right now.

CNN's Derek Van Dam reports from the Texas Gulf Coast.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Deadly Hurricane Beryl making landfall this morning along the gulf coast, battering Texas with hurricane force winds, whipping up to 94 miles per hour, rising waters leading to dramatic rescues in Houston, surging wind and rainfall flooding roadways, blowing down trees, and slamming residents along its path, including this woman in Jamaica Beach, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I looked up in my roof, was gone, stuff start flying up the wall, zinging around the house.

VAN DAM: In Houston shortly to landfall, hurricane force wind gusts up to 84 miles per hour, causing roofs to collapse, and heavy rain more than a months worth in one day. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All that rain came down and it's like boom, it fell right on my neck.

VAN DAM: The rain and storm surge leading to dangerous roads.

RANDY MACCHI, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, HOUSTON PUBLIC WORKS: It's important for everyone to remember primary drainage mechanism throughout the city is our streets, for better or worse.

VAN DAM: The National Weather Service warning people to stay off of high-rise balconies and away from windows, as the eye of the storm passes through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had hours and hours and hours of extremely high winds, high water. You've got tree limbs tremendous amount of debris that's on the road. Waters covering the roadways.

VAN DAM: The high winds canceling flights across Texas, at one point, knocking out power for almost 3 million people throughout the state, straining and already stretched power grid overwhelmed by extreme weather. Hurricane Beryl downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves inland.


But the torrential rainfall, damaging winds, and dangerous flash flooding continues. In Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas where more than 3.5 million people in all are both under a tornado watch and a flood watch as a storm continues along its punishing path.


VAN DAM (on camera): Houston is a battered city, one extreme weather event after another. You heard the city mayor say that the primary drainage mechanism for the city is its streets for better or for worse, and unfortunately with all of this urban sprawl you see behind me and the pavement, it's for the worst today -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Derek Van Dam, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Amid new reports that a physician with a specialty in Parkinson's disease has apparently been at the White House numerous times in the past several months, meeting with the official White House physician, CNN's resident neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is going to check in on what we all need to know that were not being told. Stay right here.