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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden To Address Democratic Mayors This Evening; New Warning About Iran Trying To Stoke Gaza Protests In U.S.; VP Harris Campaigns In Las Vegas Amid Questions Of Biden's Candidacy; Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), Is Interviewed About Why He Goes Against His Party On One Issue; Biden Gives Closely Watched Speech At Start Of NATO Summit. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. This hour, a House Republican bucking his party and calling for more support for Ukraine from the U.S. as his colleagues urged the U.S. to scale back. That congressman will join us after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who's now here in D.C.

Plus, we're also going to monitor the remarks this hour from Vice President Kamala Harris at a campaign event in Las Vegas. Will she say more to try to defend President Biden and insists that he should stay in the 2024 race, resisting calls for him to step aside?

And leading this hour, just moments ago, a seventh House Democrat called on President Biden to drop out of the 2024 race. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey said in a statement, quote, "Because I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country. I am asking that he declare that he won't run for reelection and will help lead us through a process toward a new nominee," unquote. Her statement coming as Biden gets ready for a new high stakes moment this hour when all eyes are on him as he speaks on the opening day of the NATO summit here in Washington, D.C. CNN's Kayla Tausche is live outside the White House.

Kayla, NATO summit remarks by the President, always a big deal. We do expect, of course, he'll be reading from a teleprompter, which is completely standard to steal a phrase from Biden, though, at this particular moment for him politically and for NATO and for Ukraine, these remarks are a big effing deal in Biden's view. He's trying to hold on to a lot of different threads here.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are a big deal, Jake, especially because this is the first time that the public is going to see President Biden since he began that 36 hours sprint to try to shore up support from all corners of his party, including House Democrats, donors, media, Democratic mayors, who he's set to speak with tonight, as well as the congressional Black Caucus, which he spoke with last night. This all out full court press by President Biden is an effort to try to bolster his candidacy for reelection. But even so, many prominent members of his own party are still saying they need to see more. Take Senator Mark Warner, Senator Patty Murray, who have each said that while they appreciate what Biden has done in the four years of his term so far, that they need more evidence to prove that Biden has the physical and mental fitness to continue for four more years and to deliver a victory in November. So Biden has a lot to deliver on in this speech, not only on the world stage with all of these world leaders present, dozens of them commemorating the 75th anniversary of NATO in the same place where former President Clinton honored the 50th anniversary and where the North Atlantic treaty was first signed in 1949.

But President Biden has a fractured backdrop here at home where he really needs to reassure members of his own party. Top Democrats have told CNN that this is the week that if Democrats are going to replace Biden on the ticket, it needs to happen soon. And if not, they need to get in line lest they risk irreparably damaging their candidate to a point from which he can't recover going into the fall and the home stretch of the election.

We've since learned, Jake, from sources that Biden is set to announce new air defenses for Ukraine and to talk about his leadership expanding and bolstering NATO over the last three years and how important NATO is a bulwark for global geopolitical stability. So certainly common things that we've heard from the president before, but there could not be higher stakes for this particular speech tonight.

TAPPER: Kayla Tausche, thanks so much.

At the top of the NATO summit agenda, locking in long term military support for Ukraine. A senior NATO official today is warning that Russia will likely carry out more large scale attacks on Ukraine during this summit. This is the death toll from yesterday's attacks across Ukraine rises to 43. One of the places targeted, as we covered, Ukraine's largest children's hospital. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Kyiv.

And, Fred, you were at the site of this hospital attack today. Tell us what you saw and how this is casting a shadow over this NATO summit.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What was massive destruction that we saw at the site of that missile strike on that hospital, essentially one of the main buildings of that hospital was completely flattened. And one of the things that we have to point out, Jake, is that this is not just the largest children's hospital in all of Ukraine. It's actually also one of the largest children's hospitals in all of Europe. And so, one of the buildings there completely flattened. We saw a cleanup operation.

The search and rescue operation had already ended at that point. But the other thing that we also saw, Jake, on the ground there was a lot of doctors and other staff who were absolutely traumatized by what happened. I spoke to one doctor who said she was in an adjacent building. She felt the explosion immediately ran out and saw part of the building flattened. And of course, one of the things that they were thinking right away is whether or not the colleagues that they have and the patients, of course, who were all children, whether or not they had managed to get out of that building before the missile struck.


One of the things that the Ukrainians have been saying, Jake, is that it's almost a miracle that only two people were killed on site there. Dozens, of course, also injured. That's because the building was actually evacuated when a missile alert was in effect.

And all of us, of course, casting a big shadow on Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his presence at the NATO summit. One of the things that Zelenskyy, of course, has been talking about a lot is that Ukraine says it needs more air defense systems, specifically the longer range U.S. made Patriot air defense systems. The Ukrainians say those are the only ones that can intercept a lot of the more sophisticated Russian missiles that are being fired at Ukrainian cities, at Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, like, for instance, that hospital. Of course, the Russians continue to say that they believe that it was a Ukrainian interceptor that hit that building, the Ukrainians absolutely having none of that. They are saying it was a deliberate strike on Ukraine's health care system and on Ukraine's children, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Turning back to our 2024 lead, we are awaiting remarks from President Biden welcoming NATO leaders to the NATO summit here in Washington, D.C. We will bring you those remarks live as they happen.

Later this evening, after his speech to NATO leaders, President Biden plans to address the Democratic Mayors Association. It won't be in person, rather a virtual appearance via Zoom. Joining us now, one of those mayors, Richmond, Virginia Mayor Levar Stoney. He's also a member of the Biden-Harris campaign National Advisory board.

Mayor -- Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. What do you want to see and hear from the president tonight? Obviously, a lot of Democratic officials are very worried about him at the top of the ticket.

MAYOR LEVAR STONEY, (D) RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: Well, Jake, what I'm looking forward to hear from the president is how we go about winning over the course of the next 100 plus days. That's what I hear from every mayor. Every mayor is ready to get on the campaign to start winning and defeating Donald Trump. Now, I think sometimes we forget that's the number one goal in this. We're going to encourage the president to continue and to ensure that we have a campaign prepared to run over 100 plus days that will win the hearts and minds of people all across the country and ensure that everyone gets a fair shot.

And so, I'm looking forward to encouraging the president to continue to move forward and ensure that we bring home the victory and win the White House again.

TAPPER: Do you think that he would be a stronger candidate than Vice President Harris?

STONEY: Well, you know, I saw President Biden win in 2020. I was on the ballot with President Trump in 2016. And I can tell you this, the two different administrations, the four years of Donald Trump versus the four years of Joe Biden, are vastly different. We have the most accomplished president in my lifetime, and I believe that he definitely gives us the best opportunity to win the White House once again. And so, I'm going to encourage him to stick to it, put his head down and focus on the hard work and ignore all the noise.

Ever since the debate that occurred that we all saw, which he even admitted had a bad night, we need to start focusing on how we go about defeating Donald Trump once again to keep the lawlessness and the chaos out of the White House.

TAPPER: So when you say he's the best candidate, I assume you're saying that he is stronger, he would be a stronger nominee than Vice President Harris or anyone else. That's what you mean.

STONEY: I have all the respect in the world for Vice President Harris. But you've even heard from the vice president herself, said that President Biden is the best person for the job. She's sticking with the president, and I am as well.

TAPPER: What did you hear from your constituents after the debate? Because I've been talking to a lot of Democratic officials all over the country, and they say a lot of their constituents are Democrats in particular, I'm talking, are very, very worried, don't know what's going on. One Democrat told me that constituents talking to him during a fourth of July parade were saying, save us. Do something. What are you hearing?

STONEY: Well, you know, I have not heard that from my constituents. Obviously, we all saw the debate. You know, President Biden even admitted he thought he had a bad night. But also, I believe -- I know that President Biden offers the best opportunity to win. We've seen the fundraising out of the president's campaign.

We've seen his record as well. We know he just has to focus on winning the hearts and minds over and over again. Let me tell you this real quick, Jake, I believe that one bad night doesn't compare to four years of bad days under the Trump administration. When President Trump was faced with a challenge of combating COVID-19 you saw full on failure and mismanagement. We lost over a half million people and 2.7 million jobs while under his watch.

That's why I'm rocking my man, Joe Biden.

TAPPER: So polling indicates that with Biden on top of the ticket, Virginia is going to be potentially competitive for the first time in years. Doesn't that worry you?


STONEY: Well, it doesn't worry me, because Virginia were always competitive. And I did know --

TAPPER: He won by 10 points last time. STONEY: -- we can't take anything for granted. Well, you know, I'm a Virginian who's not here just on the presidential years. I'm here on the off years as well. And I know that we can be sometimes fickle. So we have to focus our resources and invest in the state in which President Biden has done.

And we would love for him to show up here. But here's the thing, I still believe, I know, I know in my heart that he's still the best candidate to win this election in a matter of 100 plus days. We don't have a lot of time to continue the naval gazing. We have to focus on the victory. This is how we keep lawlessness and chaos out of the White House.

And so, you know, there's been eight polls, I think national polls out there that show that this race remains unchanged from where it was before the debate. And so, we are exactly where were. We need to focus on winning those who are in the middle, who are unsure who they're going to pick, this is a binary competition. It's between Donald Trump and chaos versus Joe Biden and stability. I'm going with stability all the time.

TAPPER: Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Virginia, thanks so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

The cameras are set for President Biden to speak at the NATO summit. We're going to bring you that. We're also going to monitor Vice President Kamala Harris and her campaign event in Las Vegas in the battleground state of Nevada. That should start soon as well.

Also ahead, a brand new warning from the U.S. director of national intelligence about Iran just as that country ushers in a new president. We're back with that story next.



TAPPER: We're back, and we're waiting for President Biden to deliver his opening remarks at the NATO summit here in Washington, D.C. He will make this speech under more of a microscope than normal, given, of course, questions about his health and cognitive abilities. And there is the president right there in the middle. Of course, he is refusing to bow out of the 2024 race despite that baffling debate performance and calls for him to step down from numerous elected officials, although many more are staying silent about it.

We're going to bring you his speech as soon as it commences. But in the meantime, let us turn to our world lead, a different consequential election. Over the weekend, Masoud Pezeshkian was announced the winner of the runoff to become the new president of Iran, replacing the late president Ebrahim Raisi, who you might recall, died in a helicopter crash in May.

Pezeshkian is a 69-year-old heart surgeon and lawmaker who is trying to cast himself as less of a hard liner than his two rivals. When his victory was announced over the weekend, he promised to be a voice for the voiceless. So, of course, the big question are things really going to change in Iran at all? With us now to break it all down, Karim Sadjadpour, is a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment.

Thanks so much for joining us. You're in Sun Valley, Idaho, for a conference. You say despite Pezeshkian's trying to -- his attempt to depict himself as a moderate, we really should not expect any change from the Iranian regime. And we should also note just today the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, issued a warning that Iran is trying to stoke protests in the U.S. related to the conflict in Gaza. Iranian people posing as activists online, in some cases even providing financial support to protesters here in the U.S. Does that fit with what you're seeing and what you expect from this new president?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Absolutely, Jake. From the 1979 revolution to the present, Iran has essentially had two pillars of its ideology, its death to America and death to Israel. And there have been perhaps eight, nine different Iranian presidents from 1979 to the present, but none of them have really meaningfully impacted Iran's external conduct, its revolutionary ideology, its internal conduct. So Pezeshkian, in my view, is not going to prove to be a very consequential figure in Iran. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, will remain Iran's most powerful official.

TAPPER: Tell us more about how he won and beat these two other candidates who are supposedly more hardline to win the presidency.

SADJADPOUR: So Iran democracy, obviously, it's one of the most brutal authoritarian governments in the world, but it has pretensions of being a representative democracy, and they carry out these highly vetted, closed elections. So essentially, six different regime loyalists, all men, only men were allowed to run, Pezeshkian was the most moderate of those six. In the first round, there wasn't much popular enthusiasm. Sixty percent of Iranians didn't show up. In the second round, Pezeshkian was running against the guy called Saeed Jalili, who was probably the most hardline figure, most hardline politician in Iran.

So, you know, as I wrote in my "Washington Post" piece, voters in Iran basically had a choice between a person like Pezeshkian who wasn't really going to be able to make their lives that much better, versus a hardliner who could potentially make their lives that much worse, because the risk of conflict with the United States, more economic sanctions, would have been higher at a hard liner one. So, that was a choice between two evils. And the Iranians chose the moderate regime loyalists rather than the hardline regime loyalist.

TAPPER: Do ordinary Iranians, especially women who suffer from gender apartheid in Iran, do they have anything to possibly look forward to from this new president?

SADJADPOUR: I think that people don't have great expectations. The hope is that maybe the morality police will perhaps harass women a little bit less. But I think that Iranians have now been living under this supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, since 1989. And so they're not ignorant. I think everyone is just waiting to see what happens when Ayatollah Khomeini is now 85 years old when he dies.


But I think there's very little expectations that this new president is going to meaningfully improve people's lives or transform people's lives.

TAPPER: All right. Karim Sadjadpour, thank you so much for your insights. Really appreciate it.

President Biden is about to speak at the NATO summit here in D.C. Vice President Harris about to deliver remarks at a campaign event in Las Vegas in battleground state Nevada. We're going to keep a close watch on both speeches.

Also ahead, a House Republican going against the norm in his party, calling for more aid to Ukraine. He'll join us ahead. Stay with us.


TAPPER: We are back with our world lead as President Biden, at any moment is expected to deliver the opening remarks at the NATO summit. He's not just addressing his audience of world leaders in the room, of course, he's going to be closely watched by everyone around the world, especially voters, perhaps especially who saw that baffling debate performance and now have concerns about his ability to lead the United States, much less the top of the ticket.


While we're waiting on President Biden's opening remarks at the summit, his vice president, Kamala Harris is hitting the campaign trail. She's in battleground Nevada. CNN's Eva McKend is in Vegas.

Eva, what is the vice president focusing on there in Las Vegas to cheers, as we hear? And will she likely make any concerns of any of the -- will she likely make any mention of the growing concerns about Joe Biden, President Biden?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, she likely won't address it. They are desperately trying to put the debate and the ensuing fallout behind them. She is here in Nevada to mobilize and energize Asian-American voters. That is such a key part of the coalition here in this state. She's also really going to make the case for the threat of Donald Trump.

She is expected to say that if former Trump -- President Donald Trump is reelected, he would turn American democracy into a dictatorship and be empowered by the Supreme Court to do so. She's also expected to talk about Project 2025. That is the conservative policy proposal that she would argue would cut Social Security, repeal the $35 cap on insulin. She's talking about it right now. And eliminate the Department of Education.

She's no stranger to the state of Nevada. She has visited this state six times. TAPPER: Eva, I'm sorry, I'm going to interrupt. I'm told that we should listen in to the vice president.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- than ever before in our history. Donald Trump said he was going to stand up to big pharma and lower the cost of prescription drugs. Instead, he bowed down. On the other hand, we took on big pharma and with the knowledge that, for example, South Asians are twice as likely to have diabetes, we capped the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month. We are finally making it so that medical debt cannot be used against your credit score. Knowing how many of our relatives have had a medical emergency, something they did not invite or plan, racking up then tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills and debt, and that being used against your credit score is just wrong.

The credit score is supposed to be a measure of whether you are financially responsible. And so when we do the work that we have done, and, you know, Joe, we do it based on what we believe is morally right when you see the people and understand the struggles and the need for all people to have dignity. So what we've done with medical debt now, not allowing our own credit score, that means it can no longer be used to deny someone a car loan or a lease on an apartment or a home loan. Think about what that means.

Then there's the issue of student loan debt. When he was in the White House, Donald Trump tried to end student loan forgiveness for our public servants, including teachers, nurses, firefighters. On the other hand, we have forgiven student loan debt for nearly 5 million Americans and twice as much for our public servants.

We have also fought to protect our communities from hate and violence, including bypassing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which made it easier for AANHPI communities to report acts of hate. On the other hand, the former president consistently incites hate, including toward the AANHPI community. I will not repeat his words, I will not repeat his words because they should never be repeated, but I will say that someone who vilifies immigrants, who promotes xenophobia, someone who stokes hate, should never again have the chance to stand behind a microphone and the seal of the president of the United States.

TAPPER: All right, that was Vice President Harris delivering remarks to Democrats in Las Vegas, Nevada, the battleground state of Nevada where currently President Biden trail significantly. I saw a poll before the debate that had Biden down seven points in Nevada, and that was obviously before his baffling of June 27 debate performance.


Eva McKend, let's bring you back to talk about the goals of the vice president as she hits the battleground trail.

MCKEND: Yes, Jake, she is here to mobilize and energize Asian American voters. She's not talking about that debate. She's not talking about the conversation around President Biden's fidelity for office. Instead, she's making the case to these voters here by talking about the administration's record and then also warning against what a second Trump presidency could bring.

Now, as for the voters here, we spoke to some of them, many of them really excited to see her. But what was interesting to me, Jake, is even people so motivated to come out to a political rally like this one and supportive of the administration overall. We spoke to a young voter, a college student, who told us it is time for President Biden to step aside and for Harris to lead the ticket. That is not how all of these voters feel, but that is the sentiment even of some of those who are attending this rally today, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Evan McKend with Vice President Kamala Harris in Las Vegas, thanks so much.

Let's go back to CNN's MJ Lee. She's at the White House. And, MJ, walk us through what President Biden is expected to say to NATO leaders at the summit and what's at stake here.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this speech is going to be the President really shoring up NATO support for Ukraine. We expect that the President is going to announce U.S. and its NATO allies will provide Ukraine with patriot batteries and additional air defense systems as Ukraine, of course, continues fighting back Russia's offensive. This is going to be a really important opportunity for President Biden to take the global stage and make an important statement for the first time really since that disastrous debate performance.

Not only are the eyes of so many Americans, including a lot of nervous Democrats on this speech, but I mean, you look at the image of that auditorium, there are world leaders and diplomats in that space closely scrutinizing the President's speech and listening in, some of whom have concerns, real concerns that are shared by Americans. Is the president healthy? Is he fit to serve another four years in office? But, Jake, I know we're talking about this before, but frankly, I think it doesn't matter how this speech goes. He could fumble the speech. He could take a physical spill.

As far as the Biden team is concerned, this is a discussion that is no longer happening as far as they are concerned. He is in this and he is not going to contemplate any discussions that are happening across the country right now about whether the president should seek a second term. He is all in, his aides have said, and that is just not something that he is interested in talking about anymore.

TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee, thanks so much. And we're standing by to hear from President Biden as he delivers remarks at the opening of the NATO summit here in D.C. Keep it here. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to The Lead. You're seeing live images right now from the NATO summit in Washington, D.C. We're just moments away from hearing President Biden's opening remarks. The NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg is speaking right now. Biden's speech comes amid, of course, growing concerns over his ability to continue in his 2024 campaign. We're going to bring you that speech to you as soon as it commences.

Ukraine will be front and center at the NATO summit, and no doubt in the President's speech. Just last week, a bipartisan congressional delegation visited Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reaffirming America's support. Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas was part of that delegation. After the visit, he wrote in op-ed titled, quote, supporting Ukraine in war with Russia is putting American interests first, unquote. Congressman Gonzales joins us now.

Congressman, to say the least, many of your fellow Republicans in Congress and perhaps even on the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump himself, are not on the same page as you. Gallup polls show many Republicans think the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine. You cast your op-ed in the terms of it is putting America first to help Ukraine. What's your message to them?

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): Yes, Jake, thanks for having me back on. It's really two really simple messages. One is I'm concerned with who's in the White House and how the White House is being run right now. But I don't have any interest in throwing rocks at Joe Biden. I'm actually sad with seeing everything occur. And there's a huge vacuum. And that vacuum needs to have clarity. That clarity has to start with Congress. Congress has to lead. Congress has to show the American people that we are absolutely not going anywhere. We have to show our allies that we are going to be strong with them.

What I saw in Ukraine, the second part, what I saw in Ukraine were people fighting for their lives, you know, having four hours of electricity a day. I've seen the Russians use every instrument to win this war, to include reports of chemical weapons that they're using on the front lines. You saw them attack innocent civilians, even killing children. This war has no end to it. The human rights violations continue to pile up, and Congress has to lead. We cannot leave our allies on the battlefield to bleed out.

TAPPER: You've endorsed former President Trump. It seems as though the Ukrainian government is worried about what he might do were he to win in November regarding Ukraine. Are you concerned at all that Donald Trump will make it more difficult for Ukraine to get the aid that you argue it needs to continue the fight against Russia?

GONZALES: I'm not, it really boils down to it's not only about the money. It's about where the money is going. And do Ukraine, does Ukraine have every instrument it needs to fight and win this war? Because you better believe Russia is going to do everything they possibly can, and it's not going to stop with Ukraine. Putin could take over Ukraine today. He would not stop. Every expert that I've talked to has said this is only the beginning.

What I also saw in this war, it is a different war, Jake. I spent 20 years in the military. I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're using drones. You've got young people essentially fighting a war as if they're playing Call of Duty. But there's people on the battlefield that are getting killed. We have to adapt. And we have to realize tanks aren't going to win this war. Blank checks aren't going to win this war. America has to be a strong leader for the world to see and the world to circle behind. We cannot allow Ukraine to fall at all costs.


TAPPER: Some former Trump national security aides are proposing a so called peace plan that would require telling Ukraine it would only get more U.S. weapons if they enter into peace talks. A ceasefire based on the prevailing battle lines, which presumably means Ukraine would have to cede territory. Even though Ukraine would not formally cede it would be unlikely to regain control of all that territory in the near term. It will also require Ukraine to give up the possibility of NATO membership for now. Would you support this plan? That doesn't sound like what you're calling for.

GONZALES: Jake, I would love to see peace in Ukraine. I think the people of Ukraine would love to see peace. I think President Zelenskyy would love to see peace. But there's a big piece of this puzzle that does not want peace, and that's Vladimir Putin. Russia has zero interest in coming to the table and creating peace. Russia started this war. Russia will not end this war. Once again, they're using chemical weapons. They're targeting innocent children. They will do anything possible to gobble up Ukraine. And when they're done, they'll go to the next country. So this is not about peace. I would love to see peace.

This is about us being strong and firm and letting those bullies know you're not going to take an innocent sovereign country, whether it's Ukraine, whether it's Poland, Moldova, or anyone else, we're going to stand firm with those that want democracy around the world.

TAPPER: The Republican National Committee just passed a draft platform that does not even address Ukraine, Project 2025. This conservative blueprint for what they would like, a conservative group, a bunch of conservative groups saying what they want from the next Trump administration. Project 2025 says all conservatives must agree that Ukraine has a right to defend itself. But it stopped short of calling for the next president to provide further aid to Ukraine. That really seems to indicate where your party is and that's not where you are.

GONZALES: Well, I don't think it's just the party. Americans are tired, Jake. I mean, they're going, hey, what about me? What about my roads? What about my kids? What about my opportunities? And they are not wrong. They're feeling further and further behind. I think as a member of Congress, it's my job to go, wait a second here. Yes, you deserve roads. You deserve jobs. You deserve safety. You deserve a secure border. But you also, we also have a role to play on the national stage. And the world needs to be safe, and the world needs to -- we can't allow these authoritarian dictators to rule because they will not stop. Russia will continue to roll on.

And then the last thing I want to see, and I think this is a big part of it, I don't want to see any of our children, our American children fighting a war in Europe. I don't want to see that. I want to prevent that. And the way we prevent that is you bloody Putin's nose and you say no more. That's how it stops. Not just blank checks. It has to go to the right things. These drones that are -- the drone warfare that is occurring is a complete game changer. And we got to make sure Ukraine has every instrument it needs in order to fight and win this war.

TAPPER: Right now, I think we're waiting to see is that President Biden walking up to the podium? I'm not sure. We're about a minute away from President Biden speaking right now. What are your Democratic colleagues saying to you privately about their concerns about President Biden?

GONZALES: All my colleagues are worried, honestly. To be honest -- everyone is worried about the state of the White House right now. And once again, I have no interest in throwing rocks at the White House. I'm going -- we -- Congress needs to fill this void. We need to come together, and we need to show that we can govern, we can lead in a manner that helps all Americans, that protects all of our allies, whether it's Ukraine, whether it's in Asia. We have to stand firm now.

But my colleagues and myself, we're all very concerned, and the American people deserve clarity. This is about going -- Congress is going to be strong. We're going to fill this void that the President is leaving right now.

TAPPER: And we should note, Congressman, that more than 2 million people in your state of Texas are without power after Hurricane Beryl slammed into the southern part of the state, which obviously is really tough. Texas summer with no air conditioning amid a dangerous heat wave where the heat index is hitting 105, officials saying it could take days or weeks to restore power to everyone.

So I just want to say to you and anybody affected by this horrible storm and heat wave that our thoughts and prayers are going out to your constituents and hope -- I hope that the government of Texas and the federal government are doing what it needs to take. Thank you so much for joining us today.

GONZALES: Thank you, Jake.


TAPPER: While we wait for President Biden to come on, I want to bring in the panel. And let me just note that the Cook Political Report just made six changes to their electoral college ratings. For people who don't know, it's a very highly respected non-partisan report that just looks at the state of the race, they're saying, and all of these six changes go in Trump's direction. Arizona, they're saying, was a toss up now, lean Trump. Georgia was a toss up now, lean Trump. Minnesota, likely Biden, changes to Lean Biden. Nebraska's second congressional district, that is, Nebraska and Maine do it differently. They do it by congressional district, goes from likely Biden to lean Biden. New Hampshire likely Biden to lean Biden. Nevada goes from toss up to lean Trump. All of these battlegrounds, all of them headed in Trump's direction. This is the change from the Cook Political Report. They say President Biden was narrowly trailing Donald Trump ahead of the June 27th debate. The gap has grown slightly larger since then, but given the closely divided electorate, even a seemingly small two point shift is significant. We're waiting for President Biden to come on. But Paul, how much longer can the House -- here's President Biden. And I will ask you the question when we come back to you.


TAPPER: Saved by the president. Let's listen and take in the pomp and circumstance of this moment. President Biden addressing the NATO Summit here in Washington, D.C.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. Welcome. In 1949, the leaders of 12 countries, including President Truman, came together in this very room. History was watching. It had been four years since the surrender of the axis powers and the end of the most devastating war the world had ever known.

Here, these 12 leaders gathered to make a sacred pledge to defend each other against aggression, provide their collective security, and to answer threats as one. Because they knew to prevent future wars, to protect democracies, to lay the groundwork for lasting peace and prosperity, they needed a new approach. They needed to combine their strengths. They needed an alliance. And here they signed the Washington Treaty and created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the single greatest, most effective defense of the alliance in the history of the world.

Mr. Secretary General, leaders of NATO countries, foreign and defense ministers, representatives from partner nations in the European Union, and members of Congress. Distinguished guests, welcome. Welcome to the 2024 NATO Summit. It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure to host you in this milestone year, to look back with pride at all we've achieved and look ahead to our shared future with strength and with resolve.

Together, we rebuilt Europe from the ruins of war, held high the torch of liberty during long decades of the Cold War, when former adversaries became fellow democracies, we welcomed in the alliance. When war broke out in the Balkans, we intervene to restore peace and stop ethnic cleansing. And when the United States was attacked on September 11th, our NATO allies, all of you, stood with us, invoking article five for the first time in NATO history, treating an attack on us as an attack on all of us. A breathtaking display of friendship that the American people will never, ever forget.

Through all this history, when great changes occurred, people would ask, can NATO adapt? And every time we proved we could adapt. And we did, evolving our strategy to stay ahead of threats, reaching out to new partners to increase our effectiveness. And here with us today are countries from the Indo Pacific region. They're here because they have a stake in our success and we have a stake in theirs.

Today, NATO is more powerful than ever, 32 nations strong. For years, Finland and Sweden were among our closest partners. Now they have chosen to officially join NATO, and because of the power and meaning of Article Five guarantee. That's the reason. It was the most important aspect of the alliance in 1949 and is still the most important aspect. I'd also note Finland and Sweden joined the alliance not just because their leaders thought it, because their citizens call for it in overwhelming numbers.


Remember, NATO's character is fundamentally democratic, always has been and always must continue to be. And today, NATO is a better resource than it ever has been. I want to pause on this because it's significant. In the year 2020, the year I was elected president, only nine NATO allies are spending 2 percent of their defense GDP on defense. This year, 23 will spend at least 2 percent, and some will spend more than that.

And the remaining countries that have not yet reached that milestone will get there soon. This remarkable progress, proof that our commitment is broad and deep, that we're ready, that we're willing, and we're able to deter aggression and defend every inch of NATO territory across every domain, land, air, sea, cyber, and space.

My friends, it's good that we're stronger than ever, because this moment in history calls for our collective strength. Autocrats on overturned global order, which is by and large, kept for nearly 80 years and counting. Terrorist groups continue to plot evil schemes to cause mayhem and chaos and suffering. In Europe, Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine continues. And Putin wants nothing less, nothing less than Ukraine's total subjugation to end Ukraine's democracy, to destroy Ukraine's culture, and to wipe Ukraine off the map.

And we know Putin won't stop at Ukraine. But make no mistake, Ukraine can and will stop Putin, especially with our full collective support. And they have our full support. Even before Russia, bombs were falling in Ukraine, the alliance acted. I ordered the U.S. reinforcements at NATO's eastern flank. More troops, more aircraft, more capabilities. And now the United States has more than 100,000 troops on the continent of Europe. NATO moves swiftly as well, not only reinforcing the four existing battle groups in the east, but also adding four more in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, essentially doubling NATO strength on the eastern flank.

Together, we've built a global coalition to stand with Ukraine. Together, we provided significant economic and humanitarian assistance. And together we've supplied Ukraine with weapons it needs to defend itself. Tanks, armored fighting vehicles, air defense systems. Long range missiles, and millions of munitions. The United States and nearly two dozen allied partners have signed a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine, and more countries will follow.

Today, I'm announcing the historic donation of air defense equipment for Ukraine. The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Italy will provide Ukraine with the equipment for five additional strategic air defense systems. And in the coming months, the United States and our partners intend to provide Ukraine with dozens of additional tactical air defense systems.

The United States will make sure that when we export critical air defense interceptors, Ukraine goes to the front of the line. They will get this assistance before anyone else gets it. All told, Ukraine will receive hundreds of additional interceptors over the next year, helping protect Ukrainian cities against Russian missiles. Ukrainian troops facing air attacks on the front lines.

Make no mistake, Russia is failing in this war. More than two years into Putin's war of choice, its losses are staggering. More than 350,000 Russian troops dead or wounded. Nearly 1 million Russians, many of them young people, have left Russia because they no longer see a future in Russia.

And Kyiv remember, fellows and ladies, supposed to fall in five days, remember? But still standing two and a half years later and will continue to stand.


All the allies knew that before this war, Putin thought NATO would break. Today, NATO is stronger than it's ever been in its history. When this senseless war began, Ukraine was a free country. Today it is still a free country. And the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country. Russia will not prevail. Ukraine will prevail.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a pivotal moment for Europe, for the transatlantic community, and I might add, for the world. Let's remember, the fact that NATO remains the bulwark of global security did not happen by accident. It wasn't inevitable. Again and again, at critical moments, we chose unity over disunion, progress over retreat, freedom over eternity, hope over fear.

Again and again, we stood behind our shared vision of a peaceful and prosperous transatlantic community. Here at this summit, we gather to proclaim NATO is ready and able to secure that vision today and well into the future.

Let me say this, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Americans understand that NATO makes us all safer. The fact that both Democratic and Republican parties are represented here today is a testament to that fact. The American people know that all the progress we've made in the past 75 years has happened behind the shield of NATO. And the American people don't understand what would happen if there was no NATO.

Another war in Europe, American troops fighting and dying. Dictators spreading chaos, economic collapse, catastrophe. Americans, they know we're stronger with our friends, and we understand this is a sacred obligation. As President Reagan put it, and I quote, if our fellow democracies are not secure, we cannot be secure. If you are threatened, we are threatened. If you are not at peace, we cannot be at peace.

Reagan knew it then, and we know it now. Our nations will continue to keep faith with what we pledged in years to come. Now, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to end my remarks in a slightly unusual way. NATO is an alliance of nations, but also made up of leaders. And one person in particular has done an extraordinary job leading NATO for the last decade. Secretary General Stoltenberg, would he come forward?

So much of the progress we made in the alliance is thanks to the secretary. He's a man of integrity and intellectual rigor, a calm temperament, a moment of crisis, a consummate diplomat who works with leaders across the political spectrum and always finds a way to keep us moving forward. Secretary, you've guided this alliance through one of the most consequential periods in its history.

I realize, I've spoken to your wife, I personally ask you to extend your service. Forgive me. And you put your own plans on hold. When the Russian war in Ukraine began, you didn't hesitate. Today, NATO is stronger, smarter, and more energized than when you began. And a billion people across Europe and North America, indeed, the whole world will reap the rewards of your labor for years to come in the form of security, opportunity, and greater freedom.

For these reasons, I am pleased to award you the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ask the medal to come forward. I'm asking to read the citation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President of the United States of America awards this Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jens Stoltenberg, a visionary statesman and ceaseless defender of democracy. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has guided the NATO alliance through the most consequential decade for European security since World War II. When Vladimir Putin launched his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine betting that NATO would break, Secretary General Stoltenberg proved him wrong.

Under his stewardship, NATO has become stronger and more united than ever, and Americans for generations to come will benefit from the safer world he helped create. He demonstrates that the core truth of the alliance is as powerful now as it was 75 years ago. Together, we are stronger.