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White House Briefing Amid Questions About Biden's Candidacy. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 14:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Because it gives the impression that his staff is asking him to slow down or maybe cancel some trips or have a lighter schedule.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look I didn't get into the president specifically about what he meant by that. So I want to be really mindful. I don't want to get into that.

But I think what the president was trying to say is that he had a schedule that was rigorous, the travel that he had to do, crossing multiple, obviously -- you know going -- going from Italy all the way to the west coast.

And I think, as you know, that that can be - that can have a toll on anyone. Whether you're 20 or 80, that can have a toll on you. And so I think that's what he was alluding to, speaking to.

I don't want to go beyond that because I haven't spoken to him on the other component of when he was speaking about his staff.

But as it relates to certainly the travel, it was rigorous. He had a rigorous travel. We talk about it sometimes. I think I've mentioned this to some of your colleagues that he has a -- especially when he travels abroad, it's a pretty rigorous travel.

We get tired looking at him doing his meetings and traveling. And so I think that's what he was speaking to.

And I don't think it -- it has a toll on -- regardless of what age you are, it has a toll on you, that type of travel.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. There's no question that international travel can be rigorous. I think that confusion is that he's still suffering from the effects of that nearly two weeks later.

So I -- can articulate a little bit about, like, do you guys usually have accommodations for him after he does a trip that he's going to have jet lag for that long a period of time?

JEAN-PIERRE: So can you -- when you say two weeks later, what do you mean? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Before the debate, he arrives back in the

United States 12 or 13 days before the debate. So his explanation for a poor debate performance is jet lag.

JEAN-PIERRE: So what I want to say is the jet lag and also the cold, right? It is the two things and that occurred. And you all heard it in his voice when he did the debate, right?

And it is not even something that we shared ahead of time. You heard it in his voice and we confirmed it. And I think that's important to note as well, like it is the jet lag and the cold.

But I want to be really -- I want to be really clear here. This is not an excuse, right? This is not an excuse. You all asked for an explanation and we're giving an explanation. It is not an excuse.

I don't want that to be the leading piece of this. Asked -- the only reason we're sharing this, because it was asked of me here and the president certainly wanted to give an explanation himself. And that's what he did yesterday.

We want to -- we understand that it wasn't his best night. It wasn't a great debate. We understand that. And we understand what supporters saw, what the American people saw, and what you all saw.

And so we wanted to give an explanation. So I don't want to get into this, are you giving this excuse? Not an excuse. We're giving you what our explanation was.

We want to continue to make sure that we do everything that we can deliver for the American people. That's what we're going to continue on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I also want to ask just about the schedule again.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Because a lot of high-level Democrats, I think, were concerned with debate performance, but they've also been almost just as or more concerned about the response since then, that he hasn't done more.

He spoke for four minutes in public on Monday evening on the Supreme Court decision. And you spoke for about 10 minutes in public yesterday with the emergency weather situation.

JEAN-PIERRE: And he is going to speak today. He's going to go to Wisconsin. He's going to go Pennsylvania.


JEAN-PIERRE: But -- but --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Clearly, in an emergency situation, it's taking almost a week for him to sort of address it. When there's natural disasters, when there's other things happening, he wants to get in front of the cameras and speak to it. In this case, there seems to the -


JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. I would -- I would disagree with you. He did address it. He addressed it on Friday in North Carolina in front of hundreds of supporters. He addressed it.

And he talked about an issue that you all asked me about all the time, his age. Like he took it head on. Literally, head on. He didn't run away from it. He didn't hide from it.

He said I am not a young man, obviously. I'm not as a good debater as I used to be. I don't talk as smooth. I don't talk and I don't walk as easily as I used to. He said himself to hundreds of supporters in North Carolina.

So I would disagree that he didn't take this head on. He did. He did. He talked about it in front of supporters.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- he's called six people --


JEAN-PIERRE: But, by the way, that matters, right, engaging with the American people and standing in front of them and being honest about that and talking about age. Again, something that you all asked me about all the time. He took that right on.

Now he is talking and engaging with leaders. That is something that he's doing. He's having good conversations with them. He's going to meet with Democratic governors, people who -- governors who he believes have been really strong partners with him and delivering on some of these historic accomplishments.


But you know, I would disagree on him not taking this head on. I mean, talking, going -- being in North Carolina and taking that on. Obviously, that's not the speech that he was going to give on Thursday, right, before the debate.

So he understood, right, when he got to North Carolina, that he needed to address it and he decided to do it in front of supporters. And he talked about it.

I'm going to go to the back.


JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to come back --



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Polling this week shows the president losing more ground in the American eyes over immigration, in the economy and foreign policy. So does that, with everything else, diminish the position of the president as these government leaders are coming in for those meetings?

JEAN-PIERRE: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. And I said this moments ago when I was answering a question of one of your colleagues.

These foreign leaders have seen the president personally, up close for the past three years. They have talked about his leadership. They have commended his leadership. They have been proud to see him as the president of the United States after what they experienced in the last administration.

They have, some of them have been even quoted about what the president has been able to do during his past three years.

German Chancellor Scholz, "I think that -- that Joe Biden is someone who is very clear, who knows exactly what he is doing, and who is one of the most experienced politicians in the world, especially when it comes to international politics."

The prime minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, "I have had more than a dozen phone conversation, extended phone conversations with President Biden. He has also came -- he also came on a visit to Israel during war time, which is an historic first. I found him very clear and very focused."

I mean, these are -- these are leaders that he has had extensive engagement with over the past three years. They have seen him up close and personal.

The president looks very -- very much looks forward to hosting -- hosting NATO next week.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Let me ask you about the Supreme Court quickly. So the comments that the president made on Monday, does the president respect the authority of the Supreme Court?

JEAN-PIERRE: Here's what I will say. The president has spoken often, very powerfully, about the events of January 6th. He has. And his views on what happened on that day.

And what you heard from the president Monday night -- he wasn't supposed to speak. He came back. He saw -- he felt so strongly about the decision from the Supreme Court that he came back early and wanted to speak directly to the American people. And that's what he did. It was that significant.

He believes, as president of the United States to speak directly to the American people. And he said this is a dangerous precedent. It is. It's a dangerous precedent.

He also said and laid out that the Supreme Court has continued to take away long-established freedoms and norms, including a woman's right to choose. And now threatening the fundamental American principle that no one is above the law.

And so this is why the president came back. And that's what he spoke out about. And he fears for our democracy. And he knows we must do everything that we can to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He may disagree with the ruling. Does he respect the authority?

JEAN-PIERRE: He respects the authority of the Supreme Court. And like you just said in your question, he disagrees with the ruling. Absolutely. It is unprecedented. It is dangerous.

And that's why the president wanted to make sure that the American people heard directly from him.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. I want to go over about the lines that you are just reading on foreign leaders. Because it seems like the perception has changed after the debate.

JEAN-PIERRE: You mean the quotes that I was -- that I was laying out for all of you from the chancellor --


JEAN-PIERRE: -- and --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I've been talking to diplomats here. They're telling me that the war --

JEAN-PIERRE: Diplomats or -- or leaders of countries.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Diplomates for these leaders.



JEAN-PIERRE: No, I know. I just wanted to make sure.


JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I was talking about the leaders.


JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you. But I'm talking about


JEAN-PIERRE: -- who have been on the record.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But after the debates


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But after the debates, allied countries are worried about the future of the U.S. and that it is a scary embarrassing time for the country and that U.S. leadership has taken once imagined a watch party in Beijing and Moscow. So I mean, are they right to be worried?

JEAN-PIERRE: Look, there's a lot at stake. There's a lot at stake right now. There is. And I think that's why the president fights day in and day out on behalf of the American people.

I've got to be careful because you're kind of -- they're worried about, I'm assuming the election and what's going to happen. So I don't want to speak to that.

But what I can say more broadly, there is a lot at stake. And we see that. We see that with Roe being overturned, the Dobbs decision. We see that with what happened on January 6th. Our democracy and freedoms are at stake.


And not only do diplomats and more leaders care about that, Americans here at home care about that. That is something that they worry about. And that is something that the president is going to continue to fight for.

I'm going to be careful. I can't get into hypotheticals what will happen. There's obviously an election and going on. But there is, indeed, a lot at stake.

And we talk about this all the time, democracy, freedoms, a woman's right to choose. That is important. That is important to fight for.

And what Republicans are trying to do. Extreme Republicans in Congress are trying to do, put three national bans on abortion. That's what the type of legislation that they want to push forward.

So we disagree with that. We're going to stand with majority of Americans.

Go ahead, Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Great. Two questions.

One on NATO. So on next week's summit, this president's schedule, they need important ballots with the bilaterals leaders, especially including Turkish President Erdogan.

A second question is, we know China have been causing a lot of conflicts in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait as we see. Yesterday, we saw Chinese ships harass Japanese ship. (INAUDIBLE) Also detained a Taiwanese fishing boat in the Taiwan Strait.

What is the White House reaction to those conflicts?

JEAN-PIERRE: So we're obviously closely monitoring the incident, so we're going to continue to do that.

And as far as any bilateral meetings, I don't have anything to read out to you at this time. I believe NSC is going to do a call on Friday to talk through what next week is going to look like with the NATO summit being here in D.C. So I would say stay tuned, look out for that.

And we'll have more to share. And obviously when there is a bilateral meeting, we certainly share that with all of you. Just don't have anything to preview at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has the U.S. reached out to Japan and Taiwan, opposite (INAUDIBLE)

JEAN-PIERRE: Well -- well, I don't have any calls, obviously, to speak to at this time. But we encourage both sides to maintain open lines of communication so they can get to a resolution here. And that's what we call -- we call for.

OK. Oh.


JEAN-PIERRE: No, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I just wanted to get to your answer to Raquel a few moments ago, you talked about it being at lot at stake.


JEAN-PIERRE: I'm trying to be mindful so --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But I think millions and millions of Americans would agree with that assessment that there's a lot at stake.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I agree. I agree.


JEAN-PIERRE: That's what I said. It's not just my answer, but it's also Americans here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And the president and you and others in the administration have acknowledged he didn't have a good night in the debate.

Is, within his reaction to his own performance, does he think he left people doubting?

JEAN-PIERRE: Look, this is certainly a president that I will say and, if you know Joe Biden, you know him as a Senator and as vice president, he's very sensitive to how people feel, right? And he's very aware of that.

I think he has that I.Q. that is certainly incredibly important as a president to be able to feel people's pains, feel peoples concern, and be able to listen to them directly.

And you see that. You see him do that on a -- on a -- anytime you see him engage with everyday people, Americans. And I think that's what makes this president so unique.

And I think also, because he's dealt with so much tragedy and knows what that feels like. And I have not asked him specifically that question. But he understands the concerns. He understands what people saw. And that's why he's spoken to it multiple times.

And he's spoken about his age, for example, multiple times, not just this past Friday. And he gets it. He gets it. We get it.

And so what we're going to do is continue -- to continue to look forward, continue to work on behalf of the American people. And there is a record here. There's a record here that we can speak to. There's a record here that matters to majority of Americans.

We were able to turn some things around, whether it's the pandemic, the economy, expanding health care. All of those things matter to the American people.

And so that's going to be certainly our focus. But the president gets it, guys. He does. He gets what people saw and how people felt.


JEAN-PIERRE: I get -- I get -- I can't - no, I can't -- I really can't. I've can't. I've got to -- I got to continue taking questions from the back. And I'm already being -- I'm already being pulled back. I'm already being pulled.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. I wanted to ask you about the things the president said last week.

JEAN-PIERRE: Last week?



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Obviously, the 13 servicemembers died --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- during the Afghanistan withdrawal. And then this year, three U.S. servicemembers died in a drone attack in Jordan.

And yet, the president said, quote, he's "the only president this century, this decade, that doesn't have any troops dying anywhere in the world, like he did," end quote.

I get having a bad night, but how did the president get that so wrong?

JEAN-PIERRE: So I appreciate the question. I really do. And I was asked about this, I believe, in the gaggle on Friday, I believe. I said this and I'll just reiterate this now. And again, I appreciate the opportunity.

Look, the president cares deeply about our servicemembers, he does, and their families. There have been sacrifices that they've made to take on the -- and -- and he takes on his responsibility as a commander-in-chief. And that is something that certainly he will continue to do.

I mentioned moments ago that tomorrow, on July 4th, he's going to have active military members here and their families to thank them personally.

And obviously, they make sacrifice -- their families make sacrifices as well. And as you know, he attended the dignified transfer of the 13, as you just mentioned, brave servicemembers who lost their lives in Afghanistan on August 26 in 2021. And as well as the three who lost their lives and Jordan earlier this year.

I was there with the president. And you can see how much it -- how important he understood it was for him to be there for that moment, to be there for the families.

And so just want to -- want to be really clear about that because he has so much gratitude. We know that, as a country, we can never repay them for their courage.

But to your question, the president was making a comparison between how many servicemembers have died under his leadership versus in previous years. That's what the comparison that he was making.

And he is doing -- doing -- he was doing that because he cares so deeply, cares so deeply about them and their families and wants to keep troops safe. And that's what he certainly wants to continue to do.

Let's not forget that, for some time, he carried a card in his pocket about how many servicemembers we're wounded and killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's how much it was a reminder to him the times that we live in.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This president said this century, this decade. But setting that aside, maybe on a different front, what was the president trying to say when he said he beat Medicare?

JEAN-PIERRE: He meant to say he beat Big Pharma. I mean, that's what he meant to say. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You have more interaction with the president

than most folks. You know him better than most anyone else.

Can you say do you believe that the president is as sharp today as he was when he took this job --




JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is this is a president who is strong and resolute in delivering for the American people. That's what I see. I see a president -- when I'm in sitting in front of him going through the day or talking about what he's doing next, he is someone that engages with us.

He wants to know. He pushes us. He probes us, wanting to figure out like the bigger picture of whatever we're trying to explain to him, or even granule details.


JEAN-PIERRE: He is as sharp as ever, as I have known him to be in my engagement, in my experience with him. And I know when I walk into the Oval Office or see him on Air Force One, I have to be on top of my game. I do.

I mean, that's just my endangerment with him and how it's been for the past couple of years.

I know I have to wrap it up. I know.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. I just wanted to ask, how is the president's health today? Does he still have this cold or is he feeling better?

And then to clarify, on the medical exam, because you said he hasn't had one since last physical. He was on the way to the debate, the doctor was with him. He had a cold. He's 81.

Did he not get checked out by the doctor?


JEAN-PIERRE: What I'm telling you, he did not get did not get checked out by the doctor. It's a cold, guys. It's a cold. And I know that it affects everybody differently. We've all had colds. And so, no, he was not checked by the doctor.

What was your other question?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Today, does he still have -- (CROSSTALK)

JEAN-PIERRE: I saw him today and my team and I saw him today. He looked great. And he was with the vice president. They both looked great.

I know I was asked yesterday if he still had a cold. I think he still has a lingering cold. But he is ready to go. He's ready to go.

I kind of have to wrap it up.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I mean, sources told ABC that the president recognizes how difficult his political predicament is. So how has his mood been as of late? Has he been down -


JEAN-PIERRE: I just -- I mentioned I think multiple times at this point that I got to see him, my team and I got to see him and the vice president. He's great. He's like in a great mood, ready to get things going.


He's going to do the Medal of Honor later today. He's going to meet with Democratic governors. And that's kind of what you want to see, right, from your leader.


JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say -- what I can say is that he wants to move forward. That's what he wants to do. He wants to move forward.

Acknowledge, right, acknowledge what happened, be very clear eyed about it, in very forthcoming and honest about what he -- what you all saw.

But he also knows that he's the president of United States. He has to continue to work and deliver on behalf of the American people. That's what he has to continue to do. And that's what he's that's how he's going to do moving forward.

All right, everybody, thanks, everyone.


JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you, guys.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, that is the end of the White House press briefing. Karine Jean-Pierre asked, is Biden considering stepping down? "Absolutely not," is what she said there.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yes, President Biden is staying in the race, at least according to Karine Jean-Pierre. She says that Biden directly says that reports that he's evaluating any exit from the race are, quote, "absolutely false."

She went on to say that on a staff call held earlier today, according to sources, the president and vice president we're on that call. He said, "I'm in this race to the end."

She also elaborated on the idea that part of his less-than-stellar performance on Thursday was due to a jet lag and a cold. But she says the president is as sharp as ever.

KEILAR: And she was asked if he has been looked at by his doctor, even though the doctor traveled with him. She said no. We know, of course, he had a physical back in February.

So many questions I think reporters would like to ask Dr. O'Connor, but she said it's not the norm to bring the doctor to the podium. Of course, we're not in a normal place right now with the questions surrounding President Biden.

Let's go to CNN's Arlette Saenz, who is live outside of the White House -- Arlette?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I think you guys covered a lot of those top lines from this briefing. But president -- the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, really insisted that President Biden plans on remaining in this race, even as there are so many questions about his candidacy swirling.

She said that the president personally disputed a report that's suggested that he is weighing dropping out of the race.

And the president, we're told, and vice president both called into an all-staff campaign call earlier this afternoon where he insisted that he would stay into this race until the end.

According to a source, who was on the call, the president said, quote, "I am running, I'm the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one's pushing me out. I'm not leaving. I'm in this race to the end and we're going to win. Because when Democrats unite, we always win."

Now part of what the White House is trying to do and the president's trying to do both privately and publicly has really tried to reassure voters, but also top Democratic allies, that he just staying in the race and that he is up for a second term.

This comes, as you have started to see some cracks within the Democratic support for the president. At least one congressman, Democratic congressman has called for President Biden to step aside in this race. And others have voiced their belief that Biden would lose to Trump in November if you we're to stay at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Now, we are told that President Biden, in a conversation with one ally in the last 24 hours, did privately acknowledge that these next few days in the campaign will be critical for him as he is trying to reassure voters that he is up for a second term. This source said that the president is clear-eyed about the situation

moving forward. The campaign has sketched out some of the public events that the president will be doing. He will be sitting down for an interview with ABC news on Friday.

We're also told that he's taping some interviews that will -- with black radio show host that will air tomorrow morning. And the president is also planning to hit the campaign trail on Friday and Sunday to make his case to voters in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

But there's still seems to be many questions about Biden's future within this race. He himself trying to make clear to his campaign staff that he plans to remain in even as some are suggesting that the president should simply step aside for the good of the party and the good of the country at this moment.

SANCHEZ: Arlette Saenz, from the White House, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to our experts. CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger is with us, former adviser to Hillary Clinton, Philippe Reines, and editor-at-large for "The Bulwark," Bill Kristol. He's the director for Defending Democracy Together.

Thank you all for being with us.

Gloria, I want to start with you.


Even though the White House is putting forward the united posture, KJP saying that the president is as sharp as ever. We have this reporting from at least one ally, saying that the president sees the next few days is critical. So he is actually weighing whether he's going to stay in this race.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he has to live in the real-world. And if he's not paying attention, that says something. And I think he is paying attention. How can you not pay attention.

And I think when he talks to people like Chuck Schumer or Hakeem Jeffries, the question he has to be asking is, how is this affecting down-ballot races?

I mean, I don't think Joe Biden is somebody who wants to cost Democrats control of either house of Congress. And so I think he's realistic about things -- about questions like that.

The question that I have is, who is he listening to? Who is giving him this advice? It's a very insular family. Is it Jill. Is that his sister, Val? Is it his best friend, Ted Kaufman, who lives in Wilmington? Is it Hunter?

We just -- we just don't know who's -- who's really got him this ear. And what his thoughts are as he goes through the next few days, which are going to be so critical. KEILAR: Philippe, tell us your thoughts on what we just heard, but also can you describe to us how you see this moment. Is this -- is this a holding pattern? What would you describe it as?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, certainly a difficult moment. Health issues, in general, are very difficult for anyone, any of us, our spouses, our kids, our parents. You don't always know in the moment. Unfortunately, the president has to live this out in front of 325 million Americans.

So I would start by saying we, especially the Democratic Party, should give his team, his family and the president himself the benefit of the doubt that they are sharing with us what they can or what they know.

And just because it's unsatisfying or not fast enough, doesn't mean there's any malicious intent to it.

I think -- you know, Nancy Pelosi put it very well yesterday where she said, obviously there are questions. We need to know if this was an episode or a condition.

But also, importantly, she said, and this needs to apply to both of them. Both of them, being Trump and Biden.

And I'm not downplaying this. There's no need to downplay this. This is very serious. But I will say this, President Biden, more than anyone, to your point, doesn't want to lose the White House or Senate and he wants to take back the House.

I think he has earned trusting us, trusting his gut, us being Democrats. He got us to this point where we didn't think we'd ever be.

Beyond that, there is the part of him that talks to folks. And I think he is hopefully talking to the -- you know, the minority leader in the House yesterday. He's going to talk to governors tonight.

I think this is what he's known for. He's going to listen to people. He's going to talk to people and he'll process that and he will make a decision that's best for the country.

SANCHEZ: Bill, what do you make of the White House and campaign response so far? Because the president had a number of opportunities to speak with congressional leaders and to perhaps even get up at the podium the White House himself and answer questions directly from reporters going back to the de after the debate.

That's not the approach thus far.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "THE BULWARK": No. But what really struck me, I've got to say, is he has not seen, had a medical exam since February. And he's not seen a doctor since. He has not apparently seen a specialist since either between February and the debate, but since the debate.

I find that extraordinary. And frankly, just terrible. If he were an 81-year-old who I knew and I -- he had presented as he did Thursday night, I would be urging him to go see a doctor.

As the president of the United States, a great advantage you have is that you can have the best doctor from Johns Hopkins or any of the great hospitals in America. Come -- come see you immediately.

It's just irresponsible. And I think it's untenable. I don't care about whether he's meeting voters here or talking to Minority Leader Jeffries and all of that interesting political maneuvering.

He needs to see -- he needs to assure us that he is well. And you can't assure people that he's well after what we've seen unless the doctor says that he is well or that he has a condition, but that it's manageable and so forth. Of course, that might be the case.

But you can't -- the refusal to see the doctor, I find both from a political point of view, but honestly, from a human point of view.


KEILAR: I also found it strange that he hasn't seen a doctor as well, Bill.


I also noted that Karine Jean-Pierre said it's not the norm to bring the doctor to the podium. And we should note the doctor was with him on this trip. That's customary. So the doctor certainly sees him quite a bit, observes him.

It's not the norm to bring the doctor to the podium, but we're not in normal times, as I mentioned before.

Do you think that there should be some kind of public testament from the doctor or do you think this is a period --