Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Source: Biden Told Campaign Call "I'm In This Race To The End"; House Democratic Leadership Holding Call Today As Lawmakers Grapple With Biden Fallout; Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) Discusses About Joe Biden Continuing On The Race. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It's not the norm to bring the doctor to the podium, but we are 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 of time where they could be figuring things out? What do you think?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: I mean, first of all, you go to see a specialist with the kinds of symptoms he's presented with. Obviously, that can be arranged. Secondly, I mean, (INAUDIBLE) Secretary Clinton when she had her incident on September 11th, I believe, in 2016 and she saw a doctor. I worked in the Bush White House. Vice President - President Bush collapsed at a dinner in Japan in, I think, January of 1992. He saw a physician. The physician discovered there was something wrong. Well, thank God it was very manageable. I think it was a thyroid balance thing, I don't remember. They announced that, he took some drugs, and he was basically - he was fine. Lived a long life and that was good.

I mean, it's kind of crazy. I really just - I'm just - I'm both upset about it in a - I'm upset about it, as a human thing. It is crazy for him not to see a doctor and not to see the relevant specialists.

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: I'm glad Bill brought up 2016 because, yes, it was a searing moment that we all remember, but it's a perfect example of, yes, transparency is incredibly important. But transparency needs to be on both accounts.


REINES: It needs to be even. We don't know anything of note about Donald Trump's health. We need to know more. He needs to be more transparent. Being more transparent is not literally forging a doctor's note in 2015, the year before Hillary collapsed. The world came down on what happened to her.

We said, very quickly, pneumonia. No one believed us. They just didn't believe us. Donald Trump went to Walter Reed Hospital for no good reason, didn't explain it for, I think, a year, and then pretended that it was a colonoscopy out of the blue. I don't know about you, I've had a colonoscopy. You don't just wake up and decide, I'm going to have one today out of the blue without anesthesia. His COVID, during the whole time, he lied.

If this is about fitness, mental or health, then we need to apply the same standards to both and the same batteries of tests, both health tests, both physical, whatever it is, we need to apply it to both because they are both 80. And you know what? If this was a choice between who's older, who's better health, I would vote for Joe Biden because he is in better physical health.

And Donald Trump says the same crazy things. He slurs his words. He's been waging war on the English language for years and compare it to years before he ran. Obviously, there's been - anyone who sees that, there's been a serious degradation in his language.

BORGER: And if they do have medical exams, they ought to have medical exams by the same people with good reputations. I mean, you can't have the doctor that Donald Trump picked that said he was in the best health of anybody ever in the universe. I think you have to have serious doctors.

The difficulty I think here with aging in particular is that some of these things are difficult to diagnose directly.


BORGER: And they're gradual. And so it could be very hard to come to any hard and fast conclusion because it's what we've been talking to our sources. It's like you can have a good day and you can have a bad day. And apparently that's what Biden has. He has good days and he has bad days.

REINES: And napping shouldn't be a four letter word.

BORGER: Right.

REINES: I mean, if it is that Donald Trump fell asleep every day in his trial, if I were on trial for 34 different felony criminal acts, I don't think no matter how little sleep I got the night before that I would fall asleep. And just because there was only an artist rendering in that room and not video doesn't mean that it's not equally important.

And again, this is not to say that what President Biden is going through isn't something we should be interested in. Obviously, it goes to saying you hope that he's okay. But this disparity between the past that Donald Trump has gotten when he was running against Hillary while he was in office and now while he's running against Joe Biden is horrible.

And I guarantee you like all of the things Donald Trump, two, three years from now, if he wins, it's going to be, oh, we should have been tougher on his health.

BORGER: And what's interesting to me is that Donald Trump has been so quiet about all of this. I mean, you haven't heard him say, oh, well, he's got to take a physical because he knows the response will be, well, so do you. KEILAR: You too, sir.

BORGER: So we haven't - you know, it's been uncharacteristic, I would say, the silence coming from the Trump camp on this. Obviously the Democrats are having issues so they don't want to get in the middle of a fight in the Democratic Party, but there are other reasons as well. And I think this health reason has something to do with it.

REINES: And there are legitimate concerns, but Democrats, in my opinion, should be giving the President and Vice President Harris the benefit of the doubt and a little bit of room to have these conversations, even if they're slower than we would like and see what comes of them.


They have more interest than anyone to win.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Sure. Philippe, Gloria and Bill, thank you all for the perspective. If you are just joining us, we wrapped up a few moments ago a press briefing from the White House. Karine Jean- Pierre saying that President Biden is still staying in this race despite a disastrous performance at last week's debate with former President Donald Trump.

Karine Jean-Pierre essentially saying that the President had a bad night. She wouldn't even call it an episode. She essentially pointed to jet lag and a cold pointing to foreign travel that President Biden went through in the month before the debate, despite the fact that he had about two weeks, right, since returning to the U.S. and about a full week of debate prep at Camp David before that performance that we saw last Thursday night.

KEILAR: Yes. Listen, he did clearly have a lot of travel in this preceding month. I think there's no doubt about that, but it seemed like they did kind of add the jet lag after he had said something about it kind of privately. What we'd heard before was it was a bad night, plus he had this cold. A lot of talk about this cold.

And what is also interesting, we just spoke a little bit about it, was that he has not seen a doctor since the debate. He's not been checked out. He's not been checked out by a specialist, nor has that occurred since his physical in February.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it's kind of - it seems the White House was trying to have it both ways, saying that it's just a cold, so he shouldn't see a doctor, but the cold was so bad that clearly it affected his ability to form coherent sentences at points during the debate. We have CNN Senior White House Correspondent MJ Lee with us at the White House, as well as CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Annie Grayer.

MJ, first to you, you actually brought up the point about the President's medical records and when the last time it was that he had a physical. And you asked about that question of jet lag of Karine Jean-Pierre, because during yesterday's briefing, it didn't come up, and then it appeared today. MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have to tell you, this was another very tough White House press briefing for the White House Press Secretary, just a barrage of continued questions about the President's political future, but also the concerns about his age and his health. And you're right, she did tell me that the President has not had any medical exam since his last annual physical back in February.

And when we were pressing her on why not more transparency, why not more information, bring his doctor out to take questions, release more information, more full information from that last annual physical, she continued defending the White House's conduct, saying they have been thorough in the information they have released. They said the idea of Dr. Kevin O'Connor, the President's doctor, coming to the podium to take questions, that that isn't the norm. We are obviously not in normal times right now.

And then there were numerous questions that were posed to the White House Press Secretary about the President's new explanation for why he performed so poorly at last week's debate. The fatigue, the jet lag, he had pointed to the two foreign trips that he had made to Europe right before the debate, even though we should note that there were some 12 days after he got back from Italy for the G7, until the moment he took the debate stage, there was no good answer for why the President is suggesting that he might've been still fatigued and still jet lagged from a trip that he had arrived back from some nearly two weeks before the debate.

And also just on the question of why we only heard that explanation last night when he spoke at a fundraiser, including at the White House briefing yesterday. Karine Jean-Pierre didn't give us that as an explanation. She kept talking about the cold and her answer was basically, that was my bad. I was so focused on talking about the cold that she didn't mention the fatigue and jet lag as an answer.

Now, just on the future of the President's campaign and his reelection bid, the White House, just like the campaign, is continuing to say the President isn't going to go anywhere, he is going to stay in. We, of course, have heard the President, or reported on the President, telling this to his campaign staff. He said earlier, I am running, I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, no one is pushing me out.

And I had this interesting exchange with the White House Press Secretary, pointing her back to comments that the President had made as a candidate back in 2020, when he referred to himself as the transition candidate. Take a listen to that.

Okay, so I guess we don't have that sound, but that is just one of the questions that I think is looming over as the White House and the campaign continue to say that the President isn't going anywhere, isn't contemplating the idea of dropping out. It is just worth reminding everyone that this is a candidate, president and a former candidate back in 2020, who really had insisted, I am going to be the bridge to the next generation of Democratic leaders.

[15:10:08] And one of the things that Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned in her answer was the reason that he chose Kamala Harris as his vice president is because he sees her as the future. Now, I - obviously, the talk and the buzz that we've heard so much within the Democratic Party has been precisely about the Vice President and whether she should be the one to step in and take the baton from him should he leave the presidential race. But, of course, again, the campaign is very much insisting that that is not happening, that is not being contemplated right now, even though as our reporting had shown earlier today, he did privately acknowledge to an ally yesterday that he knows that the next couple of days are going to be really critical for determining whether he is able to save his reelection bid.

KEILAR: Yes. And what's he going to do with that? Is he also just buying time? How much of this is - were in a holding pattern, all questions that we're trying to answer. MJ Lee live for us from the White House. Thank you. And thank you for those questions you asked.

Let's go to CNN's Annie Grayer.

And Annie, I know you have some new reporting that House Democratic leadership, they're holding a call today. What can you tell us?

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, that call is happening at five o'clock this afternoon and it is coming at a critical time. Democratic lawmakers are ringing the phones of the White House and the Biden campaign off the hook as they express their concerns, which I'm told are largely twofold.

The first bucket has to do with their concerns about Biden remaining at the top of the ticket after Thursday's debate performance. But they're also concerned that if Biden does stay in, what it would do to their chances of being able to win back the House in November. There are a number of Democrats running in very competitive House races that are concerned about their races coming down to turnout and the President remaining at the top of the ticket, hurting those chances.

But for now, Biden has been calling the top - his top allies and leaders on Capitol Hill, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and his longtime ally, Jim Clyburn.

All of those leaders are expressing their strong public support for the President. But the question really is what is happening behind the scenes. And I'm just hearing more and more from dozens of lawmakers and aides of just about the anxiety and concerns that have just been really building since Thursday night's debate performance. And one Democrat who I spoke to from a very blue state said that the last 24 hours really is starting to feel different, that the messages that they're starting to receive from pollsters, from delegates, from down- ballot Democrats is that while they respect Joe Biden and his record, they are more and more starting to feel like it's time for the President to step aside.

So all of these dynamics, Brianna and Boris, are happening behind the scenes and it comes right up until this 5 PM call today. KEILAR: All right. Yes, we'll be looking to see what comes out of that. Annie, thank you for that reporting. Joining us now is Axios National Political Correspondent, Alex Thompson.

All right, Alex, I know you've been talking to a lot of people inside the White House, inside the Biden campaign. What are you hearing about how they're feeling about the situation?

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: Well, today was basically a day to stop the bleeding, because you had Jeff Zients call, a conference call with basically the entire White House staff, the entire VP staff, the President and the vice president had a separate conference call right after that with the entire campaign staff.

And the reason is because the morale among the staff is incredibly low. And part of the reason is it wasn't just a bad debate night that reemphasized or reinforced or basically proved or at least suggested that Biden might not be up to this job. The other thing that it - the other mistake they made was that Joe Biden basically was nowhere to be seen for several days afterward. He basically was not on - he did a North Carolina rally on teleprompter. He did remarks Monday night on teleprompter and Sunday he did an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot.

And that was really depressing morale, both in the White House and the campaign. This was a day to stop the bleeding because this was getting away from Joe Biden. And that's why you finally saw him call congressional leaders. That's why you were seeing him meet with the governors and call the governors. And we're really headed up to a point where Joe Biden is basically fighting for his political life the next 72 hours.

SANCHEZ: And Alex, Biden apparently told donors last night that he blamed his debate performance on being too exhausted on fatigue after traveling the world. Now, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the seemingly shifting explanation today after not having mentioned this yesterday.


She said, my bad. She mostly focused on the suggestion that the President had a cold that kept him from having a great performance at the debate. Walk us through the evolving messaging from the White House and what you're hearing from staff about the reasons that they're giving.

THOMPSON: I mean, we really don't have enough time in this segment to go through the shifting explanations because it is - listen, they didn't even say that he had a cold until an hour into the debate. Then earlier this week, Joe Biden has actually really never even referenced that he had a cold. Then Karine Jean-Pierre said he actually had no cold medication when he said he had a cold. Then he said, oh, it was really about the travel.

But then you also have to remember that he was already in the Eastern Time zone for about 10 days before the debate. Yes, he traveled a lot in early June, but they arranged this to have a lot of downtime. And the fact of the matter is that the White House has still not been able to try to hone in on an explanation for why Joe Biden at the debate could not even string simple sentences together, could not really explain his or articulate his case against Donald Trump.

And that is part of the reason why the crisis is growing and the dissent is growing. And that's why the next, you know, five to six days is so critical for Joe Biden to allay those fears.

KEILAR: And Alex, she also seemed to say, well, you and the press, members of the media, were actually asking us if, I don't know if she was saying if he had a cold or if he was unwell. What did you make of that?

THOMPSON: I mean, we were asking because it was - because you could barely hear him. And the reason we were asking is because we were trying to find if there was any explanation for what was going on to Joe Biden. And the fact of the matter is, even if he had a cold, even if he had a severe cold, even if he had COVID, no cold or COVID could really explain his inability to answer simple questions, even layups on issues the Democrats are very much leaning into like abortion rights.

And I think the thing is, the White House is trying to find an explanation. And honestly, I'm not sure if there's a good one.

KEILAR: All right, Alex, thank you so much. And thanks for sharing your reporting with us. We appreciate it.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is among the Democratic lawmakers standing behind President Biden after the debate. We'll be hearing from her next.

Plus, the Justice Department will reportedly continue pursuing its cases against former President Trump, no matter who wins in November. And one of the brains behind Project 2025, the proposed conservative legislative agenda for a second Trump term, issues a veiled threat against the left. We'll have those stories and much more coming up on CNN News Central.



SANCHEZ: The pressure is building on the Biden campaign and the President has privately acknowledged that the next stretch of days are critical for saving his reelection bid. But right now the White House says the President is absolutely not considering quitting this race.

Joining us now is Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. Do you still believe that President Biden is the best chance Democrats have of retaking the White House in November? REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): This is what I'm going to tell you point blank, Boris, I love Joe Biden. He has been my friend for 40 years. All the members love him and respect him. And he has done a great job in - as a United States Senator for the last decades as vice president and delivered more as president - than most presidents have for working men and women. He had a bad night on Thursday night. He - how it's been handled since then, nobody can say he's great and he's got a very short period of time to talk to the American people directly. Show him, show them what he can do and will do. Give them their vision and show them that he has the stamina to do it and only Joe Biden can do it at this point because of everything that has happened.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, it doesn't sound like you approve of the strategy post-debate. Did I hear that correctly?

DINGELL: Well, I - you know, I've been - look, I was telling people before the debate, listen to those of us in Michigan who know how to win Michigan and we will win Michigan. But I think people - some of the campaign staff didn't take it seriously enough. I'm sure they're going to get mad at me for saying that. It got a lot of people upset instead of - and he should have been out there. He should have been out there sooner and faster. He's now out there. He's making those calls. One interview isn't going to do it. He has to be the Joe Biden that I have known and be out there and be himself and show people he's up to the job, he's got the stamina and what he's going to do for the next four years and how he's going to deliver for the working men and women.

And by the way, will, which is very clear, put people over politics every single day. And that's what we have to remind people of. Donald Trump didn't have a great night, Thursday night too. Everybody's so busy talking about Joe Biden. Donald Trump doubled down on a lot of things that many people in America don't want to see and the SCOTUS ruling on Monday concerned people even more.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, I'm curious if your view is that President Biden needs to put himself before the American people. Would you have counseled him to have taken the podium in the press room at the White House, either on Friday or yesterday?


DINGELL: Well, no one's really listening to me of what I'm thinking, but I would have said, get out there.

SANCHEZ: I would think ...

DINGELL: I would have said, get out there. Friday, I would have said, make those phone calls he made today, last week, he's doing it now. I think, quite frankly, I've said this and you can go back and find that I've said this before the Thursday night debate, which I didn't sugarcoat on Friday, it wasn't good. I think sometimes his staff bubble wrapped him. I know Joe Biden. I know Joe Biden when he is out there and I see him with real people. He's compassionate, he's empathetic, he connects. You know, everybody's like, do this or do that. I heard that he was wonderful yesterday in a bill signing on the Parkinson's bill with Jennifer Wexton.

Let Joe Biden be Joe Biden, but he, not us, nobody else can do it, one person can do this. Joe Biden has to talk directly to the American people and show them he is strong enough for the next four years.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, I want to show a poll that CNN conducted after the debate. It shows that a large majority of registered voters believe someone else gives Democrats the best chance in 2024. When you drill down on Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, it's still a majority by roughly 13 percent.

You also have a number of colleagues in the House, a quote, increasing group of Democrats that are concerned about the President's candidacy, about his trajectory and his ability to win. What do you say to the folks that were asked in that poll and your colleagues who believe there's a better chance with someone else?

DINGELL: So I'm going to be very blunt and I'm always the wrong person to ask about polling, because I am the person in 2015 and 2016 that told people the polls were wrong and Donald Trump would win Michigan. And I got called crazy, people rolled their eyes, who was right and who was wrong? I was right, I got good gut, the polls were wrong.

You know, it's a long time between now and November, but as I keep saying, he's got to go out, he's got to prove that point. And look, I've been - I'm not old, but I'm seasoned. I have seen many crises, but you got to work through it, and you got to be quick, and you got to be swift, and you got to address it. It's got to happen now for this to be dealt with.

And my colleagues, some of my colleagues are new, some of my, they are worried, people are worried because of the - everything that they're hearing. And as I keep saying, only one person can settle this, get it calmed down and show people he can do the job. And that's Joe Biden and he's got to go out and he's got to calm the water.

SANCHEZ: Congressman, you've been asked about the President's mental acuity for months. Specifically, I remember after the Hur report came out, you told my co-anchor, Brianna, that it angered you when people took cheap shots at President Biden's fitness. There have been a slew of reports since Thursday, detailing lapses that the President has had, both in private and in public, but you're not concerned at all about the President's physical and mental condition?

DINGELL: Look, that's why I said to you, he's got - I've been with him a number of times and have not seen what others have reported. He did not have a good night Thursday night. I'm not sugarcoating that. And that's why I've said to you, it cannot be one press interview. He has to, on a sustained basis, show people he has the stamina. All of us have bad nights. All of us have bad days. I have not seen some of the things that other people are saying, but I haven't been with him. I haven't been with him for a sustained period of time.

But I was at the White House a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about autos and get that man talking about cars and he loves cars, so he was fine. But I think he's got to prove it to the American people, not to donors, not to even my colleagues. He's got to prove it to the American people. He has to speak directly to the American people, work with the American people, and be out there with the American people.

SANCHEZ: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, we have to leave the conversation there. Thanks so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us.

DINGELL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still to come, the Justice Department is making it clear a Trump win in November does not immediately make his two federal cases go away. We'll explain.

And we're taking a deeper look inside "Project 2025," a step-by-step guide for reaching major conservative goals if Trump makes it back to the Oval Office.