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Biden Dismisses Re-Election Worries, Got to Keep Moving; Beryl Near Grand Cayman Island After Pounding Jamaica; Boeing Whistleblower Claims Planes Wound Up With Thousands of Bad Parts. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 07:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Quote, I'm not leaving. President Biden defiant as calls grow for him to end his re-election bid. New interviews out moments ago with the president as he fights to save his campaign.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And Hurricane Beryl right now hitting the Cayman Islands with powerful winds, storm surge and huge waves. It already battered Jamaica's southern coast. CNN is on the ground live in Jamaica with a first morning look at the damage.

And it's Independence Day here in the U.S. It will be the hottest on record for many cities. We'll show you where.

I'm Alisyn Camerota with Fredricka Whitfield this morning. Sarah, Kate and John are off. This is CNN News Central.

WHITFIELD: Happening now, an Independence Day in America like no other, as the current leader of the Land of the Free seeks to gain independence from a re election nightmare. In a brand new taped radio interview, President Biden again digging in against calls for him to step aside.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any reason for the American people to be concerned?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: No. I had a bad debate.


BIDEN: I had a dark day. But 90 minutes on stage is -- does not a race what I've done for 3.5 years.

I'm proud of the record and we just got to keep moving.


WHITFIELD: And new this morning, Biden is enjoying a strong backing from several Democratic governors after their critical meeting. Walz of Minnesota saying this, he's fit for office. The governors have his back. And from California's Newsom, quote, he's all-in and so am I.

But is the top House Democrat all-in? Sources tell CNN Leader Hakeem Jeffries did not share his current assessment of Biden's future on a call last night. This as two sitting House Democrats are now calling for Biden to step aside, as well as one of his biggest campaign donors, Netflix co-Founder Reed Hastings.

Let's get right to CNN's Arlette Saenz outside the White House. Arlette, how is the president viewing the next few days?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, President Biden is really engaging in a public and private reassurance campaign to try to convince American voters and his own allies that he is staying in this race and up for a second term. The president acknowledged to one key ally that the next few days in his campaign will be critical. And part of the president's focus going forward will be in taking his message directly to the American voters, sitting down for a major interview with ABC News tomorrow, as well as traveling to battleground states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in the coming days.

The president started some of that outreach to voters taping a pair of interviews with two black radio hosts that started airing this morning. And in one of those interviews that aired this morning in the Philadelphia area, the president argued that voters should look at his entire record and not just the 90 minutes on that debate stage.

He also tried to speak in very stark terms about what a second Trump presidency could mean, especially when it relates to the Supreme Court. Here's a snippet of that 14-minute interview the president conducted.


BIDEN: This is the most important election, because the next president of the United States, by the way, is going to be able to appoint at least two more justices in the four-year period and maybe more. Imagine what that does in the Supreme Court.


SAENZ: Now, the president last night hosted a meeting with about 20 governors, some attending in-person and some virtually, where he tried to reassure these top Democrats about his candidacy, but it also gave them a chance to take a stalk of Biden and whether he is up for a second term.

Several Democratic governors came out here at the White House to publicly express their support for President Biden.


Maryland Governor Wes Moore noted that there were very honest and frank conversations in that meeting. But at the same time, there are some deep reservations among Democrats up on Capitol Hill about the path forward for Biden in this race. Now, the president is spending the 4th of July here at the White House, where he will huddle and meet with his family. Vice President Kamala Harris will also be on hand for these 4th of July festivities. Of course, this is a day to celebrate the nation's independence at a time when Biden really has framed this campaign as a battle for the soul of the nation and a fight to make sure that democracy is preserved. Of course, President Biden himself is now in a fight for his own re-election campaign.

WHITFIELD: All right. Indeed. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

Of course, CNN will be speaking with that WURD host, Andrea Lawful Sanders, later on this morning.

Also this morning, we're learning exactly what Donald Trump thinks of President Biden's debate performance in a secretly recorded video obtained by the Daily Beast. Trump is heard calling the president, quote, an old, broken down pile of crap. Trump also lobbed insults at Vice President Kamala Harris.

CNN's Steve Contorno is joining me right now with more on all this. So, Steve, you know, how is Donald Trump handling all of these questions surrounding the president and his future?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Fred, for the most part, he's been remarkably quiet ever since the debate. He held that one rally in the immediate aftermath in Virginia, but he has not held one since. He's had very limited media appearances. There's been not a lot of nuggets being dropped about his potential V.P. announcements, which we thought could come as soon as this week. Obviously, that's not the case anymore. And he gave his staff off for the 4th of July holiday.

Look, they're happy to keep the spotlight on Joe Biden and the Democratic handwringing for as long as possible up until their convention in a week from now. And what's interesting is that this is a scenario they have somewhat predicted, if not anticipated for quite some time, for more than a year, that Donald Trump and other Republicans have been suggesting that Biden wouldn't last through this presidential cycle.

Now, whether that was just rhetoric or something that they thought could actually happen, now we're nearing this moment where that is more of a possibility than perhaps ever before. And yet they're also sort of scrambling to figure out what comes next.

I talked to one Republican pollster who said you'd rather go with the devil you know than the devil you don't know. But they did put out a statement yesterday for the first time, starting to attack some of the other candidates that are in consideration. They wrote, quote, Joe Biden is weak, failed, dishonest and not fit for the White House. Every one of them, them being the potential other considerations, has lied about Joe Biden's cognitive state and supported his disastrous policies over the past four years, especially Cackling Copilot Kamala Harris. So, there's where they're at right now, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Steve Contorno, thank you so much. Alisyn? CAMEROTA: Okay, Fred. Let's bring in CNN Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston. Mark, great to see you.

So, this morning, there's this new radio interview. And, of course, there was last night's meeting with the Democratic governors. Is there any evidence that this all helps move the needle with the public and helps President Biden salvage his campaign?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right now, I mean, there's no evidence that we can see other than the question is, have they done it too late right now, Alisyn. Clearly, we're seeing the president go on this offensive. But, again, this debate has been seven days old right now, and the criticism has been that the president and his advisers did not forcefully get out there right away, try to nip this in the bud, and unfortunately, that's what they're dealing with right now.

But I got to tell you, if I was a betting man, I think the money is on that he eventually steps aside, because I just don't know how this cascade of criticism that he's getting from within his own party stops.

CAMEROTA: So, Mark, as you know, there's two current Democratic lawmakers now. They're going public saying that they think that President Biden should step aside. One of Biden's biggest campaign mega donors, who's Netflix co-Founder Reed Hastings, he wrote an email to The New York Times saying that Biden needs to drop out. There's also this new CNN poll of polls. It finds that Trump has a five-point lead over Biden. So, what other data -- when the president says he's waiting for the data, what other data is he waiting for?

PRESTON: So it's interesting you ask this question because I was talking to a Democratic lobbyist who's known for writing fairly big checks in town to Democratic candidates. And I posed that question to him, could the money people come out and tell Joe Biden to step aside? And he kind of laughed at me and said, no, he goes. Of course, that could be a little bit of pressure.

But what you're really going to look for is the small dollar donors, which are now fueling these campaigns. And these small dollar donors are going to be at 4th of July parades today. They're going to see their members of Congress back home this weekend, because this is a very visible weekend, of course, for members of Congress to go back home.


That's the data points you're going to get when constituents start going up to, members of Congress, and really start asking them, is he okay? Is he okay now? Should he be on the ticket? Do you feel good about it? They start to feel that pressure. Then that's when the data point I do believe that the Biden White House is most concerned about.

CAMEROTA: So, CNN has new reporting that behind the scenes a succession plan is being talked about, but the Biden camp dismisses that. So, here's Congressman James Clyburn talking about the path forward.


REP. JIM CLYBURN: You can actually fashion the process that's already in place to make it a mini primary. And I would support that, absolutely.

I think that Kamala Harris would acquit herself very well in that kind of a process, and then it will be fair to everybody. So, all of the other governors who may be interested and there's some that I would be interested in hearing from as well, because if she were to be the nominee, we need to have a running mate.


CAMEROTA: So, is that how it would work, Mark? Is it the easiest -- if there were a succession plan, is it the easiest for Kamala Harris? In other words, would anybody else be able to get the money and get the backing other than the vice president?

PRESTON: Well, they may get the backing, but they're not going to get the money and they're not going to get very much of the backing. So, let's just put this on the table in very simple terms. You have the first African-American woman who has achieved this incredibly high office. I mean, she is one step away from the presidency. I don't know how the Democratic Party can go out and say we want to grab a governor from Pennsylvania or Michigan or even California, where she's from, Gavin Newsom, and say we're going to have them jump over Kamala Harris, somebody who has run for president already, somebody who has been in the White House, and has been in situations. For all the criticisms she has taken, she clearly understands the job. I just don't understand how the Democratic Party could leapfrog her.

But Jim Clyburn did something very interesting there. He's the one basically that planted the flag because there had been so much pushback about Kamala Harris from the get-go saying, could she really defeat Donald Trump? When people started to come out, there was some concern over the weekend, this past weekend, we saw Jim Clyburn come out, plant the flag, basically say, hey, we should have a primary, but I'm backing Kamala Harris, and that means the party should.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, Mark, as you know, things are changing by the hour. So, thank you very much for giving us a status report here at this hour.

All right, flooding and power outages in Jamaica this morning as Hurricane Beryl lashes the Caribbean. A look at the latest track.

Plus, a ninth lawsuit is filed against Sean Diddy Combs. What the latest accuser alleges took place during his famous all-white party in the Hamptons.

And CNN sits down with the Boeing whistleblower who raised concerns about bad parts being used on passenger planes.


MERLE MEYERS, BOEING WHISTLEBLOWER: That's what we counted at the time.

MUNTEAN: It seems like a heck of a lot.

MEYERS: It's a heck of a lot indeed.

MUNTEAN: What does that say to you?

MEYERS: Well, that says it puts people's lives at risk.



WHITFIELD: All right. Right now, Hurricane Beryl is passing the Cayman Islands as it continues its destructive path toward Mexico. The dangerous storm has weakened to a Category 3 after pounding southern Jamaica with torrential rain and about nine feet of storm surge. One person in Jamaica was killed, raising the death toll from Beryl to at least eight. Jamaica's prime minister warns heavy rains could still cause dangerous flooding and landslides there.

CNN's Rafael Romo is joining us now from Jamaica's capital of Kingston. So, Rafael, you rode out the storm yesterday. What did you experience and what have you heard from people there?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, good morning. It was one of the most powerful hurricanes that I've ever seen. Beryl hammered the island with torrential rains and devastating winds. And just take a look at what's behind me, Fred. This is a boat that was pushed by the strong winds from across the bay. It made a crash against the old pier here in the downtown area in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, and it finally ended up sinking after several hours of being pounded by the wind.

And the Jamaican prime minister says that this is -- his country is only beginning what he called the second phase of this disaster and the relief efforts. He also said that about 500 people were displaced by the hurricane and are now in shelters. He also said that there's been damage to infrastructure in coastal areas.

So, we can talk a lot about what we have seen as well, which is downed power lines and trees, also debris across the island. You see what happened to the boat right there. And the prime minister says that, in any case, his country is prepared to face the challenges ahead. This is what he had to say.


ANDREW HOLNESS, JAMAICAN PRIME MINISTER: We're now entering into this second phase of this disaster, which is the actual response.

[07:20:02] So, we have seen that there are some persons who have been dislocated and are now in shelters. We have been told about some areas that have been affected by storm surges, which would have damaged coastal infrastructure.


ROMO: And, Fred, I also had an opportunity to talk to Donna McLeod. She's a former state representative in Georgia. And she spoke for many people when she expressed the concerns and the sadness she has about what happened to Jamaica.


FMR. STATE REP. DONNA MCLEOD (D-GA): I'm going to cry because this is the place I was born. It's been nine years since I've been back. And Jamaica's beloved around the world. And so for me right now, it's very emotional. And so we're just praying that we can get through this.


ROMO: Beryl is now pounding, pounding the Cayman Islands. It's going to go on to Mexico and then become a threat for parts of Texas in the next few days. Fred, back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll be tracking Beryl. Thank you so much, Rafael Romo. I appreciate that.

All right, still ahead, bad parts that are used parts on passenger planes. What the Boeing whistleblower tells CNN.

Plus, fireworks warnings in the west, how the record breaking 4th of July heat will impact some celebrations.

And tonight, don't miss CNN's The Fourth in America. Live fireworks show from across the country and must-see musical performances by Bebe Rexha, The Killers, Ashanti, T Pain, and so much more. It all starts tonight at 7 P.M. Eastern Time.



CAMEROTA: Thousands of airplane parts that were supposed to be scrapped ended up being installed in planes. This is according to a Boeing whistleblower. He claims he was forced out of his job for bringing up major safety issues like that.

CNN's Pete Muntean explains how commercial flights may have taken off with bad parts.


MUNTEAN (voice over): If Everett, Washington, is a Boeing company town, then Merle Meyers was a company man. A 30-year veteran of Boeing, Meyers says his job as a quality control manager put his kids through college. It's a family tradition. His late mother was a Boeing inspector, able to unilaterally decide if a new airplane just off the factory line was fit to fly.

What would she think about what is happening at Boeing?

MEYERSShe'd be absolutely livid.

MUNTEAN: Meyers' new allegations detail an elaborate off the books practice centering on parts deemed not safe to put in new airplanes. He is the latest whistleblower to come forward with claims of quality control lapses at Boeing. This is his first T.V. interview inspired by the January 5th door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9.

Spray painted red, bad parts deemed not up to Boeing standards, are taken from Boeing's Everett plant and sent to its scrap facility in Auburn. But then one day in 2015, Meyers says a crate of bad parts were improperly sent back from Auburn to Boeing's Everett factory. Meyers alleges the practice continued for years, tallying that more than 50,000 parts escaped Boeing quality control.

MUNTEAN: 50,000 parts?

MEYERS: That's what we counted at the time.

MUNTEAN: It seems like a heck of a lot.

MEYERS: It's a heck of a lot, indeed.

MUNTEAN: What does that say to you?

MEYERS: Well, that says it puts people's lives at risk, not just passengers, but flight crews. And a lot of these are flight critical parts that made it back into the production system.

MUNTEAN: Company emails show Meyers repeatedly flagged the issue to Boeing's corporate investigations team, pointing out what he says were repeat violations of Boeing's safety rules. But Meyers insists investigators routinely failed to enforce those rules.

In a 2022 email, he wrote that Boeing investigators ignored eyewitness observations and the hard work done to ensure the safety of future passengers and crew.

Why would they do this?

MEYERS: Schedule. It's schedule.

MUNTEAN: To get planes out the door, to make money?


MUNTEAN: Myers believes he was forced out of Boeing last year and is concerned there are still problems at the company.

MEYERS: Well, I think they need to punish, they need to fire people that blatantly violate the process and endanger the flying public. That's a huge problem. And a core requirement of a quality system is to keep bad parts and good parts apart.

MUNTEAN: In a statement, Boeing says it encourages employees to speak up and that to ensure the safety, quality and conformance of our products, we investigate all allegations of improper behavior, such as unauthorized movement of parts or mishandling of documents. We then work diligently to address them and make improvements.

Meyer says he is coming forward now because of the pride he has in Boeing. He goes so far as to call it a wonderful company, one, he says, has been going astray and is in desperate need of change.

MEYERS: But you have to care. Leadership has to care to do that. But if you can't even keep parts segregated from good parts, what else aren't you doing right?



MUNTEAN (on camera): The mystery here is that we do not have an exact accounting of where these parts are. They range from the superficial, like fasteners.