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Judge Halts Young Thug's Trial; High-Stakes for Biden; Beryl Lashes Mexico; Shark Attacks in Texas and Florida; Doping Allegations involving Chinese Swimmers. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 09:00   ET




NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Young Thugs' trial is already the longest in Georgia history. The jury selection process alone took nearly ten months. The RICO case has been unwieldy, featuring no shortage of bizarre moments. A codefendant accused of a hand-to-hand drug exchange in the courtroom. Another co-defendants stabbed multiple times inside the county jail. And earlier this month, a secret meeting with the prosecutors, the judge, and a key witness without any of the defense attorneys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's attorney-client privilege.

VALENCIA (voice over): Which led to the case being paused indefinitely.

While motions are heard on the judge's possible recusal, the president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer says the meeting itself is grounds for a mistrial.

Ashleigh Merchant represents Young Thugs' attorney Brian Steel in the matter.

ASHLEIGH MERCHANT, BRIAN STEEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It has gone off the tracks. There's too many charges. There's too many defendants being charged. There's too many witnesses being called. And, obviously, the state has a right to prove their case, but they also have to ensure that there's due process.

VALENCIA (voice over): The case has dragged on for months. That's a major concern to some defense attorneys who spoke to CNN who wonder if D.A. Willis is miss applying the RICO statute. The Fulton County District Attorney's Office told CNN they can't comment on the case at this time, but former Fulton County Prosecutor Tanya Miller says casting a wide net with a RICO charge was the right move.

TANYA MILLER, FORMER FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: It allows you to get at crimes that perhaps were committed in the past, right, even if someone has already been convicted of it.

VALENCIA: Murder, extortion. WILLIAMS: Yes.

VALENCIA: They're alleging that they all happened at the behest of your son.

WILLIAMS: Well, my son is not a convicted felon.

VALENCIA (voice over): And as any loving father would, he hopes for his son's case, it stays that way.


VALENCIA (on camera): With the global popularity of Young Thug, millions of people have watched this case closely. Hundreds of thousands of whom tune in live online to watch it when the case is in session.

The bottom line here is that Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis may have another problem on her hands. Her case against Donald Trump is stalled and now this one, Fred, is too.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

VALENCIA: You got it.

WHITFIELD: A new hour of the CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.

Unscripted events and an aggressive travel schedule. Those are the pillars of the Biden campaign's new plan to save his re-election bid as he struggles to reassure voters and donors that he is fit for a second term.

The top brass of the world group that oversees swimming competitions ordered to testify in a U.S. criminal investigation. Those investigators want to know why 23 Chinese swimmers failed doping tests but were still allowed to compete and win medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

And a shark scare at a Texas beach. At least three people injured. Now authorities are trying to figure out how to keep swimmer safe in the water.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield, with Erica Hill. John, Kate, and Sara are off today. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is a crucial day for President Joe Biden, for the campaign. His team really putting a lot of eggs in this basket with an interview, of course, that is coming up later today. He will be making a couple of campaign stops as well. Is it enough to quiet some of the concern out there?

A new memo also from the White House laying out what it calls an aggressive July schedule for Biden. Kicking things off today, as I noted, with that rally in the key battleground state of Wisconsin. And he'll also sit down then this afternoon for an interview, one-on-one, with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

It is, of course, his first TV interview since the debate. And it will air later tonight.

Donald Trump now pushing though for round two of a debate, calling for a second matchup with Biden that he says should be, quote, no holds barred.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live at the White House this morning with the very latest.

I would imagine the White House, the campaign, not responding to that invitation at this point.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, but they have said that President Biden will campaign again in September. That was what they had said shortly after the CNN debate last week. But look, this is a make or break moment for President Biden. This is a high-stakes interview that he's going to go into later today. But also important campaign stops in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Now, allies over the last week have said that they wanted to see more unscripted moments from President Joe Biden, also seeing him engage with voters to try to underscore that vigor and aggressiveness that they are told it happens behind closed doors and that they have also seen at other rallies.

And so in some ways the campaign memo laying out July is a we hear you from the campaign with this, quote, "aggressive" travel schedule.


What that includes is President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and the first lady and second gentleman collectively going to every battleground state. That also includes the president going to Nevada, where he will speak at two conferences targeting black and Latino voters, and it also includes a $50 million paid media blitz. So, some conventional methods being used here as well.

Now, the president was seen here at the White House yesterday during the July 4th celebrations, where he also spoke to military families and in a candid moment when someone yelled in the crowd, we need you, he said, he's not going anywhere.

Also notable that when he was watching the fireworks with his family, he was also joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, who has not been on that balcony before for fireworks over the course of this administration, often taking part in other July 4th events. So, clearly, a show of unity at a time when there have been so many questions about the Biden campaign and its trajectory over the course of this presidential race.

So, the next few days are really going to be used to try to shift the narrative after a very challenging stretch here where they have tried multiple times to reassure allies these next few days are an opportunity for them to do that.


HILL: Yes, absolutely.

Priscilla, appreciate it. Thank you.


WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much.

All right, joining me right now to talk further about all this, Democratic strategist Keith Boykin, and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kristen Solis Anderson.

Hello to both of you.

All right, Kristen, you first.

So, so much is riding on President Biden's ABC interview, which airs in primetime tonight. What does America need to see after his Fourth of July appearance saying, I'm not going anywhere.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: American needs to see a president who is clearly in command, clearly has all of his faculties and has the endurance and stamina, not just to get through November, but to get through another four-and-a-half years.

And the bar is now extremely high for that. You know, you're had a number of White house staffers give sort of on background, you know, no -- not for attribution quotes where they say things like, well, the president works now. You know, he's really lucid from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., or, you know, he really needs to be in bed by 8:00 p.m. And that's just not what Americans expect from a president. So, they need to see, in this interview tonight, that he is not what they either saw on the debate stage on Thursday, or the picture that is now being painted in interviews sort of on background by the media.

WHITFIELD: Keith, you know, last hour Democratic donor Marty Dolan had this to say. Listen.


MARTY DOLAN, DEMOCRATIC DONOR WHO THINKS BIDEN SHOULD STEP ASIDE: I think if you put everything else aside, the simple question that the Democratic leadership has to ask is, are we nominating somebody that has the confidence of the party and the country to do the job for another four-and-a-half years. I think when you ask the question that way, it sort of leads you to the answer.

I don't believe Biden has the confidence of the party and the country that he can leave the -- that he can lead the country for another four-and-a-half years.


WHITFIELD: So, Keith, how resonating a messages is this sending that donors are joining a chorus, you know, including at least two Democratic lawmakers who say Biden should step aside?

KEITH BOYKIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that people are getting this thing blown out of proportion. Biden had a very bad debate performance. Nobody can deny that. But the point is that he is the best candidate at the moment that I can tell who can beat Donald Trump. I mean perhaps Kamala Harris could do it but -- according to one or two polls. But to have the Democrats, at this late stage in the game, disrupt the process and bring in a new candidate in an uncertain environment is not -- is a very risky thing for the Democrats to do, especially given the power of incumbency.

I contrast this with Republicans. And I'm not saying a Democrat should do the same thing, but Donald Trump was impeached once and Republicans stuck by him. He was impeached a second time, Republican stuck by him. He was indicted. The Republican stuck by him. He was indicted a second, third, and fourth time. Republicans continue to stick by him. He was convicted of 34 felonies in criminal court, and Republicans continue to stick by him.

Joe Biden has one bad debate and the Democratic --

WHITFIELD: Why can't Democrats do that?

BOYKIN: Well -- well, that's --

WHITFIELD: I feel like that's what you were asking.

BOYKIN: That's kind of the point I'm making.


BOYKIN: Well, I'm not saying that Democrats need to follow exactly what the Republicans are doing, but Democrats need to have a little bit of spine and think about this more logically and not just emotionally. Logically, it doesn't make a lot of sense to replace an incumbent president with a risky alternative when incumbent presidents almost always win. And so I think it's a risky move that has consequences.

I'll take whoever the Democrats nominate over -- over -- over Donald Trump because he is the real threat.

WHITFIELD: So, Kristen, the White House, you know, says Biden will embark on this aggressive campaign scheduled to help him, you know, be more spontaneous and interact with people. But Biden also said that he'll try to get more sleep and have fewer after 8:00 p.m. engagements.


So, how do you see this formula working? ANDERSON: There is no strategy at this point that isn't risky for

Democrats. It is risky, of course, to change course. But in some ways I feel like this is a real vote of no confidence in the vice president, that given that the president seems like he really does not have the ability to serve for another four-and-a-half years with the kind of vigor and stamina that we really need in a commander in chief, the vice president is a heartbeat away. And the fact that there is such a reluctance to do what to me seems very obvious, to hand over the reins, it doesn't need to be a messy process. To say simply, it's time for me to --

WHITFIELD: Well, she's going to be -- she's going to be hitting battleground states as well, I mean, simultaneous to the president. So, perhaps that is a boost in confidence as opposed to the other way around.

ANDERSON: For sure. and she's in a very tough position right now because she --

WHITFIELD: Sorry. Go ahead.

ANDERSON: Well, yes, she's in a very tough position right now because, of course, she would be the logical next person. And she does need to be loyal to the person who picked her on the ticket. But right now there is no, no-risk strategy for Democrats. They are in a tough position where there's no great plan b for them. But their plan a of sticking with Joe Biden, when it seems very clear that there may not be the ability to give the kind of campaign performance necessary to beat Donald Trump, he's now trailing Donald Trump by four, five, six points in polls, not just nationally but in battleground states. They're in trouble if they stick with Joe Biden, and they're in trouble if they don't. Democrats are in a very hard position right now and they may just need to rip the band-aid off and do the hard thing now before you get closer to November if they want to have any chance at beating Donald Trump.

WHITFIELD: All right, go, Keith.

BOYKIN: I think that's a mischaracterization of the race. I remember years ago, when Hillary Clinton was running, she was behind in the polls around this point and people were questioning her ability.

You know, this whole thing about looking at polls, this few -- this -- several months out before an election is ridiculous. If the election were held today, yes, Joe Biden might not do so well. But, you know what, the election is not held today. And once you get the fall campaign going and people have a chance to actually go in the voting booth and look at the candidates, I'm convinced that more people will come back to the Democratic fold.

Plus, Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Clearly the Republican Party brand is unpopular. And Donald Trump himself is incredibly unpopular. He is a convicted criminal who will be sentenced in September, if he doesn't find another way to delay that. And the idea that the American people would go to the polls, the ballot box, and elect a convicted criminal two months after he is sentenced is preposterous. That needs to be the point, not about Joe Biden's bad debate, it's about electing a twice- impeached, quadruple indicted, convicted criminal to the highest office in the land. That's the real risk for America.

WHITFIELD: All right, still fired up one day after the Fourth of July.

All right, Keith Boykin, Kristen Soltis Anderson, thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it.


HILL: Hurricane Beryl right now is slamming Mexico. This, of course, after leaving a trail of destruction and killing at least nine people across the Caribbean. The very latest on that storm as it makes its way toward the U.S.

Plus, sharks terrorizing the beach in South Padre Island in Texas. What we know about three bites and two very close calls.



WHITFIELD: All right, right now, Hurricane Beryl is hammering Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula after making landfall there a short time ago. The storm remains a category two, but it has weakened slightly. And right now it's unleashing damaging winds and torrential rain in the area. At least nine people, in fact, in the Caribbean have died from the storm.

Meteorologist Elisa Raffa is tracking Hurricane Beryl.

What's it doing now?

ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're still looking at some tropical storm force and even hurricane storm force conditions over parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. We had gust reported over 81 miles per hour in Playa Del Carmen. That landfall was near Tulum. You've got all of these tours locations up to Cancun with these hurricane conditions right now. We still have 100 mile per hour winds in the center of the storm. It definitely has weakened in the last loop as it's overland. But it's still capable of storm surge up to four to six feet. We're looking at four to six inches of rain, as well up to ten inches possible, and that could cause some flooding.

Tonight, it gets back into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will be over warm water. So it could get its act together again, reorganize a little bit before it heads towards Texas. As we get into Sunday, that turn to the north with that area of high-pressure weakening will give you some hurricane conditions possible on the Texas coast as we get towards the weekend. Either way, we're looking at some rip current conditions through the holiday weekend.


WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness.

And then, of course, there's the West Coast of the U.S. That's a big concern because of this very persistent heat.

RAFFA: Yes, a lot of these warnings here go through next week. I'm talking like Thursday of next week because we're looking at multiple days at temperatures well over 100 degrees for places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle.

The Weather Service office in San Francisco has been using really strong wording, calling this heat wave possibly lethal and dangerous because it just lasts so long.

Look at these temperatures in the -- 114 degrees in Bakersfield on Sunday, 119 in Palm Springs, 111 in Fresno. Sacramento, 110 degrees. Las Vegas could break their all-time hottest temperature on record by Sunday. That's 117 degrees. So, just incredible record-breaking heat.

More than 500 records could fall over the next couple of days. Both daytime highs and overnight lows because we just don't get that relief at night, which just adds insult to injury when we're talking about heat sickness and safety.


Temperatures up in the triple digits. Even for Medford, Oregon, some records in jeopardy there. Portland as well, 104 degrees by Tuesday.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness.

RAFFA: This is a part of the country that just --

WHITFIELD: Not used to this.

RAFFA: You know, is typically cooler. They don't have as much -- yes, they have not -- they don't have as much access to air conditioning. So, some extreme conditions when it comes to that heat risk, Fred.

WHITFIELD: That's incredible.

All right, Elisa Raffa, thank you so much.


HILL: Well, at least four shark incidents in Texas have beachgoers on edge this holiday weekend. And it's thought to be the same shark. You see this video here behind me. That's the shark that authorities believe is responsible for each of these instances. Authorities say two people were bitten in the waters off of South Padre Island on July 4th. A third beach goer was injured, though not bitten. A fourth said they felt a sharp brush against them.

Meantime, in Florida, a shark did bite a man on the foot while he was in knee deep water. The 21-year-old was ultimately taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

For a little bit more on these incidents, specifically what's happening in Texas, CNN's Rosa Floes is with us now from Houston.

So, in terms of these incidents at South Padre Island, what more do we know at this hour, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, we've been learning more about those intense moments when these beachgoers are afraid of the shark and law enforcement is trying to do everything they can to save lives and to keep that shark away.

Let me start with the heroic acts by U.S. Border Patrol. Take a look at these photos because according to a CBP official, there happened to be members of the elite BOR (ph) star unit. Now, this is a unit that rescues people for a living. And they just happened to be at the right place at the right time. And they jumped into action. According to the CBP official, they ran into the water, pulled a victim out of the water, and started rendering immediate medical aid.

Now, according to this official, they applied a tourniquet. And if you know anything about first response, if somebody needs a tourniquet, they could bleed out in a matter of minutes.

Now, I talked to the city of South Padre Island. They say that there are no fatalities. I don't know the specific condition of this individual. But according to them, there's no fatalities.

Now, the response was not just by land, it was also by air. Take a look at this video that we obtained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. And this is from Lieutenant Crisol Uveitis (ph). You can see the actual shark. How do they know that this is the shark? Well, according to the lieutenant, the helicopter pilot was flying very low on South Padre Island trying to keep that shark away from people. So, these were maneuvers that the pilot was doing to make sure that that shark didn't come back closer to shore where humans were.

Now, according to Uveitis, the Texas DPS stayed there until there was no threat. Now, just imagine being one of those beachgoers. And take a look at these photos that we obtained from social media because there was a family there, a mother from Arlington, Texas, this is in the Rio Grande Valley, she says that her two daughters were in the water when the shark was in there and all of a sudden she heard her daughter screaming. They started running out of the water. One of her daughters had blood on her leg. That's the 18-year-old that you see with a gauze. Both of them are OK according to the mother.

And then there was another incident. Another man also was in the water. They -- the two men were actually swimming and the father-in- law of the man says that he just saw his son-in-law go under.

Take a listen.


RAYNER CARDENAS, SON-IN-LAW WAS BITTEN BY A SHARK: I turned around and he wasn't there anymore. I started swimming towards him and then he jumped up out of the water saying, shark, shark, shark. And that's when adrenalin kicked in and I went in right after him.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FLORES: Now, Erica, according to officials, there were at least four counters, at least two individuals were taken to the hospital. We don't know their conditions, of course. But again, according to South Padre Island city officials, there are no fatalities. And that's the good news here.

Back to you.

HILL: Yes, that is definitely the good news.

Rosa, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.


WHITFIELD: All right, pretty frightening stuff, Erica.

All right, so the U.S. has now launched a criminal investigation into possible doping on the Chinese swim team, just weeks before some of the athletes are set to compete in the Paris Olympic games.

And CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares what he learned from a five-year investigation about how to treat and prevent Alzheimer's.



WHITFIELD: With just three weeks until the Paris Olympics, the U.S. has now launched a criminal investigation looking into doping allegations involving nearly two dozen Chinese swimmers. Eleven of them are scheduled to compete in the upcoming Paris games. Some were allowed to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and actually won metals. The pressure has been building following a congressional hearing, which included Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, warning that doping issues threaten the Olympics' future.

CNN's Andy Scholes has been following all of the developments and he's joining us now.

Andy, I mean, what was -- what were the swimmer being tested for?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well. Fredricka, you know, you mentioned China had 23 swimmers test positive for a banned substance ahead of the 2021 Tokyo games, but, you know, nothing was ever done about it -- done about it. You know, that was because Chinese authorities, they said that all of those swimmers had eaten contaminated food at a hotel and essentially the World Anti-Doping Agency said, you know, oh, OK, you know, sounds good, go ahead and compete.


Well, that didn't sit well, you know, with many, including legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, as you mentioned.