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Evan Osnos, Biden Biographer, Discusses Biden Speaking In Wisconsin, His Mental Health & Age Issues, Future Of His Presidential Campaign; Beryl Downgraded To Tropical Storm; Trump Pushes To Use Immunity Ruling In Classified Docs Case; U.S. Probes Doping Allegations Against Chinese Swimmers. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 14:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Evan actually asked Biden what he'd say to voters who think he is too old to be president. Biden's response was, quote, "Look at me, decide."

Evan, that's exactly what voters in Wisconsin and across the country are going to do today. Does the president see this as a make-or-break moment?

EVAN OSNOS, PRES. BIDEN BIOGRAPHER: I think there's no question that he does. I mean, he has had a theory of the case for a long time that people would watch him as he often says, watch me and judge for yourself.

And when he started saying that at the beginning of his campaign, it had a very different valence to it than it does now. Right now, the question is, is there really anything he can do? Is there anything that he's able to do in public that would shift the frame of reference?

Because the frame right now is that support is sliding for him. And it would take more than just an ordinary performance, both today and then also later in this interview with ABC, in order to get people to say, OK I'm willing to give him another chance to dig his way out of this.

As you heard a moment ago from Gerry Connelly, the congressman, he's saying openly it's not clear to him that Joe Biden is in the strongest position to win.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: You know, Evan, Biden has said that he would be a transition candidate. In fact, he floated the idea of only serving one term.

And when you look at him and just consider his age, and some people wonder why -- why continue on, you know? Why is he running again? What drives him, especially in this moment of immense pressure right now? Does he feel an obligation to serve?

OSNOS: Yes. Two things. One that's interesting is, even though he said at the time I want to be a transition candidate, he actually explicitly said no to the idea of only serving one term. I just think it's something that is worth pointing out.

What he was doing at the time was, let's be honest, he was sort of playing with the ambiguity of that idea. He wanted people to say, well, he will put in place people who would eventually inherit this kind of power.

But the reality is people expected him to serve one term and only one term.

And I think, when I talked to him back in January about this, it was very clear in his -- his self-description that he felt like he had earned it.

That's the word that kept -- that kept coming up to me as I thought about it. He would say over and over again, any other president who's had this list of achievements, have this list of accomplishments would have a second term.

But what, of course, doesn't accommodate, what it doesn't allow is for the reality of how he is perceived now. Go back to the way he always asked people to judge him, watch me.

And he was, in his own way, I think kind of immune to the reality of how people did see him. He didn't see himself that way. And so if he was not open to the understanding that people were not seeing him as he did.

BROWN: But let me just pull this up, very quickly. But I mean, I guess what I'm what I'm wondering is, you know, he's already had one term as president, right, almost? He's, obviously, a few months left.

But why does he want to run again and be in the White House for another four years with the weight of the world on him and not just retire. Go look at his career as a public servant. Feel great about that.

And just spend time with his family and ride off into the sunset. What's driving him right now?

OSNOS: I think -- I think what's driving him right now is a combination of deep-rooted reasons and then immediate reasons.

The deep-rooted reasons are he wanted to do this his entire life and he believes that he got in there and has done a good job as president.

That's not an immaterial fact in the sense that he believes that politics should reward people who do the things that everybody wants them to be able to pass big bills, achieve things that would improve our way of life.

The reality is -- two is, he doesn't want to be driven out of politics. Like his way, he was -- in his memory, he was driven out in the 1987 presidential campaign. He carried that cigar with them a long time. It bothered him.

And so I think, in some ways, the challenge for him now, the key is can he turn this moment into the thing he always talks about, which is finding purpose in moments of setback and of embarrassment. Can you find a purpose in it?

And the purpose may ultimately be setting up a successor to succeed. But that's a message that he has to absorb himself. And he ultimately is -- it is now the moment, I think, where people are expecting it to reach that choice.

SANCHEZ: He's also talked about being driven by believing that he is the best candidate to defeat former President Donald Trump in his effort at retaking the White House.

And I'm curious about what you describe as the perception problem. Specifically among members of his own party on Capitol Hill. You reported, days after the debate, that there was a large number of Democrats that were discussing the possibility of Biden stepping aside as the nominee.

As the days have gone on, and you've heard this sort of ambivalence among certain members, key members of his constituency, what do you think the perception is on Capitol Hill about his efforts now, this more aggressive campaign strategy, more off-the-cuff moments.

Especially in light of what he said in that meeting with governors about not scheduling events after 8:00 p.m.

OSNOS: Yes. It's -- it's been a week that has set him back. It has not, in fact, begun a process of rebuilding safe and conviction on Capitol Hill.


You heard just a moment ago, fascinating comment, I thought, in your interview with Congressman Gerry Connolly, when you ask very directly, Boris, is Joe Biden me in the best position to win in November for your party?

His answer was, "We don't know yet." That is not where this campaign thought they wanted -- thought they could be a week after they thought they would be able to rebuild that credibility. And, in fact, it's continued to slide.

I think the ideas he said to governors the other day that he doesn't want to work as much in the evening, that just fortified what is now this fundamental problem.

And I want to just say the big fact here, which is this is the moment in the campaign when Joe Biden wanted to be talking about Donald Trump, wanted to be talking about what a threat to democracy Trump is.

Everything Trump has been saying around July 4th has confirmed everything Democrats are afraid of about the possibility of him returning to the White House.

And yet, the problem is that the theory of this campaign was, it was to be an anti-Trump coalition. That was going to be the thrust. And right now, so much of it is about Joe Biden and about voter's legitimate questions about whether this was an episode or a condition.

And so the challenge, before and now, is there anything that he can do really before the public, in front of voters, in front of Americans, that can shift that frame of reference? I think that's an open question.

BROWN: Evan, we just received this statement from Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey urging President Biden to, quote, "carefully evaluate whether he remains the Democratic Party's best hope to defeat Donald Trump in the 2024 election."

She wrote, "President Biden saved our democracy in 2020 and has done an outstanding job over the last four years. I am deeply grateful for his leadership. And I know he agrees this is the most important election of our lifetimes."

You know, it's under seeing the light of this statement. Evan, I was speaking to a Democratic strategist earlier today, who said -- this person didn't feel like President Biden, maybe initially after the debate, grasp the gravity of like what just happened and whether he can continue on.

And I'm wondering now, with statements like this and a few other Democratic House lawmakers coming out telling him to step aside, do you think that President Biden is really grasping this moment and the gravity of it? And, you know, sort of where we are?

OSNOS: Yes. I think what we know from his life is that when he has been through these kinds of moments, he has this concept of can he game it out, as he's determined to use it? Meaning, can he see a lane that allows him to get through obstacles that might be piling up in his path.

And there have been moments when the answer is, no. In 1987, after a plagiarism scandal in the presidential race, it was his friend, Ted Hausman, who said to him, the only way that you get the sharks, he said, to go away, is to get out of this race. And Biden did get out of that race.

But it is -- it is -- as you know, Pam, a campaign is a matter of conviction. It is a kind of faith. Faith in yourself in this audacious idea that you could and should be president.

And so you have to maintain that, both to yourself and the people around you, up to the point at which you realize you're going to do damage ultimately to the American values, to the party to which you've devoted your life.

And it is not an overstatement to say that, today, and really just in the hours and the days ahead, we are seeing that decision on the block. It is this moment.

And, you know, it's been a very long time since we've had a moment of this kind of stakes in our politics.

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. Evan, always fascinating to get your perspective.

Please stay with us because as we look at live pictures of President Biden's rally in Wisconsin, we're expecting that he is going to speak at any minute. We're going to take it live as soon as it begins.


Don't go anywhere.



SANCHEZ: Right now, we have a new weather alert. Hurricane Beryl has just been downgraded to a tropical storm after losing considerable strength over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The storm, though, continues to produce strong winds, heavy rain, and dangerous storm surge.

Let's get an update from the CNN Weather Center with Meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, you've been tracking the storm since it formed. What's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it has been over the Yucatan Peninsula. And when a storm goes over land, it loses the power to get stronger because it loses the water.

Right now, this thing looks like scrambled eggs and hot sauce. And that's great news. Because we don't want it to be any stronger than it has to be when it comes off the Yucatan Peninsula.

You can still see the center of circulation. It's still there. Seventy-miles-per-hour winds still going. And there'll be an awful lot of rainfall coming down as well in places that have already seen a lot of rain this spring and into the early summer.

But here's the real concern. As it exits the Yucatan, gets back into warm water, it begins to regenerate itself and will make tremendous surge. Storm surge could be six to maybe eight feet along that Texas coast. That will get in the way of many, many people on their holiday week and weekend.

So this is a big storm. It likely doesn't get to -- you know, as big as it was. But with the warm water here, we're in the middle 80s, we could certainly get to category three again, without a doubt.

One, two, three degrees warmer than we should be this time of year. A certainty we're going to get the tropical storm-force winds along the Texas coast. And the rip currents this weekend will be very dangerous, all the way from Florida, all the way down, even to Mexico.

And with a rip current, if you are taken out -- and I've done this, this has happened to me actually in Cozumel -- I've been taken out into the ocean very far. You'd look at it, you go, wow, I am really far away.

But when you get away from that wind and that water moving you out and you just kind of float down away from it, it will bring you back toward land.


This is a dangerous day and probably a dangerous weekend. You might as well just stay out of the water. Take a look at it and make it look pretty.

SANCHEZ: An important reminder as a lot of folks are out on the water.

Chad Myers, from the Weather Center, thanks so much.

Big question. Can President Biden dispel concerns about his health and convince voters that he's prepared to serve another four years? We're about to find out.

He should be taking a stage at a rally in Wisconsin at any moment. We're going to take you there live.

Stay with CNN.


BROWN: You are looking at live pictures of President Biden's rally and Wisconsin where he is set to take the stage any minute. Election forecasters say Wisconsin is one of the states Biden must win in order to beat Donald Trump in November.

We're going to take the president live as soon as he speaks.

But first, we have some breaking news coming in. Donald Trump's legal team is asking the judge in his classified documents case to consider the Supreme Court's recent ruling giving presidents immunity for official acts.

CNN's Paula Reid is here now.

This is so interesting, too, Paula, because, of course, the classified documents case, you know, he took those classified documents after he was president, right? But they're saying, hey, you should take a look at this.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. They're asking a Trump-appointed judge, Aileen Cannon, who oversees the classified documents case, for time to brief how they believe the Supreme Court opinion applies to this case.

Now in speaking with sources familiar with the Trump legal strategy, they believe that that Supreme Court opinion, even though it was specifically about the other federal case related to efforts to subvert the 2020 election, they believe that that case will help them as much, if not more, in the classified documents case.

As you just noted, most of the alleged conduct in that indictment occurred after he left office. But in the Supreme Court opinion, not only did they lay out the parameters for when a former president can be charged.

But they also talk about evidence. And the Supreme Court said that evidence that is official acts -- of official acts cannot be used as evidence to support certain charges.


That's where the Trump team is focused here. They want to use that opinion to try to toss any evidence about how those classified documents ended up in boxes while they we're still at the White House and then allegedly ended up at Trump's various properties.

Now, Pamela, that requires a pretty expansive view and interpretation of the Supreme Court opinion. But Judge Cannon has shown a willingness to hear -- to hear out arguments that other judges might dismiss on their face.

So here are the lawyers just asking for time and a schedule for her to hear them out on how they believe the Supreme Court opinion impacts this criminal case.

BROWN: Right. Paula Reid, thanks so much. We'll be tracking this for sure.

And we are monitoring President Biden's rally in Wisconsin. As I noted earlier, he should be taking the stage any minute.

We'll be right back.


BROWN: CNN has learned that the U.S. is now criminally investigating Chinese swimmers who tested positive for doping at the last Olympics in Tokyo. Some of those same swimmers are competing in the Summer Olympics in Paris in just a few weeks.

SANCHEZ: Yes. CNN's Patrick Snell is following all of this.

Patrick, what's the latest?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi, Boris, Pam. Yes. Is it -- is it true, the Olympic start three weeks today? They absolutely do. The 2024 summer games will be officially underway in the French capital city of Paris.

And there's going to be so much focus and so much attention on these Chinese swimmers at the center of allegations.

Let me give you the background. China had 23 swimmers testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance ahead of the Tokyo games, which we're three years ago. That's according to report from the "New York Times" released earlier this year in coordination with German public broadcaster, ARD.

So what happened about it all? Well, at the time, not too much. At the time, China's anti-doping agency saying the athletes tested positive for what it called an extremely low concentration of a substance in question at a national swimming event in 2021.


Now, WADA, that's the World Anti-Doping Agency, decided the swimmers were not responsible for the results because they were inadvertently exposed to the drug.

Well, that certainly did not sit well with many, including the iconic, the legendary swimmer, Michael Phelps, who recently testified at a congressional hearing, saying that athletes and WADA needs to be held more accountable.

Latest developments seeing swimming's international governing body saying it's executive director, Brent Nowicki, has now been ordered to testify in a us criminal investigation into the case.

This comes after a House committee on China in May asking the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate the case under a federal law that allows probes into suspected doping conspiracies, even if they occurred outside of the United States.

Now, here's why this is also very important and relevant. Because 11 of those Chinese swimmers are set to compete in Paris three weeks from now. They won three gold medals in Tokyo.

The spotlight is going to be on them very intensely, indeed, when they set foot into the pool and prepare to compete.

It goes without saying none of this will be sorted, of course, before the games in France. The hope is that this can all be cleared up and the competition can be clean because the U.S. is going to be hosted the summer games in 2028.

Watch this space. Scrutiny and a lot of intense focus on those swimmers.

Back to you.

SANCHEZ: And major implications depending on what that investigation finds.

Patrick Snell, thanks so much for the update.

President Biden is running behind schedule. And right now, we're waiting for him to take this stage in Madison, Wisconsin. The president has a singular goal today, to assure voters, not just in this battleground state, but across the country that he's fit for another four years in office.

We're going to take his remarks live. Stay with CNN.