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Anxiety at the White House over Uncertain Political Fate; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is Interviewed about Biden; Beryl Slams Texas; Biden's Letter to House Democrats. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 09:00   ET



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fate of these negotiations. In a statement over the weekend, the Israeli prime minister's office saying that any deal that will proceed will be one that will, quote, allow Israel to resume fighting until all of the objectives of the war have been achieved. Very much a signal that this ceasefire deal, if it - if it materializes, will not lead to an end of the war, which may be a problem as far as Hamas is considered.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jeremy Diamond doing great work in Jerusalem. Jeremy, thank you so much.

A new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Crunch time and high anxiety at the White House. New reporting on how people around Biden are feeling as Democratic lawmakers are heading back to Washington for the first time since the CNN debate. Why so many think this week is the one that will decide it all.

Hurricane Beryl lashing southern Texas right now. More than a million people without power in Houston, the nation's fourth biggest city. We are live on the ground for you.

And Boeing agrees to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. Families of crash victims, though, are furious, calling it a sweetheart deal.

I'm Kate Bolduan, with John Berman. Sara is out today. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

So, the new CNN reporting this morning is describing the Biden White House right now gripped by anxiety and uneasiness as the president is facing intense pressure to prove his doubters wrong and at a critical moment. Lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill for the first time since the CNN debate that shook the Democratic Party to its core. The president remains defiant, vowing that he is staying in and can get the job done. This morning sources say that multiple top House Democrats told Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on a call yesterday that they don't believe that Biden can. That they believe Biden's time is up. CNN's Kayla Tausche is at the White House.

Kayla, what are you hearing? What's going on with - inside the White House right now.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I've been on the phone with several officials this morning to talk about the mood ten days out from that disastrous debate that really unsettled the Democratic Party and lead to widespread questions about Biden's future as a candidate for the 2024 election.

The mood is somber. It's anxious. It's despondent. There's widespread uncertainty about how the White House will go forward and how President Biden will try to assuage concerns and actually whether he can do that considering the fact that his strategy up until this point, staying the course, aggressively hitting the campaign trail and giving interviews to talk about how he - you know, acknowledges that he had a bad performance, but is not going anywhere, that so far that has not moved the needle for Democrats.

And now I've learned this week he's going to be aggressively working the phones, once again calling Democratic lawmakers to try to assure them that he hears where they're coming from and that he is - you know, he is willing to work with them on a path forward.

This after he spoke with more than 20 House Democrats last week to the same effect. And some of those House Democrats then came out and vocally supported him. But the - behind the scenes there are still growing calls to figure out whether Biden should step aside and whether he can be replaced on the ticket.

Yesterday, on that virtual meeting convened by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, at least five senior Democrats who serve as the ranking members on influential committees in the House themselves said that they could no longer were support Biden. And now the full Democratic caucus is set to meet on Tuesday to figure out whether that's a message that needs to be essentially collated and provided in short to the White House.

So, this is what the White House is facing is President Biden meets with dozens of world leaders here in Washington, as he visits battleground Michigan on Friday, again aggressively campaigning, trying to convince the American people and his own party that he's up for the task.


BOLDUAN: Yes. The two front task, as you just point out there.

It's good to see you, Kayla, as always. Thank you so much.


BERMAN: All right, with us now is one of the House Democrats who has publicly called on the president to exit the race, Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

The president did an interview with George Stephanopoulos. He did a bunch of public events this weekend. Did those do anything to change your mind?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Look, my mind doesn't need changing. It really doesn't matter. I think it's the voters. And as you see, the polling is going in the opposite direction. And that's what's particularly concerning.

And I can, frankly, see why. I mean I don't think it was a great interview. There were several things besides his very appearance that were concerning about what he said and how he said it.


So, I think we have to be honest with ourselves, the situation is not getting better. Frankly, it's getting worse.

BERMAN: You say his very appearance. What do you mean?

QUIGLEY: Look, perceptions are absolutely grueling in things like this in a campaign. He looks very frail. His voice is very soft. It's not robust. And again, it is not how I perceive that, it's how the American people perceive it. And you can see it influencing the numbers. And again, what I was stressed to the president is, this isn't just about you, it's not about loyalty, it's about being pragmatic. We have to be honest with ourself. And it's not just the White House at stake. And all of these seats are going to be very, very closely contested. And only a handful of seats control both houses.

Every vote counts. So, the top of the ticket is essential that it be very strong. And again, we're going in the opposite direction. The president has to respect that.

BERMAN: The full Democratic caucus will meet tomorrow. Five senior Democrats, who hold positions on key committees, came out yesterday and said that they - or at least reportedly in this meeting said that they would like to see the president step aside in the campaign here. Do you know - do you have information that those numbers will grow as you returned to Washington today and tomorrow?

QUIGLEY: They will grow. I know individuals that I've talked to who have been processing this, thinking about it, talking to their constituents, most importantly, looking at polls. And again, none of them have anything but the greatest respect for the president. This is, and always will be, the most important aspect of this is that we can't allow a second Trump term, recognizing what that means.

So, it's going to be an amazing, unfortunately, horrible week, but I do think the numbers will grow. I don't know how the president will react to that. We simply must go forward, get our job done in Washington, D.C., and, again, try to express to the American people why this matters, and to our president. BERMAN: You said it's going to be a horrible week. What's the timeframe here that you think that this either will or has to happen in?

QUIGLEY: There's only one person who ultimately makes this decision. That's the president of the United States. And as you know, obviously this is unprecedented. None of us have ever been through anything like this. And it's painful. So, we recognize that that's what we're going to face this week. I don't think anyone understands what the blueprint is because nothing else can move forward unless - unless and until President Biden makes that choice.

You know, I have people all the time saying who would you be for? You know, we're just not there yet. There are rules. There's a process. It has to be seen, as you know, as legitimate to the American people. So, we have to follow the rules and the process. But we're not at that point yet.

So, what we're facing right now is a situation where the election cycle is getting worse. The numbers that we're facing here, not just in the White House race, but in all these congressional races are not getting better. So, we're in a horrible situation until that gets resolved.

BERMAN: So, there have been a number of members, including you who have come forward and asked the president to step aside. One group that has not yet come forward to push him out are black Democratic leaders, particularly the Black Caucus in the House of Representatives here. Why do you think they are still standing behind President Biden? And what will happen - you know, and black support was key to him getting the nomination, you know, three-and-a-half years ago, and then ultimately getting elected. So, what's your message to them? And do you think that will change?

QUIGLEY: Yes. It's hard for me to tell what has changed, what's going to change. I understand that people are talking. I know that Mr. Clyburn has spoken out on this. If I had to hazard a guess, I think they'd like to get together and have meaningful in-person discussion. We were not in D.C. last week. And again, there's a lot of processing that has to take place.

And, frankly, a lot of the polling, it will continue to come out. I think it will influence peoples' decisions. So, I can't read the minds of my friends in the Black Caucus, but I suspect they're going to be doing the same thing all the other members is, is taking time to deliberate and talk and discuss this matter.

BERMAN: Again, this is absolutely uncharted territory here.


You were one of the earlier members to come out, express reservations. We just reported the president's been calling members. Has there been any outreach to you from the White House?

QUIGLEY: No. And I don't suspect that there will be. And I appreciate the fact that they're reaching out. I think, frankly, what hurts them is the denial that the president seems to have about how the polling is going. In his interview, he seemed to say that the polling was wrong and he's fine. You know, it - he's only acknowledged that he had a bad night. You know, that isn't particularly helpful. I think the fact that he said a few statements like, you know, I can't schedule things after 8:00 at night, that hurts him dramatically. The fact that he said that he couldn't remember whether or not he had watched the debate after the fact, that hurts.

And I think the thing that bothered me the most is when he said, you know, when asked, well, what if we lose the House and the Senate and the White House, and things don't just work? He just said, well, if I gave it my best effort, then that's all that you can ask for. No, this is and always will be singularly (ph) about making sure Donald Trump is not the president of the United States again.

BERMAN: Congressman Mike Quigley, you are still in Illinois. You are about to return to Washington. I know it's going to be an interesting week. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: So, Hurricane Beryl is battering Texas right now. More than a million customers are without power in the Houston area and millions facing the risk of life-threatening flooding. We are live there with the very latest.

Plus, a radio host has resigned after she revealed that she used questions provided by Biden's campaign in a post-debate interview with the president. New reporting on that.

And dozens of people were killed and injured after Russian airstrikes on Ukraine hit a children's hospital and residential buildings right during rush hour.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news. That is Galveston, Texas, if you can see it through the windshield wipers. You can see how hard it's raining there. The wind whipping that water across the street. It is feeling the brunt of Hurricane Beryl. The storm has knocked out power to more than 1 million people. Nearly 80 percent of flights at Houston's George Bush International Airport, they just got canceled.

Beryl made landfall as a category one storm before dawn, the earliest hurricane to hit Texas in 40 years. Win gusts are reaching up to 85 miles per hour. It is still a hurricane.

Want to get right to meteorologist Derek Van Dam, who's in Port Lavaca, Texas.

The storm has passed you by, Derek, but it's still causing a lot of problems.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and it's still rewriting the history books, right? Still a hurricane. We're in Port Lavaca. Things have quieted down here. We're on the backside of Hurricane Beryl.

But just to my northeast, in Houston, we've got to talk about what's happening in that city right now because they're getting absolutely walloped by the strongest part of the storm. In fact, this is the first time Houston has received hurricane force winds from a named tropical system since Hurricane Ike back in 2008. And that's saying something because just a few weeks ago straight-line winds came and damaged a significant amount of the high-rise structures within that city. In fact, there was an elevated weather station just a couple of hours ago in downtown Houston that reported a wind gust of 81 miles per hour. That's category one strength. That was about 220 feet high above the surface of the ground. So, the National Weather Service, authorities there, are warning people in Houston to stay off of their balconies, to stay away from their windows. We don't want to repeat of what happened a couple of weeks ago.

Take a look at the graphics. And, I mean, this is interesting. This updates automatically. And Houston, right now, 44 mile per hour sustained winds with gusts to 84 miles per hour. That is hurricane force. That is downtown impacting millions of Americans as we speak. And that is just, frankly, a dangerous situation.

So, hurricane force winds will be ongoing from the coast through Harris County for the next several hours before the eye moves over the city center of metropolitan Houston, quite frankly. I believe that could happen. We could get perhaps a break in the clouds overhead. It will be interesting to see some of the pictures that come out of that region once the eye wall passes over.

There it is, 75 mile per hour. Even though Hurricane Beryl has lost its energy source, which is the Gulf of Mexico, which is behind me and my over my shoulder, it is still maintaining its hurricane status. That's really saying something as well.

Now, it's producing a significant amount of rainfall. In fact, one inch per hour rainfall rates reported downtown Houston right now. And some of those rainfall totals have prompted the national weather service to issue flash flood warnings through the course of this morning. Anywhere you see that shading of red, including Houston, all the way to Galveston, rainfall totals exceeding half a foot.

And it's not done here. Remember, the eastern quadrant of a hurricane draws in the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, produces the copious amounts of rainfall, and that's ultimately what we're experiencing.

Also on that eastern quadrant is the threat of tornadoes. We have a tornado watch through 10:00 a.m. local time here. That includes Houston, all the way to Galveston and the south-central Texas coastline. So, a multitude of threats from this landfalling hurricane.


The first strike of the hurricane - 2024 hurricane season.

This was not a Hurricane Harvey. A lot of people like to compare - have a benchmark to compare this to. It's different because Harvey meandered over eastern Texas for four days. Beryl has got its eyes set on the border of Canada and the U.S. by Wednesday and Thursday of this week. So, it's on its way out quickly.


BERMAN: It is, but still a storm this big, this soon, could be a heck of a season.

Derek Van Dam, thanks so much. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: So, Boeing agrees to plead guilty to defrauding U.S. regulators in an effort to avoid prosecution. We have new details about the fines that they have agreed to pay, and also why families of crash victims are so unhappy with this deal.

And, breaking news just in the CNN, President Biden writing a letter to lawmakers. What he says this morning. He's defiant, saying, he's not going anywhere.



BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news. We just got our hands on this letter that President Biden sent to congressional Democrats as they returned to Washington this week. Let me read you one of the first lines. "I want you to know that despite all the speculation in the press and elsewhere, I am firmly committed to staying in this race, to running the race to the end and to beating Donald Trump."

Let's get right to the White House. CNN's Kayla Tausche is there.

Kayla, you get this sense that the president and the White House knows then the next few days are crucial.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely know that, John. And in this lengthy letter, two pages, single-spaced, President Biden lays it at the feet of the voters as his decision to stay in the race, saying that the nominating process already took place. He received 14 million votes, 87 percent of those votes cast. And by the number of delegates that have already been pledged to him, he is the presumptive nominee by a wide margin. He goes on to say, "do we now just say that that process doesn't matter? I decline to do that."

At the close of the letter, though, he says this, "the question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it's time for it to end. We have one job. And that is to beat Donald Trump." He notes that there are 42 days before the Democratic convention, 119 days before November 8th. And he warms the party against any weakening of resolve between now and then that could be seen as cracks, or fissures, from their opponents. And that could open them up to even more criticism. He bids Democrats to band together. Just in advance of senators are expected to meet for lunch tomorrow and talk about the open question on - in their chamber about whether they have real concerns about whether the president should step aside, as well as the House Democrats. They're all - all party meeting that is expected to happen tomorrow as well after some senior most members of the party in the House raised concerns yesterday on their private call.

But President Biden is trying to put an end to the intraparty questions, saying, you've raised the questions, you've had this discussion, and it's time for it to end.


BERMAN: Kayla, if I can ask you one quick question before you get soaked by the sprinklers behind you there. I just had Congressman Mike Quigley from Illinois on, who told me - he's been one of the earlier people to come out and say that President Biden should step aside. He told me he knows - he knows that more Democratic members will come out today and tomorrow and asked the president to step aside.

What's the Biden campaign, what's the White House going to do about that?

TAUSCHE: Well, there's outreach going on behind the scenes in addition to this public letter that the president has just released. They're trying to assure some of those Democrats that they understand those concerns and that the president is confident and the campaign is confident that he will be able to do deliver victory, not only for himself, but down-ballot in November. Unclear, John, whether those - whether those conversations will fall on deaf ears, whether many of those lawmakers have already made up their mind at this point. But I've been hearing from a lot of people in the White House, in the DNC this morning, who are worried about that issue that the president raised in his letter about if Biden ends up being the nominee a few weeks from now, if all of this was just an exercise in futility, how much damage was done to the party and done to their ticket in the interim whether there's actually even a viable process that can be run that gives them a better outcome. I mean there are real open questions that people are having right now, but certainly the president is trying to reaffirm that he is the answer.

BERMAN: Kayla Tausche, at the White House. We'll let you run and get a slicker. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Leave her alone. She's fine. She can handle it.

Joining us -

BERMAN: This - the water is going to get her. I want her to stay dry.

BOLDUAN: It's not going to attack her across the driveway.

Moving on.

Joining us right now, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers and former deputy communications director for Trump's 2016 campaign, Brian Lanza.

Back to most important things, not the sprinkler system at the White House.

Bakari, the part of the letter that Joe Biden has sent to Democrats, that Kayla just highlighted, is at the very end saying, "the question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now and it's time for it to end."

What does this do? Does this work towards bringing it to an end? What do you see in this letter going to Democratic lawmakers this morning?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm honestly quite disappointed in many Democratic lawmakers and many people who claim to know the party process or be staunch Democrats because they've engaged in nothing but fantasy land rhetoric over the past week. Joe Biden got his ass kicked at the debate. I mean we all know that. He got beat up, down, left, right and sideways. He got taken to the woodshed, for lack of a better term. But he's our nominee. He's not going anywhere.

And for all the bedwetting that we've done, the pearl-clutching, the, we want this person or that person. The fact is, he's our nominee.


I mean, I don't know what exactly people think they're doing by weakening the party or saying that we want someone else. Like, you're not going to get anyone else. There's