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Biden Sends Letter To Democrats; Boeing Takes Plea Deal; Biden Meets With World Leaders This Week; Closing Arguments In Menendez Trial. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 09:30   ET



BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: 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 $240 million in cash that only goes to Kamala Harris. Who was Gretchen Whitmer, or Wes Morris, Arizona state chair? They don't have the infrastructure. Nobody has the infrastructure but Joe Biden. So, like, I'm not saying, shut up and get in line. Air your grievances. Talk about fantasy world where we have this other thing. Joe Biden will be the nominee August 5th.

I want to beat Donald Trump. If you want to beat Donald Trump, get on board. If you don't, keep rambling on and weakening our nominee. Just keep doing it.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bryan, "Axios" spelled it out this way, that in terms of looking at what this week could bring, that Biden's best opportunity to prove his - to prove his Democratic doubters wrong probably will come with his NATO press conference that comes on Thursday.

But I also did have the opportunity to speak with Democratic Senator John Fetterman, who has been very supportive of Joe Biden in face - in light of the debate, the disastrous debate. He was just on with me. Let me play what he said as he was campaigning with Biden yesterday.


SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): I actually spent the entire day with the president. And he was - he was perfect.

He was crisp and he was engaged. And the Harrisburg event, it was actually in the 90s, and he was - he was crushing. He was just doing fine. It was like a perfect normal kinds of Joe Biden that I've always seen.


BOLDUAN: And, Bryan, you are not in the business of giving Democrats advice ever, but is that, what you hear from John Fetterman, is Biden being out on the campaign trail, is Biden sending this letter to Democratic lawmakers, is that what proving Democratic doubters wrong, is that what this looks like?


Listen, I don't think so. I mean they have a tough task ahead of them in keeping Joe Biden as their nominee. I think he's going to remain their nominee because he's clearly their president. If he were to resign the race, if he were to drop out of the race, he'd have to resign the presidency, because you can't be mentally unfit the run for president and be mentally fit to be president.

So, they're at a very dangerous position. They had a primary. They've resolved all these issues. They don't get to - they don't get to have a mulligan just because of one bad debate.

Now, the reality is, is Joe Biden is headed to a landslide defeat in November, but that's a result of his own actions, as a result of the Democratic Party, the cabinet, the vice president, covering up the neurological decline of President Biden.

We've all seen it. People are going to - try to continue to cover it up. But we can't unsee what we've seen. And the reality is, is the uphill battle that Joe Biden has to take place between now and November, he'll never hit it because you're going to have more and more moments where you can see the neurological decline. But that doesn't matter. The Dems have made it - they've made their bed. They've chose their candidate. They ignored everybody else who was saying Joe Biden was unfit to go forward. And now they're stuck with a candidate who can't complete sentences, who can't find the door, who on the world stage looks week, at a time that our world is on fire.

So, listen, there's no savior. There's no mulligan. They're stuck with the guy. They're trying to find ways out of it. They're eating each other up as a party. I love watching it. I encourage more people to watch it. But the reality is, is a week from now, two weeks from now, Joe Biden's going to be the nominee. He's going to be president. And we're going to have this vigorous debate through November. And I think the debate (ph) is ultimately result in the Donald Trump presidency.

BOLDUAN: Well, John Fetterman is seeing a very different Joe Biden than what you - when - than what you're describing right now, which is kind of what this week presents, I think, Bakari. And I think one of the important things that we need to hear from, and have heard from somewhat, is the party's most powerful black lawmakers, they've either been silent so far or they are openly supporting - supportive of Biden right now.

"Politico" is reporting that during yesterday's call with House Democrats, several of the giants of the Congressional Black Caucus, from Maxine Waters, Bobby Scott, David Scott, Bennie Thompson, Greg Meeks, all argued that the party needs to stick with Biden, focus back on Trump, talk about policy contrasts.

What role do you think these lawmakers play and what happens next?

SELLERS: That's a very good question, Kate. I was just at Essence Fest this past weekend with a lot of black lawmakers, and Troy Carter and Hakeem Jeffries and others. And the sentiment is, you know, we're rocking with Biden and we're going to - because that's who the voters want. There are a lot of people who would vote for a - an old Joe Biden versus Donald Trump.

Now, I appreciated my good friend running off a bunch of talking points about how he felt Joe Biden looked or how he felt he was in his emotional state, or his physical state. He's a damn good comms director, I'll give him that. But the fact is, my candidate is old. Like, his candidate wants to ban abortion nationwide. He wants to limit or ban access to birth control pills. They want to get rid of the Department of Education. Speaking about someone who can't put together a sentence. I mean all you have to do is look at project 2025 and that is enveloped on who the Republican Party is.

And there are a lot of people, like myself, who don't have the option of getting a mulligan or who don't want to redo this.


They understand that freedom and democracy are on the ballot.

And, look, I will take an old Donald Trump - excuse me, an old Joe Biden -

LANZA: Freudian slip.

SELLERS: Over an old and - and ashes Donald Trump any day of the week.

BOLDUAN: Bryan, one thing that I'm curious to see is, when Donald Trump starts stepping back out into the spotlight, what does he do with it? Because there is new reporting that - from CNN, which is that basically the - Trump's team is trying to figure out how to do this rollout, this VP rollout. Does what's gone down with Joe Biden and Democrats, does that impact timing? Does that impact VP candidate? Does this wild moment happening within the Democratic Party, does it create a tough time for Donald Trump at all?

LANZA: No. I mean, listen, this election, at one point, was going to be about Donald Trump returning to the White House. But after that disastrous debate, this infections - this election's only going to be about the neurological fitness of Joe Biden. And so whether they roll out JD Vance, whether they roll out Marco Rubio, the timeline's still the same. The convention's about a week away. We usually start getting hints of who that person is, is on Thursday and Friday. We'll probably know by next Monday.

But the reality is, that the whole tenor of this election is if Joe Biden has a neurological fitness to go forward. And people are making that decision now. They're making the decision on the economy today. And it's not a talking point. I mean the reality is, we saw with our own eyes, this guy's not fit to be president.

Now, he can't resign. They're stuck with them. They made the choice. I mean there was another Dem candidate in their primary that they slammed for running and claimed that Joe Biden's age was an issue. So, they're married to this guy.

Now, they can try to prop him up. They can try to resurrect him. But I've got to tell you, as a Catholic, I don't even think Jesus Christ could be resurrected from that debate performance last - or two Thursdays to go.

So, they have an uphill task. They need to try to make it about Donald Trump and what he does. But the voters are looking at this election saying, this is our president now, and on the world stage he's just not fit to lead.

BOLDUAN: I think one thing we definitely should do at this point in this juncture between the three of us -

SELLERS: Can I just comment one - briefly, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Is leave religion out of it.


BOLDUAN: But, yes, Bakari, final thought.

SELLERS: No, I just wanted to say about - about resurrecting clients. I do remember a few months - about a month before the election, when your client was on video talking about grabbing women by the vagina, and Reince Priebus actually went up, and many Republicans said the bottom was going to fall out. But you know who resurrected him, you and many others because he was going to get his behind kicked in that race and everybody thought the polls said he was going to lose. And so you went up there and you all rallied around him and Republicans, instead of falling in love, they fell in line.

LANZA: Only once (ph).

SELLERS: And I recall that very well that the polls said everybody was going to beat Donald Trump. And you were a part of that resurrection. So, let's not forget history.

BOLDUAN: And let's continue to talk about resurrections, past, present, and potentially future going ahead.

It's good to see you guys. Thank you so much.


LANZA: Good to see you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, today, closing arguments set to begin to the federal corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez. Why he says he feels certain the jury will find him not guilty.

And Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding the U.S. government. The families of crash victims are outraged.



BOLDUAN: So, Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government to avoid a trial in connection with two 737 Max plane crashes that killed 346 people. Under the deal, Boeing will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, but families of those crash victims are outraged, calling it nothing but a sweetheart deal for the company.

CNN's Pete Muntean is here with the very latest.

Pete, what are you learning about this?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Another huge blow to Boeing's reputation, Kate. The company not really saying all that much this morning, only that it has reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice.

Here are the terms of that deal according to the government. Boeing being fined $487 million. The Department of Justice says that is the maximum fine allowed by law. The government will also be appointing in independent compliance monitor to oversee Boeing for the next three years. That monitor will give reports to the court each year.

But the biggest part of this is Boeing agreeing to plead guilty to criminal charges. Remember, this is for the 737 Max 8 crashes, the Lion Air crash in 2018, the Ethiopian Air crash in 2019, 346 people killed and those two crashes. Boeing agreed to plead guilty in this new deal to defrauding the Federal Aviation Administration about the (INAUDIBLE), that Boeing hid major design changes that lead to the two crashes.

Originally, Boeing was able to reach a settlement after those crashes with the government to avoid criminal charges. But that deal also came with three years of probation. And the January 5th door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 happened just days before that deal was set to expire. So, that made the Department of Justice look at the original deal again, ultimately triggering this new deal.

Victims' families are calling it a sweetheart deal because they wanted Boeing to face a $25 million fine. Paul Cassell is the leading attorney in their civil case. And in a statement he says, "this sweetheart deal fails to recognize that because of Boeing's conspiracy, 346 people died. This deceptive and generous deal is clearly not in the public interest."

Of note here is that Boeing executives avoided criminal charges themselves. The Department of Justice says this deal gives them no immunity. That applies to the Max 8 crashes, as well as the door plug incident.


So, we'll see how that part unfolds.


BOLDUAN: Yes, it's a key question. Pete, thank you for - thank you for detailing it, laying it out for us this morning.


BERMAN: So, a radio host who interviewed President Biden is now out of a job after admitting campaign aides gave her pre-selected questions.

And game changing announcement from John Cena, the peacemaker himself. Why he says the next Wrestle Mania will be his last.


BERMAN: President Biden is set to host NATO leaders in Washington this week. Issues including Ukraine are obviously at the forefront. But President Biden's political future is clearly looming over the event. The Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, just said there is a high chance the next president will not be the same president as today. These leaders all know what's going on here.


With us now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, the senior director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center.

Viktor Orban is Viktor Orban, leave him aside for a moment here. But these other leaders, including allies of the United States, including personal friends of President Biden, they know what's happening here. They know the political questions at play. How do you think that will color these meetings, Ambassador.

JOHN E. HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: There is angst in Europe regarding the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the White House because of statements he's made about - about NATO. This has prompted some of our European allies to push for stronger steps at this - this summit to strengthen the Ukraine/NATO relationship. But that's probably not in the offing.

It's also true, however, that there are some European leaders who have very good relations with Trump, like, for example, President Duda to Poland, who believe they can counsel him and he has own extinction, not as bad as some people think.

BERMAN: Any advantage in trying to get something done now while this administration is still in place or will it just not matter potentially if there is a change in administrations as of January 20th of next year?

HERBST: I think it would be wonderful if very strong steps were taken at this summit to enhance the Ukraine/NATO relationship. If that - that would mean if - if President Trump returns to office, it will be harder for him to disengage, which is not to say that was his intention. We just don't know. But there are people in his camp who want to do that.

But, sadly, the administration is rather cautious, overly cautious, on developing the NATO/Ukraine relationship. So, I'm not optimistic that will happen. BERMAN: So, in the last two weeks, things happened so fast. You've had this apocal (ph) election in the United Kingdom where Labour has just won this resounding victory. You had this unforeseen, bizarre election in France where the right, the far right, was held off. How does that impact meetings amongst NATO leaders?

HERBST: Well, in the U.K., both political parties, Tories and Labour, have a sound understanding of the danger that Putin's aggression in Ukraine represents to the west, to the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. In France things are quite different. Macron has become quite strong on opposing Kremlin aggression over the past year. He has been weakened by developments in France. But the turnout in the second round has not been a disaster.

It is true that the Le Pen party on the right, the Melenchon party on the left, are essentially Putin appeasers. French (inaudible). But the socialist party seems to be more grounded and they've done the best in the voting yesterday. And this means that stronger French policy towards Ukraine may well continue. That is not a certainty. It's less certain than it was a month ago, but is certainly more certain that it was two days past.

BERMAN: How do you feel about the military situation as of this morning in Ukraine? Yes, there's been this horrific attack on a facility near a children's hospital and whatnot. But do you feel as if Ukraine maybe has stopped what were some Russian advances?

HERBST: There's no question that the somewhat small Russian gains of the past eight or nine months, which had a lot to do with the delay of the American aid package by almost seven months have stopped. I don't have any doubt that the battle on land is now turning - in other words, the small Russian advantage over the past several months has dissipated, as U.S. arms arrive, as the new British government, right, their defense minister was in Odessa right after becoming defense minister, gets - sending more weapons. The Biden administration has been quick at getting new weapons to Ukraine since the aid bill passed and things are changing.

And, of course, it's sea, the Ukrainians continue to dominate in the Black Sea. And even in the air, especially with new weapons arriving, patriots and others, I think we're going to see a change for the better for Ukraine.

BERMAN: Ambassador John Herps, always great to see you. Thanks so much for being with us.

HERBST: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Also happening today, the trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez is now entering its final stretch. Closing arguments in the corruption case could begin as early as this afternoon.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside court. She's been tracking it for us all along the way. What is expected now to happen today, Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we are expecting closing arguments to get underway this afternoon. This is now the eighth week of testimony in this case. Senator Bob Menendez rested his case last week after calling five witnesses, including his sister, but he did not take the stand. Now, over seven weeks the prosecution has laid out its case. Menendez is charged with accepting bribes. The jury has held the gold bars that he is accused of taking, in exchange for giving favors to three New Jersey businessmen.


Prosecutors also alleged that he was helping the government of Egypt, even charging him as acting as a foreign agent while he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Now, this morning we are learning from the judge that this one witness that one of Menendez's co-defendants is calling could not get a visa approved in order - in time to get here to testify. So, they're working to see if he could testify remotely. But the judge has set some conditions and said it must happen today or it won't happen.

Now, that is expected, if they're able to pull it off, technically to start around 11:00 a.m. Then once the defense rests their case, it's at that point that the judge is going to excuse the jury for he said about a two-hour break. That's to give the lawyers time to regroup. And then closing arguments will get underway with prosecutors going first, then lawyers for each of the three defendants, including the senator. So, this is likely to continue into tomorrow. But then at that point this case will be in the hands of the jury.


BOLDUAN: Kara, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

BERMAN: That is all for us today. We'll be taking call-ins all week. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL. "NEWSROOM" with Jim Acosta up next.