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Record Heat Wave; Beryl Batters Texas; Interview With Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL); President Biden Vows to Stay in Race. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Staying in the race, President Biden telling fellow Democrats he's not going anywhere. And he's taking that message to the campaign trail.

But as Congress returns to Washington for the first time since the debate, it's still unclear exactly where the majority of his conference stands.

And severe weather hitting the Gulf, as Beryl lashes Texas with wind and rain, as the West wilts under a lethal heat wave, while scientists say the planet has heated beyond a critical climate threshold over the past year.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: A guilty plea for Boeing and frustration from victims' families, who say the deal doesn't cut it.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SANCHEZ: Democrats and Republicans are back on the Hill today, and President Biden has a clear message for anyone wavering on his campaign. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am not going anywhere. And I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024.

We had a democratic nominating process, where the voters spoke clearly. I won 14 million of those votes, et cetera.


BIDEN: So I just -- I have not only believed that from the beginning, but I wanted to reassert and demonstrate that it's true. And I'm going to be doing that all through this weekend and from here on.


SANCHEZ: Now, if that wasn't clear, the president also fired off a letter to House Democrats saying the same thing. CNN senior White House correspondent M.J. Lee is following this story

for us.

M.J., walk us through what the president is doing to galvanize support from his conference.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, he is clearly trying to flood the zone right now, which I have to say is pretty different from what we saw initially after that disastrous debate, where he wasn't seen very much. We didn't hear very much from him in the immediate days after the debate.

In the last 24 hours, if you take a look, he has called into MSNBC. He is supposed to be calling into a donors call that the campaign is having. And he wrote this letter that you mentioned to Democratic lawmakers, and the objective here overall appears to be to project defiance and confidence and send the message loud and clear that: I am not going anywhere.

This is a little more sound from when he called into "Morning Joe" earlier this morning and how the president specifically defended the questions about his health. Take a listen.


BIDEN: I think I had a significant -- a significant run, and that's how I'd measure me. Measure me what I have done.

And, by the way, in terms of my neurological capacity, I had a physical, a neurological physical as well, in February. It's released. I released all my records, all of them, all of them. And I have a neurological test every single day.

Try sitting behind this desk and making these decisions.


BIDEN: You know it. Both of you know it. They know it. I'm not bad at what I do.


LEE: And the timing of that letter that the president wrote to Democratic lawmakers is obviously not a coincidence.

A lot of Democrats seeing this week as an absolutely crucial week, where we are going to essentially learn whether there is going to be a full revolt from Democratic lawmakers. Of course, so far, we have seen a number of Democratic lawmakers starting to say publicly that they question the president's decision to continue running for reelection.

Again, the coming days will determine whether the dam is going to fully break. And the president is clearly trying to stay ahead of that. And an interesting part of the strategy has been to say the voters have already spoken. This is a part of what the president wrote in that letter. He said: "The voters, and the voters alone, decide the nominee of the

Democratic Party. How can we stand for democracy in our nation if we ignore it in our own party? I cannot do that, and I will not do that," is what he wrote.

Now, this donors call that the campaign chair, Jen O'Malley Dillon, is going to be holding this afternoon, the president is going to be calling into that, which obviously is an unusual move.


This is just one more example of the president deciding that he needs to get personally involved to speak to all of his supporters and to reassure them that he is in this until the end.

SANCHEZ: And, M.J., this is what the president is saying publicly, but you have new reporting about the picture inside the White House, and it's a pretty grim one.

LEE: Yes, I think it's worth reminding everyone what the country saw on June 27, the president's really stunningly halting debate performance over the course of 90-plus minutes.

That came as a real shock to even folks inside the White House, whether it is more junior aides or even more senior officials who have worked in government for a while and have known the president for a long time.

The mood inside the building is one of real unease, according to sources I have spoken to, and that shouldn't be surprising. They are still sort of processing what it is they saw on June 27. And we know that senior officials in the White House have gone to real lengths to try to offer any kind of reassurance that they can, having conversations and meetings with their direct reports and trying to basically tell them, look, this was hard, but keep your heads down and continue doing the work of the Biden administration.

We know that there have been a lot of group text chains going on discussing every little headline, a gossip. And just one example from this weekend, there was a "New York Times" article that cited anonymously a senior White House official that said they believe the president should step aside.

There's been a lot of discussion about that, to try to determine who the identity of that person is. So that just gives you a little window into, again, the sense of real unease and the nervousness that is going on inside the White House right now.

SANCHEZ: And, obviously, the disparity between what's being said publicly by the White House and the campaign and the conversations happening behind closed doors.

M.J. Lee, thanks so much for the reporting.

So that's the perspective from the White House.

Let's get the view from Capitol Hill with CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox, who's there for us live.

Lauren, we're learning that several top Democrats, privately, on a call this weekend said that Biden should step aside, and many of those lawmakers are also coming out publicly now too.


Yes, I mean, at this point, there are now five Democrats who are voicing concerns that Biden is not the nominee who can potentially beat Donald Trump in November. In fact, we are waiting to see whether or not those numbers actually grow in the hours and days ahead. This is a critical week for Joe Biden.

This is a critical week for Democrats on Capitol Hill to decide whether or not they are going to stick with the president or whether or not they are going to try to urge him to step aside.

Now, they ultimately don't have power. Only Joe Biden can make that decision, but you can imagine that, if the dam starts to break here, it puts additional pressure on Biden, additional pressure on the White House to potentially make another decision about the president's future in this race.

There's a couple key data points that we're going to be watching for in the hours and days ahead. First, the Senate and House come back to session tonight. We expect that we will be able to talk to members then. We also will see House Democrats meeting in a caucus-wide gathering over at the Democratic Congressional Committee headquarters tomorrow morning.

That is part of a normally scheduled Democratic Caucus meeting. But as you can expect, this is the first time the entire Democratic Caucus is going to meet after this debate performance just 10 days ago.

We also expect that Senate Democrats are going to have a conversation during their lunch tomorrow. Now, I'm standing right now outside of Mark Warner's office. He, of course, is someone we're keeping close tabs on. As CNN reported last week, he was potentially looking to have a meeting with other Democrats to try to talk about the president's path ahead.

That meeting has been scrapped. But I would just point out that every single Democratic voice matters right now. And you can especially note the fact that many Democrats don't want to get out ahead of their colleagues. If they're going to say that the president shouldn't be in the race, many of them want to do it with a united front -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Lauren -- Lauren Fox live for us on Capitol Hill, thank you so much -- Jessica.

DEAN: Let's talk more about this with Democratic Congresswoman of Florida Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

She's also a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here with us on this Monday. Let's just start first with where you are on all of it. Do you support

President Biden's bid for reelection? Should he be your party's nominee?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): I do support Joe Biden's nomination as president of the United States and believe that he should remain the president of the United States.

The focus, Jessica, should be that, next week, in their carousel of crazy, that the Republican Party is going to nominate a convicted felon who is an adjudicated rapist who, if given another term, has pledged to prosecute people in military tribunals, has pledged to upend our democracy, has pledged mass deportations of immigrants who are already here.


The extremism coming at us like a fire hose should make it very clear that what we need to be focused on is organizing and rallying around our president, who has been the most successful president in modern times, passing legislation and signing it into law that is historic climate change, reducing -- in my district, I have a disproportionate percentage of senior citizens in my state, the most -- don't highest percentage nationwide.

And they care about making sure we have a president who will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, not dismantle it like Donald Trump and the Republican Party would, that they are going to continue to have a president who will lower prescription drug costs, $35 monthly insulin, capping prescription drugs at $2,000.

That is a BFD for my constituents, and that's why I know that my Democrats in my district want to make sure that Joe Biden continues in office and remains our nominee.

DEAN: And, Congresswoman, I hear you talking about Donald Trump and trying to put the focus back on him. He's been very quiet over the last several days...


DEAN: ... and has not -- has just let this play out amongst the Democratic Party. I hear you focusing on the accomplishments you want to highlight from this president.

And yet that's not the story that's out there right now. So are you frustrated? How damaging do you think this is, particularly as we get closer to November?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I'm frustrated that the media is literally dissecting every word that comes out of Joe Biden's mouth and is ignoring the fact that the Republicans are about to nominate again a convicted felon who's an adjudicated rapist, who still denies that he lost the 2020 election, who is committing to upend every single accomplishment that Joe Biden has helped make sure we can recover after COVID and the 15 million jobs that were created. Yes, I am pushing to make sure that we can focus on what the danger

lurking down the road, is that, if we don't make sure that we rally and focus on Donald Trump and the extremists, good versus evil, existential threat that he represents to our democracy, then we're going to end up back there again.

And that's the nightmare scenario my constituents want to avoid.

DEAN: And, Congresswoman, but it's your own colleagues who are doing this. They are saying publicly and also behind closed doors...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Jessica, respectfully...

DEAN: They are.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Respectfully, we have 213 members of our caucus. You can get five members to say just about anything.

I have been on many text chains, lots of phone calls over the last few days, and the majority of my colleagues that I have spoken with not only have said they think that we should focus on beating Donald Trump and sticking with Joe Biden, but -- and they're also saying that that's what their constituents believe.

So I think we really have to make sure that we're separating the sort of upper crust of donors and press and the more elite, as I have said before, and what the rank-and-file average voter in each congressional district cares about.

We also need to make sure that we're focusing on taking the House back, because we're doing important things in Congress here in the -- on the House side, like making sure that we can pass a bill to protect refrigerators and dishwashers, as opposed to making sure that we can really hone in on helping people have affordable roofs over their head or continuing to address climate change.

In my home state, Jessica, global warming is a right now thing. We have sunny day flooding. We have people at risk of not being able to live in their homes. And we're here in Congress, and the Republicans are actually taking up the whole week on dishwashers and washing machines.

DEAN: And so what...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That that's why we have to make sure Joe Biden remains our president, and we take the House back and hold the Senate.

DEAN: OK, so what do you say then to your colleagues who are going to come together? You all are back in session for the first time after that debate. You're going to talk with your leader, Hakeem Jeffries, tomorrow.

What do you say to them to keep them all united? Because, frankly, our reporting indicates there isn't unity. And I hear you that publicly it's only -- it's a handful. But, behind closed doors, people are saying a lot of things, Congresswoman. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I was on a leadership call. I'm a member

of the House leadership team on the Democratic side a few days ago.

And, yes, is there angst? Of course there's angst. There's angst in every election. This is going to be a close election, no matter what happens. It was going to be a close election before the debate. It's going to be -- it's still a close election, and it'll likely be a close election that will come down to the wire, just like the last one did.

And we have to make sure that we not waste time on parsing the president's words. I see him out there every day pounding the pavement, crisscrossing the country. He's going to lead a NATO summit this week in Washington. He is the leader of the free world and has made sure that we can protect democracy around the world.


And we need him to remain president of the United States and get reelected, so that we can prevent the complete upending of democracy, which Donald Trump and his Project 2025 cronies have committed to doing. This is existential for the United States, and we don't have time to be hand-wringing and gut-churning over whether or not Joe Biden had one bad day or if he has five bad days.

I'm confident in his administration. I'm confident in him. And I'm -- what I'm also confident in is that we have to get ourselves organized and back to getting busy, focusing on voter turnout, making sure that, in my home state, we sign people back up for vote by mail and that we ensure that we draw the contrast between Donald Trump's extremism, who ripped extremely precious rights away from women and is bragging about it, and Joe Biden, who has fought and continues to fight to add rights to our American citizens.

That's the bottom line.

DEAN: And, Congresswoman, just very quickly, because we're out of time, but do you think Joe Biden is the only one that can beat Donald Trump?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think Joe Biden will beat Donald Trump. He has beaten Donald Trump before, and Donald Trump is an existential threat that the antidote -- to whom the antidote is Joe Biden.

DEAN: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks so much for your time this afternoon. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up: Beryl battles Texas. More than two million people are without power as the storm moves inland, and we're going to follow its path.

Plus, Boeing takes another blow, the plane maker pleading guilty to defrauding the U.S. for its role in two fatal 737 MAX crashes. But this deal doesn't go nearly as far as victims' families had been pushing for. We will have the latest on that.

And vacation with a volcano, tourists in Italy just erupting over this natural phenomenon. Yes, we said it.


DEAN: Stay with CNN. We will be right back.



SANCHEZ: We're following breaking news out of Texas today, where Hurricane Beryl has weakened to a tropical storm after making a landfall this morning as a Category 1 hurricane.

It remains a dangerous storm with millions at risk from heavy rain and potential flash flooding. In fact, take a look at this video showing powerful winds tearing down a sign at a gas station. You see it coming down there. More than 3.5 million people in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas are now under a tornado watch.

Texas law enforcement says at least two people have died after trees fell on their homes in the Houston area. Widespread power outages are also a problem, with more than two million customers already impacted across the state.

CNN's Michael Yoshida is in Houston for us.

So, Michael, what are you seeing there in the storm right now?


At this point, flooding issues all across the city of Houston. Right on this roadway off of 610, you can see the water is still high. I can tell you it was significantly higher just a short time ago, the water now getting to the bottom of the vehicles.

But it was up at the top of the wheel well just maybe 40 minutes, an hour ago, these vehicles stalling out early this morning. We even saw a short time ago, a fire truck, a ladder truck having to be pulled out as well.

So, a lot of water, a lot of issues. And talking with those, even some of those who were in these vehicles this morning, they say it all happened so fast. It was so dark and, next thing you know, they were in this water. It was starting to come in the sides of the vehicles. Their engines were stalling out and flooding out.

So, not great. That's why we have been hearing throughout the morning, throughout the time leading up to this as Beryl approached officials asking people to not be out on the roadways. That's something, again, the Houston mayor spoke about just a short time ago.


JOHN WHITMIRE (D), MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: Houstonians, anyone that can hear my voice, shelter in place. Shelter in place. We're in an emergency. We're in a rescue mode, life safety. We're literally getting calls across Houston right now asking for first responders to come rescue individuals in desperate life safety conditions.


YOSHIDA: And, again, obviously you can see people now still starting to be back out on the roadways.

Ideally, if you don't have to be out, some of those we have been talking to saying they are trying to get back home. They wish they hadn't tested these conditions. And a lot of this as well, you can see vehicles coming up and then turning around once they hit these spots.

We have seen the water start to recede in some areas, but then rise up again in others. And as we're dealing with all this water, I can tell you too, if we look right here by the maintenance facility, you can see the winds still picking up as well, the flags whipping right there, so obviously a lot of conditions, still dealing with the effects of Beryl and something we will be keeping an eye on, obviously, throughout the rest of the day in the coming days as well -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Michael Yoshida live for us from Houston.

Thanks so much, Michael -- Jessica.

DEAN: Out West, a dangerous heat wave is shattering records and forcing the National Weather Service to issue an excessive heat warning -- that's its highest alert -- for about 36 million people. The stifling heat in Death Valley, California, it hit 129 degrees over the weekend, caused the death of at least one person and the hospitalization of another.

CNN's Natasha Chen is tracking this for us.

And, Natasha, what can you tell us about this record-breaking heat?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, it's not just the high temperatures, but it's the duration of this heat wave, how it's gone on for days and is still continuing today, tomorrow.


Over the weekend, we visited the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center, which can hold a maximum capacity of 3,000 people. And we just saw so many in the northern part of Los Angeles trying to beat the heat. We talked to the very first person in that line trying to get in who waited there two to three hours for a good spot.

He was describing how the extreme weather has really changed over the last 12 years he's lived in that area.


JEFF SALAZAR, WAITED TWO HOURS FOR POOL ACCESS: I guess, with global warming and how things are, it's getting worse and worse every year. The -- when it's winter, it's colder here, because we're in a bowl. San Fernando Valley is a bowl, so all the air either gets -- flies right over us, which is what's happening here, and then the heat sticks here.

And then, in the winter, it just slams in here. So it's one of the two of extremes all the time.


CHEN: And if we just look at those triple-digit temperatures across the West Coast, we saw some daily records broken. We saw all-time highs broken.

Las Vegas, for example, hit 120 on Sunday. They have been at over 110 degrees every day since Wednesday. This is the longest stretch of hot weather like that they have ever had. You mentioned Death Valley, where a motorcyclist died from heat exposure, another person hospitalized, and others treated on scene.

Authorities there said that, due to the high temperatures, the emergency medical flight helicopters couldn't even fly to help them because they typically don't fly when it's above 120 degrees. Then you have Portland, Oregon, at 100 degrees, so places that are not used to seeing these triple-digit temperatures definitely hitting those records.

And, of course, that means really dangerous wildfires as well. The Lake Fire is burning in Santa Barbara. That's close to Sycamore Valley Ranch, what used to be Neverland Ranch -- Jessica.

DEAN: All right, Natasha Chen for us, thanks so much for that reporting.

Also ahead, we are standing by at the White House, where the press secretary is set to take reporters' questions, as President Biden makes it clear he's not calling it quits.

And across the pond, a shock victory, French voters keeping the far right out of power. What happens now to this key U.S. ally?