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President Joe Biden To Those Urging Him To Quit The Race: Challenge Me At Convention; Donald Trump Looks To Reclaim Spotlight With Vice President Rollout At GOP Convention; President Joe Biden Tells Hill Democrats He Is Staying In The Race; President Joe Biden: "I Am Not Going Anywhere, I Am Running"; Report: Republican National Convention Could Be "Attractive" Target For Extremists. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 14:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Not going anywhere. Defiant President Biden makes it clear to Democratic lawmakers he has no intention of quitting the presidential race no matter how much some of them may want him out.

Plus, fears over a potential threat to the convention, federal agencies worrying next week's Republican convention could be an attractive target. In their words, for extremists looking to provoke chaos. We'll look at what's worrying them most.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And the next big step toward Mars. After spending more than a year sequestered, four volunteers emerging from a habitat designed to simulate life on the Red Planet.

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

DEAN: President Biden going on offense on what many see as the political fight of his life in both prepared and impromptu remarks, he's doubled down, telling fellow Democrats he's not going anywhere despite growing calls for him to quit the race.

And the timing could not be more critical. This week, the House and Senate back in session for the first time since his faltering debate performance, and tomorrow, the Democratic caucus will meet with their leadership about Biden's political future.

Now, calls from the dropdown have only grown following Friday's interview with ABC News, a move aimed at countering the fallout.

In a letter to Democrats sent today, the president called for an end to the question about his run. And on the phone and -- on the -- on a phone call to MSNBC, Biden further challenged his critics. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm getting so frustrated by the elite. Now, I'm not talking about you guys. But by the elites in the party, who they know so much more. If any of these guys don't think I should run, run against me. Go ahead. Announce for president. Challenge me at the convention.


DEAN: CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House where a press briefing is starting in just moments. But MJ, first, you've got some new information to report.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jess, we have one more example of President Biden getting personally involved to try to stop the bleeding and prevent the dam from fully breaking. The president just called into a campaign call with donors that was led by campaign chair Jen O'Malley Dillon, where I'm told by one of the donors that was on this call that his tone was completely defiant that he wanted to make clear to his supporters and donors so important to the party that he isn't going anywhere.

I'm told that the president made clear it is important that the party start to change the narrative and really start talking about Donald Trump again, and making clear what the top issues are that are really at stake heading into November.

Interestingly, I'm told that there was a good amount of discussion on this donors call on Project 2025. This, of course, is the pro-Trump proposal about massively overhauling the federal government, which I should note, Donald Trump has tried to distance himself from, but that the current President Joe Biden, made clear on this call that he thinks that this proposal would be massively disruptive and damaging for the country on all fronts, on the economy, for women, for the LGBTQ Plus community.

And this was a call, Jess, where donors could speak up and ask questions. And I'm told there was one moment where one donor actually spoke up and said that she would be willing to crawl through broken glass for him.

So, an example of the president hearing directly from a donor and a supporter who is saying they are also fully in.

Now, another interesting detail from this call is that the president made clear that whenever the next debate happens, he isn't just going to be focused on laying out his own record, but that he is fully going to go on the attack and attack the former president a lot more aggressively than we saw on the June 27th debate.

Now, if you look at the last 24 hours, this is just one example of the president really going on the offense himself, calling into this donors call, calling into an interview with MSNBC, writing a letter to Democratic lawmakers. Clearly the goal has been to send the message that he isn't going anywhere and one of the ways in which he has tried to make that case is by saying the voters have already spoken. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


BIDEN: I am not going anywhere. I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat down Trump in 2024. We had a democratic nominating process and the voters spoke clearly. I won 14 million votes etcetera.

So, I just want -- I not only believe that from the beginning, but I wanted to reassert and demonstrate that is true.


LEE: There's no question about it, Jess, this is the president trying to get ahead of a week where many Democrats believe this could be the moment when the dam could fully break, particularly as Democratic lawmakers are coming back to Washington, D.C. this week, where a lot more lawmakers could end up publicly speaking out and saying what they have been thinking privately and that is that the president should not seek a second term, Jess.

DEAN: Yes, a lot on the line for President Biden this week. MJ Lee at the White House for us. Thanks so much.

Let's turn now to CNN's Kristen Holmes, who's in Miami, Florida, she's following the Trump campaign. And Kristen, you're learning the saga over Biden's nomination is complicating Donald Trump's strategy. How so?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jess. I mean, keep in mind that these two weeks, this week and next week were supposed to be all about Donald Trump. We know that he is still yet to actually put forward a vice presidential pick and then the convention in Milwaukee next week.

Now, you will not really seen or heard from Donald Trump at all. Yes, he has been on social media posting about Joe Biden, but he's really laying low for the most amount of time as they've watched this kind of spiral. They were not sure how Biden's performance would play out. But they certainly didn't see this coming. This potential that Biden wouldn't be at the top of the ticket.

And Joe Biden and the Democrats have really taken the spotlight for the last several weeks since that debate. Now they are trying to figure out what exactly is next for Donald Trump.

They have a self-imposed deadline of Monday. That's the start of the convention in Milwaukee for Donald Trump to actually name his vice presidential pick. When that's going to happen? We don't know. He has tomorrow a rally at his Doral Resort in Miami where we are and then later in the week, over the weekend, he has one in Pennsylvania, even the people closest to him say they are not entirely sure how this is going to roll out and he could come as late as Monday morning.

Now, people close to him, they say that this is not going to impact him making an announcement. But as somebody who has covered Donald Trump for some time, he is somebody who likes to have complete control over the media narrative. Knowing that, for example, on Thursday of this week, Biden is expected to give a press conference at NATO, that all eyes are going to be on that could impact the way that Donald Trump decides to announce who his vice presidential pick is.

But, right now, they are just sitting back trying to figure out what is next at the top of the ticket on the Democratic side, much like all of us are. They haven't changed any of their strategy yet. They're just sitting back and waiting to see how exactly this is going to play out.

SERRIE: Yes. And we shall see about that. Kristen Holmes for us in Miami. Thanks so much for that reporting. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Now, more on that defiant letter from President Biden to congressional Democrats, it's more than two pages long and at the end, he says, "We have one job and that is to beat Donald Trump. Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us. It's time to come together, move forward as a unified party and defeat Donald Trump."

Sources tells CNN more than a handful of high ranking Democrats are now joining the call for the president to step aside. Let's get the latest from CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. He's following all of this from Capitol Hill. Manu, what do you hear?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, there have not been many Democrats who have said much. In fact, a lot of them have been keeping their powder dry as they were gone last week during the Fourth of July recess. And this week is critical because it'll be the first time members are back in session, first time they will meet, first time they will air their concerns about the viability of Joe Biden atop their ticket and whether they believe it is time to replace him.

All eyes will be on tomorrow, key meeting in the House Democratic Caucus that will happen behind closed doors. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader has not signaled how he plans to come down but he is viewed as pivotal and then whether he sides with Joe Biden could ultimately help him stay as a Democratic nominee. If not, it could pressure him to step aside even as Joe Biden has been defiant, and said that he will remain as a Democratic nominee and that it is time to unite.

Also Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader has not yet said one way or the other about this. He said last week that he is behind Joe Biden. But what does that mean? Does he actually believe Joe Biden should be the Democratic nominee still and will he be -- does he have any concerns that Joe Biden at the top of the ticket could sink Democratic candidates in key Senate races where they are trying to keep control of the chamber in November?


Now, in a statement just moments ago, Senator Jon Tester who is a Montana Democrat, one of those vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year put out a statement saying that President Biden has got to prove to the American people including me that he's up for the job for another four years. Now, that statement stopped short of calling Joe Biden to step aside, but it shows you the concern among many vulnerable Democrats about Joe Biden at the top of the ticket and what it could mean for their own prospects.

So, Boris, tonight, when members come back for votes in the House and the Senate, many reporters, including myself will be pressing these Democrats for how -- for their view, and whether they believe Joe Biden should continue on or whether the drumbeat of pressure for him to step aside will intensify, Boris.

SANCHEZ: And we know some of them have spent the day running away from you already.

DEAN: It's a past time on the Hill.


DEAN: Running away from Manu.

SANCHEZ: It is. Manu Raju live from Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

RAJU: Yes, it is.

SANCHEZ: Joining us now is CNN Political Director David Chalian. David, as we await this briefing from the White House, let's step back and talk about the stakes for both campaigns here because we're one week out from the Republican National Convention. And we're at a critical crossroads for the Biden camp.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, it is an astonishingly important week. And I think when we get to the results in November, we may look back at this week as a definitional week in the outcome of this race. Boris, you heard from Kristen, clearly, Donald Trump, who was sort of seeding the spotlight, based on his advisor's advice to all the Democratic chaos that is going on, is clearly trying to grab that back now.

I mean, we're going to see him on "Hannity" later, he's got a vice presidential pick to announce, which is one of the huge moments for a candidate in their campaign. And then he rolls into his convention, which they're trying to execute, as, you know, the defining contrast with Joe Biden before voters. That is all happening, a big week for him, while Joe Biden is still in this battle, which is just remarkable to think that I'm saying that in July, right? He had the nomination wrapped up from the get go. And he is now in a battle to stay on top of the ticket.

Now, it's a battle he's going on a lot more offense as of today than we have seen him over the last 11 days, whether on the donor call or in that MSNBC interview, that letter to members of Congress. This is Joe Biden now not just digging in, but actually full offensive battle to tamp this down and put it to bed.

DEAN: And so, David, what is the -- what are the polls tell us right now? What is the -- what is the shape and the contours of this race?

CHALIAN: So, this was one of the things that grew out of the Stephanopoulos interview on Friday, which is that Joe Biden just was not conceding an inch to the reality of the state of his campaign as it exists now.

So, if you look at our poll of polls, this is an average of national polls, pre and post-debate. Pre-debate, Donald Trump had a two point edge in a poll of polls and average national polls, 49 percent to 47 percent, that's a pretty close race.

You see post-debate, Donald Trump has stayed the same. He didn't grow his support with the debate. But Joe Biden took on some water, he is down to 44 percent. And that's a five point lead in the pll of polls for Donald Trump.

So, to say that the debate had no impact, I don't think is reflected by the totality of the polls.

Also, if you look at the electoral map, guys, and the road to 270, it's only going to get more complicated, look here. This is our latest assessment of the races, the yellow are the true battleground, you have some leaning red states that are clearly heavily contested states as well, like Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan.

But we are -- we are now talking about the light blue states, perhaps Minnesota, Virginia, New Mexico that are leaning democratic now, they may be coming online as more competitive in this moment, we need to see how true that is.

If that happens, that means more resources that Biden has to spend in a greater number of states than he's currently spending. If the map expands against him, that's not a position of strength heading into this fall campaign.

SANCHEZ: As we see in the electoral college adds a dynamic to those polls that isn't fully representative in those numbers. I am curious, though, where do Independents land?

CHALIAN: So, I'm fascinated by this, because obviously independents are still big, big factors in the outcome of presidential elections.

You remember in 2016, Trump bested Clinton with Independents by a bit, he won that election. Four years ago, Biden won Independents by 13 percentage points against Donald Trump.

Looking at the Independent tracker of CNN polling alone over the last year. So, back a year ago, last August, we actually had Biden, the blue line there on the left of the screen up against Trump by like nine points or so among Independents, OK?

And then, you saw as we continued to poll this race, you saw in November that crossed, Trump has led with Independents and never gave up the lead.

And if you look at the April line versus the now line, this is pre- debate versus post-debate. Both of them ticked down a little bit in their support with Independents. But Donald Trump's lead has maintained, he's now got a 10 percentage point lead in our polling among Independents in this race.


That's a huge warning sign to any campaign, which is why Joe Biden is finding himself in the position he's in right now, which is that he may be successful at pushing back on this effort to get him to leave the race. The question becomes, so where does that leave him and the Democratic Party?

All the data suggests at the moment, he's in a weakened position in this race maintaining a top of the ticket, then he was clearly a year ago, but even you could argue more recently.

DEAN: At what cost and it almost seems like to have all these Democrats even come out and just even not go all the way to say we want him out of the race. But just enough like the Jon Tester comment.

CHALIAN: I have a lot of follow up questions for Jon Tester.

DEAN: Yes.

CHALIAN: First of all, like, does he think it would be more beneficial to him in his race in Montana if Kamala Harris was the top of the ticket?

DEAN: Right.

CHALIAN: I'd love to hear his answer on that. It's beneficial for a Democrat running in a deep red state to take on the president of his party, right? Joe Biden is not going to win Montana.

So, by saying, hey, Joe Biden's got to prove to Americans, Jon Tester gets to look tough against the Democratic president, that serves his needs, but he didn't go as far.

Because -- I have a question for Jon Tester is, are you going to be benefited any more if you were to swap out somebody at the top of that ticket? I'd be curious to hear his answer.

DEAN: But isn't that the calculation that they're all trying to make right now? And to that end that Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries are trying to make?

CHALIAN: Without a doubt. I mean, that has been sort of the risk assessment underway for the last 11 days since the debate. I think there was -- there's been a limited window of time, though, and time is ticking here.

And so, if no -- if the Hakeem Jeffries and the Chuck Schumers of the world, don't go down to the White House and say, we're losing everything if you maintain the top of the ticket, we need you to engage in this conversation with us. They have not said that yet. And that has allowed Joe Biden to say, I'm not entertaining this conversation, you could have 20, 50 members come out.

Joe Biden is telling us today, telling these members, he is committed to staying in this race.

DEAN: All right, David Chalian, thanks so much. Good to see you.


DEAN: Still ahead. New reporting on how Biden staff preps him for events, large print on how to enter and exit a room, picks up the podium. We'll talk with the reporter on that story next.

Plus, Russian missiles hitting a children's hospital in Kyiv. At least 30 people killed in multiple attacks. We'll tell you what we're learning about those strikes, and how Ukraine is vowing retribution.

SANCHEZ: Plus, more than two million people without power in Texas as Beryl batters the Lone Star State. Major flooding in Houston and across the state's Gulf Coast, we have the latest on the storm and where it's headed next.



SANCHEZ: Today, a new report from Axios is shining fresh light on some of the extensive preparations done by White House staffers ahead of President Biden's events in this piece titled Scoop: How Biden's events staffers guide him behind the scenes. Alex Thompson shares these screenshots of White House documents which reportedly were used to aid Biden at a previous event. You can see two large pictures with large print that says walk to podium.

Thompson goes on to write, "Since the June 27th debate, some Democrats who have attended and helped set up Biden events have wondered whether his team's focus on minute details were to obscure the 81-year-old president's limitations rather than just a reflection of a meticulous staff."

That reporter Alex Thompson joins us now live. Alex, thanks for being with us.

Walk us through what you learned about the staff's advance work, especially in relation to other key officials and administrations, how does it compare?

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: Absolutely. So, the whole reason this came to me is because after the debate, people that had worked on Joe Biden's events in recent several months, basically started to replay things in their heads.

At first they thought, you know, sometimes advanced people can just be very, you know, for lack of a better word, you know, detail oriented, and they just sort of dismiss it as that.

But after seeing the debate, and then after thinking about the fact that, you know, the president relies on things that every president relies on, including advanced staff, but he does so in a way that is distinct and seems to rely on them more.

You know, one example is the teleprompter, right? Joe Biden uses a teleprompter, every president uses a teleprompter, but Joe Biden uses it more seems to rely on it more. He even uses it in small fundraising events.

So, basically, what was happening is that even in small, usually casual events with just not that many people, the White House was very, very concerned about every single step the president was taking that even experienced staffers thought was a little bit unusual.

And then after the debate, they basically feeling that maybe this was to make up for his limitations. One person that worked in event for Joe Biden recently said that they treated a small fundraiser like it was a NATO summit.

SANCHEZ: Wow, I'm wondering what your response is to those like Dan Pfeiffer, he's a former Obama senior advisor, who make the case that this isn't really out of the norm, that this is done for a slew of different principles.

THOMPSON: Absolutely, and, you know, Dan is right, but you know, very detailed advanced work isn't normal for this sort of level of principle.


But what has -- what was striking to people that have worked these events, who also like Dan said, hey, like, this is not -- Dan have done lots of advanced work before. They said the people that worked Joe Biden's events said that this level of detail, this level of handholding was abnormal, that basically things that appear normal for more presidents, Joe Biden's campaign, his White House, basically takes it to a new level, which in retrospect, the debate seems excessive, and to sort of obscure potential -- his potential limitations.

SANCHEZ: So, during a phone interview with MSNBC this morning, President Biden was essentially presented with a list of those congressional Democrats, those big names who've cast doubts about his candidacy, and he said, "They're big names, but I don't care what those big names think."

Given the sources that you talked with the White House, it doesn't seem to bother him that there are clearly serious doubts within leading members of his own party.

THOMPSON: None of that just not bother him, it actually motivates him. Joe Biden has long been known to have a chip on his shoulder and that chip has only grown larger with age. The fact is that if he has doubters, especially doubters that are powerful, whether or not they'd be a big donor, a big Democrat. And the fact of if they go public with their doubts, it honestly sort of makes him more motivated to go forward. And that's sort of the dilemma that you're seeing in this Democratic

Party. It's part of the reason why you notice when any Democrat suggests that maybe he should step aside. They always preceded with heaps of praise for the president, how historic he's been, how great of a job he's been. And then they say, I think you should go out there.

The entire Democratic Party in essence is tiptoeing in some ways around Joe Biden's ego in order to try to coax him out of the race.

But Joe Biden, very proud person has no intention. He's been saying he has no intention to get out of the race, and part of that is because it is a commandment in Joe Biden's orbit that he is the most electable candidate against Donald Trump. And if you believe that with such fervor, nothing else matters.

SANCHEZ: Alex Thompson some fascinating reporting. Appreciate you coming on.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Jessica?

DEAN: We are now just one week away from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. And it's expected to bring around 50,000 people to that city as the GOP formally nominates Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.

As you would imagine, security is going to be quite tight, especially after a new security assessment shows the event could be, "Attractive as a target for extremists."

CNN Cybersecurity Reporter Sean Lyngaas has new reporting on all of this.

And John, just to be clear, there is no credible threat that's outlined in this report. But give us a sense of what they're preparing for here.

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: That's right, Jessica, no credible threat. But this is a very high profile event. And it comes in at historic, partisan divide in the country.

And also, you know, many weeks of protests at the college campuses related to the U.S.-Israel policy. So, it's a very tight time, tense time and some of the things that law enforcement is doing for months has been sort of scoping the area in Milwaukee where the convention center has been taking place. They are concerned while there's a credible threat, that there could be a -- this could be an attractive target for domestic violent extremists, which we've seen quite a bit lately in the country in terms of those types of online threats that could or could not be manifested in the physical world.

And so, it's also attracting all kinds of other potential threats. You know, he talked about whenever there's a big event with people coming out from out of state, there's potential for sex trafficking, that sort of thing.

So, DHS told us that there's no credible threat, but this is something that they've been preparing for for months, and they're trying to make sure everything goes smoothly with this sort of in detail threat assessment, Jessica.

DEAN: Yes, with these big, big events like this, and it's not just domestic threats that's on their radar. How are they preparing for any foreign threats?

LYNGAAS: Right. Well, there's actually been a resurgence among U.S. officials, a resurgence of concern around potential terror attacks. Specifically CNN reported last month on concerns about individuals from Tajikistan crossing the border and being sympathizers of an ISIS affiliate.

So, that has been something of sharper focus compared to previous years of previous conventions. So, that is probably the foremost foreign threat concern.

And then, you have the general, anytime there's a political party, a major political party getting together, there's potential attempts by foreign intelligence services, you know, Russia, China, or Iran, to target candidates or people around them to try to gather intelligence on them or perhaps cultivate assets.

So, that is, again, one of the many things that security officials are considering going into the Milwaukee convention.

DEAN: Focus on that Milwaukee convention and of course, we have the Democrats in August as well.

Sean Lyngaas, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Still ahead, Beryl losing strength but not before doing extensive damage in Texas. Major flooding and homes just torn to pieces. Where the storm is now headed, that's next.