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Divided Congressional Democrats Meet Today; Texans Face Prolonged Power Outages. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 09:00   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Can actually digest your food better. Well, that can lead to nausea. That can lead to vomiting, even bowel obstruction in some cases. It's stimulating your pancreas to make more insulin. That could lead to pancreatitis.

So, these are potential side effects. I think for the vast majority of people, now that we have a lot more data, it does appear to be pretty safe, although a lot of people do get mild side effects, especially when they first start taking the medications, which is why the dosing has sort of increased over time, sort of accelerated over time. But that is - that is sort of what we know at this point.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is really interesting getting - finally getting the start of some answers to questions that have been lingering since these - these popular drugs kind of stormed onto the stage.


BOLDUAN: It's really interesting to see this now.

Sanjay, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it.

BOLDUAN: And the good news, everybody, is if you still have questions, Sanjay's actually going to come back with us later this week and answer your questions about these popular weight-loss drugs. You can scan the QR code that you see on your screen to submit your questions. And we'll have that for you later this week.

But right now, a new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have got live pictures of the U.S. Capitol because, happening now, House Democrats are walking into a meeting that will help decide the president's future. And we have new reporting on which way the wind is blowing.

Millions of Americans are waking up without power and in sweltering heat this morning. The danger conditions left behind by Hurricane Beryl.

And this morning, Alec Baldwin goes on trial for manslaughter in the fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust."

I'm John Berman, with Kate Bolduan and Sara Sidner. And this is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, House Democrats meeting behind closed doors. Will they come out united for or against Biden's bid for the presidency? It is a crucial test for President Biden and his re- election campaign.

The president fighting to stay in the race after six House Democrats publicly called for him to step aside, with more reportedly doing the same privately. But House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries so far standing by President Biden, and so are the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses. But the House Democratic caucus meeting is just the first of three crucial moments today. Senate Democrats are also meeting. And then all eyes turn to President Biden as he meets with NATO leaders in Washington, D.C.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us first this morning.

Tell us what you're hearing from the White House.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, this is a key day for President Biden as Democrats are all together back up on Capitol Hill today, with many expected to be discussing the future of President Biden's candidacy.

Any moment now the House Democratic caucus is set to meet. This will be the first time that these lawmakers are all together in a room since that debate performance that has prompted all of these questions about the future of Biden's candidacy.

Now, our colleagues who are up on Capitol Hill say that already heading into this meeting it appears that there are divisions among these lawmakers as they are expected to air out some of their concerns or potentially their support for President Biden.

I want to play you a bit of what one of those lawmakers, Mike Quigley, had to tell our colleagues just a short while ago.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): The fighting spirit and pride and courage that served the country so well four years ago, helped Joe Biden win, will bring the ticket down this time. He - he just has to step down because he can't win. And my colleagues need to recognize that. A dismissive letter is not going to change any minds.


SAENZ: Now, Congressman Quigley is one of those six House Democratic lawmakers who have publicly called for President Biden to step aside from the Democratic ticket. There are others who have also privately expressed those concerns.

But at the same time, there's also been groups rallying around President Biden. Last night he called into virtually a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus to insist he is staying in this race and thanked them for the work that they'd done with the administration. A source familiar with the call said that it lasted more than 30 minutes and that there was no pushback from the members of that call. So far no members of the Congressional Black Caucus have publicly braked from President Biden, instead many have been lending their support to him.

So, President Biden, still working to try to hold onto the Democratic support that he does have up on Capitol Hill.

In addition to this meeting of the House Democrats, the Senate Democratic caucus is set to meet later today for their weekly lunch. And this could also be an opportunity for them to discuss the president's candidacy. So far there have been no Senate Democrats to publicly say that the president should step aside. But several have expressed concerns about that debate performance and are urging President Biden to do more.


All of this is playing out as the NATO summit is also set to kick off here in Washington, D.C., today. That summit expected to focus on the future of Ukraine, as well as what could happen to NATO if Trump is re-elected to a second term. But all eyes will be on President Biden during this - this summit, as well as that solo news conference he'll have later in the week as he is trying to hold on and save his candidacy, despite some serious doubts from within his party.

SIDNER: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

John, I know you talked to Mr. Quigley. He is sticking with his guns. This could be a contentious meeting potentially with the congressional Democratic congressional members this morning happening now.

BERMAN: Yes, no doubt. And nothing is more important than hearing from those members as they go into that meeting and emerge from it. We are going to get there so you can hear from those members of Congress to see which way the wind is blowing.

With us now, CNN political commentator Karen Finney and former special assistant to President Trump, Marc Lotter.

And, Karen, on that note, I do really want to hear from those members as they go in and emerge from that meeting, and maybe even during the meeting. Yes, let - hang on one second, guys.

Jerry Nadler, who has come out and said the president should step aside, is speaking right now. Let's listen.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): He is the only candidate.



(CROSS TALK) NADLER: What? Say it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any concerns he'll be able to serve out the rest of his term?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to be clear, sir, you do not want the president to drop out?

NADLER: I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, is your support for the president a pragmatic consideration given that the president said he will remain in.

NADLER: Well, yes. I mean he said he's going to remain in. He's our candidate. And we will (INAUDIBLE) support him. (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That kind of leaves you with no choice then, I take it.

NADLER: Well, yes. As the president said, something like 90 percent of Democrats voted for him in the primaries. He won the nomination. And that's what (ph) matter (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Congressman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, why the reversal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about the fact that a Parkinson's specialist visited the White House eight times in the last year?

NADLER: Well, apparently he visited for other people, according to the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at least one time he visited with the president.

NADLER: Well -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the ledger (ph).

NADLER: The president is entitled to have an examination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chairman, you're changing you mind that now -

NADLER: No, I'm not changing my mind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, behind - behind the security barrier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We need to get set for Lauren's (ph) live shot (ph). BERMAN: All right, now, we are going to keep monitoring that to see what other members go in.

But what you just heard there is hugely important. That was New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, the ranking member, I believe, of the House Judiciary Committee, at this point.

Karen Finney, there were reports that in the private phone call among House leaders the other day, Nadler, the man you just heard there, was one of the members of Congress who said that he wanted President Biden to step aside in the presidential race. Now, as he is walking into this meeting, he says, President Biden is our candidate. He says he is firmly behind the president.

So, was this thing done and dusted at this point, Karen?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think anything is ever done and dusted. Come on now, this is politics, John.

But a couple of considerations that I think Mr. Nadler may have been - heard after he was - you know, had said one thing. Again, remember, the president has - not only did he get 14 million votes in our nominating process, which technically has ended. He has nearly 4,000 pledged delegates. And what that means is, these members of Congress, they don't get to vote until the second round of voting. So, that means as long as the president - and over the weekend there was a lot of checking in with those delegates. They are sticking with the president. So, technically, that means he's got the nomination, right?

Second piece of this. What they may be able to talk about in this meeting is, sure, there are going to be some frontline Democrats who say, I'm concerned. But, guess what, they probably weren't going to be running with the president anyway. And so, strategically, people are going to have to do what they have to do to win.

And, look, we've got to win the House and the Senate regardless of also winning the presidency if we're going to finish enacting the agenda that President Biden, Vice President Harris, have been running on.

So, again, I think it will be a tough conversation. But the - going in there with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus is a huge deal.

BERMAN: Yes. Again, just to be clear so everyone knows here, I think everyone has been clear from the time of the debate that the only way things changes is if President Biden himself steps aside. He's got the delegates in his pocket.

FINNEY: Right.

BERMAN: Unless he says he is done. So, that's what people have been waiting to see. What's significant there is Jerry Nadler, again, reportedly wanted him to step aside, the president. Now he doesn't want him to step aside.


BERMAN: One other thing, Karen, I want to ask you about is that, President Biden and the White House was saying, oh, it's only the media and elites who have been suggesting the president step aside. John King went to Wisconsin. You know, we heard him talking to voters there. These are voters, regular Americans are the ones expressing -



BERMAN: Democrats are the ones expressing their concerns right now.


BERMAN: I'm not sure it's just the elites, is it?

FINNEY: Well, again, the delegates that we're talking about are regular Americans. Remember, the superdelegates, the unpledged delegates, members of Congress, that's the - that's a different set of delegates. When we're talking about the delegates, we are talking about regular people.

And frankly, John, over the weekend, one of our correspondents who was with the president, talked to some folks outside of an event, and they said, yes, we're in here - we're in it for Joe Biden. We think he should stay in.

BERMAN: Karen, I'm just going to jump in for one second.

Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker, is walking in. Let's listen.


BERMAN: That was the quiet sounds of Nancy Pelosi entering that meeting right now. We did not exactly hear - actually, one second. Let's go to Lauren Fox, who's standing by there.

Lauren, what else have you heard in the last few minutes?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this morning we are watching as members are entering this meeting.

And right now what you are hearing are disparate views. We heard Mike Quigley say as he entered that he didn't think that Biden couldn't necessarily win this race against Donald Trump. We also heard, though, from others who say that they are hoping this is an opportunity for people who have concerns to vent those concerns and then perhaps walk out of this meeting united as a Democratic Party behind Joe Biden.

But you know one thing to keep in mind here is the fact that all of this heartburn, all of this discussion about whether or not Joe Biden is up to the task does make it harder for Democrats to later on unify and rally behind the president because in some ways they have already started to question his ability to do this job, to keep this job, and I think that that is something that in talking with Democrats they are worried could play into Republicans' hands going into the November election.

So, obviously, members here have very different views of what they hope comes out of this meeting. And as Tina Smith, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, put it to me last night, there really is no easy option right now. If they decide to stick with Biden, they have to defend him. They have to explain why some members had concerns in a matchup with Donald Trump. If they decide to move on, that unleashes an entirely complicated process that is completely unprecedented.

So, that is what Democrats are dealing with this morning. Obviously, we're going to be watching very closely to see what Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader, tells his caucus in this meeting. Again, it's important to point out that Democrats are expected to not have their phones in this meeting. This is supposed to be a closed door, family discussion.

BERMAN: All right, Lauren Fox, they're walking in behind you. We'll let you get to chasing them and shouting at them. Let us know what you hear. We'll put you on the minute you get new reaction there.

I have Karen Finney and Marc Lotter here.

And, Karen, if you will, I'm just going to get to Marc for a question because I'm afraid we're going to run out of time here in a second.


BERMAN: Marc, Scott Jennings, our Republican friend, was on before. And he said, Donald Trump would rather run against Joe Biden right now than another candidate. Do you agree with that? Do you think that the Democrats now by not - if they are not going to change horses now, are giving you what you want?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, TRUMP 2020: I don't actually think it matters which Democrat is up on top of the ticket. Obviously, Joe Biden adds a different dynamic. But the problem is, is that we keep forgetting, is that Joe Biden's policies are unpopular. There's a reason why two-thirds of the American people think the country's headed on the wrong track. And when you look at the polling averages, Joe Biden has 60, 65 percent disapproval on the economy, inflation, the border, foreign policy, crime. All of those are underlying reasons why Joe Biden is unpopular. The age issue is just adding another layer to it.

So, whomever you're running against, the policies are going to be the same. Trump will continue to run against those no matter what name appears on the top line.

BERMAN: Karen, if President Biden does make it through today, if this House meeting, they come out of it, they say they're unified in their support of President Biden, the Senate says the same - says the same later today, is it possible it could change in the next few weeks? Is there a news - there's a news conference on Thursday. If the news conference that the president gives, if that goes badly, do you think he's run out of strikes here?

FINNEY: Well, a couple things.

First, I want to say, actually Joe Biden's policies are very popular. In a poll, that does not necessarily correlate to how people feel about the direction of the country.

Second, look, I think the hope of this strategy that the White House has put in place is to have a good week and be able to then let the Republicans take center stage next week with the hope that the contrast between the two reminds voters why they want Joe Biden, why Joe Biden and his policies are the right choice.

Look, we'll have to see what happens in this press conference later this week and how things go this week with the NATO leaders.


You know, I - obviously they've got some very tough topics with regard to Ukraine and standing up to - continuing to stand up to Russia. And not to mention what's happening in the Middle East.

BERMAN: All right, hang on, let's listen - one more. We have a congressman going in right now, Max Frost, I believe, from Florida.

Let's listen.

REP. MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): The far right wing. That's the same thing they can bring it up. I'm going to meet with (INAUDIBLE) this weekend for the campaign, speaking with young voters too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think of the debate though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, is he one bad performance away from failure?

FROST: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he one bad performance away from failure?

FROST: He is many good performance from winning. And so that's what we've seen over the past week. And I think we'll continue to see it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what convinced you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) - what do you make of the debate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, what changed your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of the debate. What do you make of his performance there?

FROST: The performance was bad. The debate was bad. I'm not going to deny that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what changed in your mind?

FROST: What changed my mind? Well, my mind - it's not that my mind was changed. I wanted to hear that plan from the campaign, what they were going to do. And that type of ad spend, plus the president being out there, being forceful on Project 2025, and the reason that he's running, reassured me.

And so, again, I'll be on the road this weekend in New Hampshire. I'm throwing the first pitch at a baseball game. And I went to art school, so keep me in your prayers. But I feel good about the plan going forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that Biden -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, only if Democrats can win in November?

FROST: I believe Democrats will win up and down the ballot. Joe Biden will be re-elected and we're going to take the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you concerned that you've been kept in the dark -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Biden is actually -

FROST: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Again, it is interesting hearing people going in there. It does seem that the president's in a better position today than he may have been over the last few days.

And, Marc Lotter, from Donald Trump's perspective, any of this have an impact on the vice presidential selection. Again, there's some notion that he might be willing to make a riskier pick if he thinks his position is better against President Biden.

LOTTER: No, I think they'll make the smart pick. And, look, the map is growing. It's in favor of Donald Trump already. You know, I think the biggest factor that could weigh into it is an expanding map. Do you look at somebody like a Governor Glenn Youngkin and put the Commonwealth of Virginia even further into play. Or, you know, the other states, is there someone out there that could maybe move the map even further? So, I think they're always going to look at it as, who adds the most to the ticket because right now they're winning and they want to keep winning.

BERMAN: Karen Finney, Marc Lotter, I appreciate you both hanging with me through here as we see those members walk in. Quite a morning.


SIDNER: All right, the stakes incredibly high for President Biden as he welcomes NATO leaders to Washington, D.C. Can he use this summit to prove he's fit for a second term in their eyes?

And Hurricane Beryl took a deadly path through Texas, knocking out power to millions of people, just as brutal heat is settling over that state. We'll have more on that ahead.



SIDNER: More than 2 million people in Texas are in the dark this morning, with the threat of power outages lingering for days or even weeks.

This crisis comes on the heels of Hurricane Beryl's devastating landfall in southern Texas, which claimed at least seven lives in Texas and one in Louisiana. On top of the power outages and flooding, there's a heat advisory happening now. Temperatures may sweltered to more than 90 degrees, feeling like 105 degrees. Although downgraded to a tropical depression, Beryl still threatens the Midwest.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in Rosenberg, Texas.

I know you are there with the folks that are going to be starting to fix this power problem, but it is widespread and it is dangerous temperatures that they're going to be dealing with.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Sara, you know, the combination of a hurricane, a heat wave, and a multiday power outage is really a nightmare scenario. One that's only going to become more common as humans continue to warm the planet, helping fuel stronger storms like Hurricane Beryl.

But in come the troops, the cavalry. You can see them behind me. We're at one of about a dozen staging areas. This is called a utility restoration staging area. It is a massive, multistate effort to restore power to the people. Obviously, that is the priority here to bring back electricity to the over 2 million customers without it here in the state of Texas before the heat sets in. So, the race is truly on.

In Harris County alone, where Houston is located, 70 percent of customers without power. Take it from me. I drove around Houston this morning in the dark. Down trees, power lines. It was treacherous. And 2.3 million people across the state of Texas. And look, the heat that is moving in means that people will not have an opportunity to cool themselves or seek relief with air conditioning. Heat indices upwards of 105 degrees. That's why the National Weather Service issued this heat advisory for Houston and much of the eastern sections of Texas. And that is, of course, right where Hurricane Beryl barreled through the state only yesterday.

Now, look at these feels like temperatures. That's when you factor in the temperature and the humidity. We're talking triple digit heats for so many locations and so many people here who do not have power at the moment.

Now, across the state of Louisiana, they set a record number of tornado warnings from the Shreveport National Weather Service operations center. And, of course, with these tornadoes yesterday from Hurricane Beryl, knocked out power there as well. So, it's not just Texas. It's up through Arkansas, parts of Louisiana, and into other locations.

So, this combination, Sara, is potentially deadly for people as they look to clean up their yard in the wake of Hurricane Beryl.

Back to you.

SIDNER: The heat and humidity is treacherous, even without Beryl there. So, what a difficult time for people there.


SIDNER: Derek Van Dam, thank you to you and your crew for hanging out there and giving us the story.


We appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: We will take you back live outside that critical meeting of House Democrats on Capitol Hill. What is Leader Hakeem Jeffries' message to his caucus about President Biden as it's about to get underway?

And a legend was born 20 years ago today.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the bad man do, Ron?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) motorcycle on a bridge. I hit him with a burrito.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone punted (ph) him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, (INAUDIBLE), let me tell you something. (INAUDIBLE).