Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

House And Senate Democrats Meet Today On Joe Biden's Political Future; House Democrats Remain Divided On Joe Biden After Meeting; Democratic Leaders Speaks As Party Meets About Joe Biden Support; Democratic Caucus Chair: Members Should Focus On Preventing Donald Trump From Getting Reelected To White House. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We're following a couple of live events that are about to get underway on a day that Democrats could potentially make or break the president's political future.

The White House briefing is about to start any moment and the leaders of the House Democratic Caucus will be speaking after the party met behind closed doors.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: We're following all the latest developments from the White House to Capitol Hill and let's start there with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju.

Manu, tell us what you're hearing from lawmakers as they all get together today and talk about this.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this meeting this morning about two hours with the House Democrats really airing out their concerns is a bit of an open mic session.

Members would go up, express their concerns about Joe Biden as the nominee, express their concerns about Donald Trump taking back the White House and about how the party needs to come together in order to defeat Donald Trump.

All of that playing out in this private setting. The first time they were able to meet.

Now, it was clear -- this much was clear, there is no consensus about whether Biden should be replaced. In fact, some of them said they would support Joe Biden simply because he has insisted that he's going to stay in this race. And they simply have no other choice. So they're deciding they're going to need to get behind the top of their ticket.

Now, at the moment, Senate Democrats are meeting. They're having -- they're having their first meeting ever since the -- ever since the debate from late last month, they were on recess last week, and now they're behind closed doors airing out their concerns. I caught up with one senator earlier today, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania,

an endangered Democrat, and I asked him about whether he's willing to abandon Biden.


RAJU: Do you support keeping Biden at the top of the ticket?

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Well, I've said so numerous times. You heard my remarks over a week ago in Scranton.

RAJU: You don't think it's -- you don't have any concerns about his ability to serve four more years?


RAJU: I mean, you saw him in the debate stage.

CASEY: And, Manu, my job is not to be a, you know, a commentator or an analyst. I've got a job to do as the United States Senator.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): He's got an excellent record, one of the most existential presidents of the last century. Trump would be an absolute disaster for democracy, so I'm enthusiastically supporting Biden.

RAJU: What did you say on that call on Sunday?

NADLER: I'm not going to comment on what I said on a private call.


RAJU: Now, that last comment coming from Congressman Jerry Nadler on a private call on Sunday, he expressed concerns about Joe Biden and suggested that there should be a replacement at the top of the ticket and said a new candidate, not Joe Biden.

But his tune has changed in large part because Joe Biden says he is not going anywhere. So, you're hearing how Nadler has come around and that is really the view of so many other Democrats that I spoke with today. People like Ritchie Torres of New York telling me that I'm viewing this pragmatically. He's our nominee and we got to get behind him.

Some calling for Biden to do more to alleviate their concerns. That's a view of Pramila Jayapal, also Patty Murray, a senator from Washington State.

So, so many issue concerns that members still have even as they -- some are falling in line, some are enthusiastically supporting him and some are pushing for a new candidate, guys.

SANCHEZ: Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill for us. Thanks so much. Let's go to the White House now with CNN Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche. Kayla, how is the White House seeing these members start to fall in line? Even the skeptical ones like Jerry Nadler seem to be in a phase of acceptance.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, it's part of the outcome that they were hoping for when the president launched his offensive yesterday on cable airwaves, on donor calls, and specifically meeting with blocks of Congress where they were trying to shore up support.

But the White House is pinning its hopes specifically on support that was reiterated in the last day or so from specific leaders in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said once again yesterday, I'm with Joe and minority leader in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, who said when he was leaving that meeting earlier today that he was reiterating the support that he had outlined for the president after the debate where he said that he would still support him.


TAUSCHE: Now, several top Democrats tells CNN that unless party leaders are willing to force the president's hand and are willing to take some of the concerns that have been voiced by their members and essentially push the president to resign from his position atop the party, that they need to get in line behind their candidate.

One top Democrats telling CNN, that's Chuck and Hakeem, are going to have to say the Congress is turning on you. That's basically the bottom line.

I spoke to some party officials who say that the sniping and the inter party bickering is not going to stop until leadership specifically puts an end to it and says with certainty and with clarity that Joe Biden is the nominee. He will be the nominee at the convention in August. He will be the nominee on Election Day in November and then it's really up to leadership to say that.

And because of the support that's been outlined from leadership in recent days, that's why the White House feels hopeful, although they acknowledge behind the scenes that there have been many corners of the Democratic Party where support has been eroded.

DEAN: All right, Kayla Tausche at the White House for us. Thanks so much for that reporting.

And let's talk more about this with CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny and Jamal Simmons, former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris. Great to see all of you.

Gloria, we just listened to Kayla outlined how the White House is thinking about this, specifically when it comes to the Hill and leadership on the Hill.

And the fact that if Hakeem Jeffries or Chuck Schumer, if they were to come together and say, step down, that's one thing. Do you think that's likely at this point?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we haven't heard it. And I think, look, they're canvassing their own members. And if they were hearing from all of their members, he's got to go. I think they might do that.

But they're not hearing that. And I think there's a little bit of fear about it, you know, Joe Biden kind of dared them in his own way to do that. And they don't want a war within the Democratic Party.

And what they've got now is very unfortunate for them because they wanted this presidential race to be focused on Donald Trump. And suddenly, it's focused on Joe Biden and his mental state.

And so, you know, I think the best the White House can hope for right now is to calm this down and to try and get back to business.

I don't know whether they're going to be able to ever comment all the way down.

SANCHEZ: Jeff, I'm curious to get your perspective on this because despite this sort of public unity, the details that we're hearing from within the meeting, this sort of sadness, this concern about how this is going to play with voters.

I mean, ultimately, how do you see this playing out?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, there is deep worry inside the halls and the -- those meetings of House Democrats and the Senate Democratic lunch as well. The reason is Democrats thought that they were on the cusp of winning back the House majority. Five seats. The Senate, always going to be very difficult, but they're holding their own in some states. This has just really upended all of that.

Talking to Democratic advisors all morning long, they're worried about the growing sort of gap between where the president stands in battleground states and the Senate candidates. I'm talking Wisconsin. I'm talking Michigan. I'm talking Pennsylvania.

Of course, Arizona, Nevada, also a deep concern. The only reason Georgia isn't, because there's not a Senate race there.

But look, the reality here is, things seem to be moving in slow motion. Talking to one Democrat just shortly before lunchtime, he said, last week it seemed like this was sort of heading in one direction, and Democrats were getting around the idea of moving on. It does not seem like that at all.

So, time is on President Biden's side. But look, it is a pivotal week as we've been saying. He has a speech tonight, have press conference on Thursday, and this is all changing in real time. It's not like one event is going to suddenly ease concerns, but they're limping into the rest of the summer campaign now less than four months before election.

BORGER: And Biden himself is not going to change. Biden is Biden. He is who he is. He presents as he presents. What's going to change are the numbers that Jeff was talking about.

And I was talking to one Democratic pollster who said to me, so far, he hasn't seen a dramatic drop, but that doesn't mean that that won't happen. We've seen some drop off and they want to win. They don't want to lose this presidency. They don't want to lose the House or the Senate.

So, you know, that's the thing that they're really worried about. Biden is who he is. They don't expect to see some miracle second debate, for example, they know what's going to happen.

ZELENY: I hope it doesn't get worse.

BORGER: That's right -- that's right.

DEAN: And Jamal, I want to -- I want to bring you in because on that point what Gloria was just talking about. If there was some silver bullet the Democrats could see, some candidate that they think could win them back the House, that could make them even more competitive to keep the Senate, do you think that we'd be having a different conversation?


Because at this point, there is no -- there's no super alternative. It doesn't seem like.

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: You know, I have been in these conversations over the course of the last, I don't know what, it's been almost two weeks now. And the tide seems to turn kind of every two to three days, right?

SANCHEZ: Jamal, I'm so sorry to interrupt, but House Democrats are holding their press briefing right now. Let's listen.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Every single member of the House Democratic Caucus is clear-eyed about what the stakes of this election are.

Donald Trump cannot be allowed near the Oval Office and his extremist allies must never be allowed to pass a national abortion ban or their dangerous Project 2025, which would erode our democracy and enable Trump's worst impulses.

And we've seen firsthand what the Republican majority will do if given an opportunity to govern. Chaos and confusion are the order of the day and the will of the American people is completely ignored.

The extreme Republicans in charge have not passed a single bill to create one job, but they have voted to roll back thousands of clean energy jobs. They have not passed legislation to combat rising prices, but they have promised to repeal a $35.00 a month insulin guarantee for our seniors.

They've not done a thing to address the situation at the border. In fact, they've killed the most significant border security bill in decades, while the policies of President Biden have brought border crossings down to pre-pandemic lows.

The choice before the American people this November is moving forward with a stronger economy, lowering costs and safer streets, or the chaos and extremism of Donald Trump.

Together with the Biden-Harris administration, we'll continue to increase economic opportunity in every zip code and deliver for working families.

Vice Chair Lieu.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Chair Aguilar. Donald Trump's campaigned on overturning Roe versus Wade. Trump then appointed extreme MAGA justices who lied to the Senate and then proceeded to overturn Roe versus Wade. And then Trump bragged about overturning Roe versus Wade.

Now, Trump is trying to run away from that, but he can't. Why? Because in fact, Roe versus Wade was overturned. That's a thing. That's a fact. And millions of women have now lost rights.

We also know that with Project 2025, this creepy document written by Trump's closest advisors and confidants that they want to ban abortion nationwide. Project 2025 also wants to eliminate the Department of Education and it wants to eliminate the National Weather Service.

I mean, you're not going to get accurate weather forecasts anymore, you're just going to get stupid weather forecasts.

I mean, this document is creepy, it's a takeover of the American form of government, and it's a collection of extreme MAGA ideas that's going to ruin our way of life. That is what is at stake this November.

AGUILAR: Questions? Nicole (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. Congressman Cohen earlier told a couple of us outside of the (INAUDIBLE), that, you know, it's not even an issue of Democrats being on the same page. They're not even in the same book.

So, these discussions that you're having, are they constructive or destructive? And as leaders, at what point do you put your foot down and button this up? The president has been clear, he's staying in the race.

AGUILAR: You know, I think anytime we can gather together as members and House leadership can hear from the members. I think it's constructive. It always is. I learn more from my House Democratic colleagues each and every day about their values, about their districts and that's what this is about -- has been about.

This has not been an exercise to hear each other talk. This has been an exercise to genuinely listen to people and to bring a perspective to the table, but to listen to each other and to have that grace that goes along with that. So, that's what this has been about. Every conversation we have had

has been helpful. Our job as leaders, the vice chair and I and everyone in the -- in the caucus is to take this in and to help in any way we can. And Leader Jeffrey's guide this caucus.

That's what our efforts have been about, and that's what our efforts will continue to be about. From whether that was discussions about vacating the chair to the debt crisis that Republicans started time and time again, we have been focused on listening to our members and that's what we have done over the past week and a half.

Rebecca (ph)? No? Martha (ph)?


MARTHA: Thanks, this is Martha from Japanese Services. Do you have fear that you need to go forward but what's the strategy that you are willing to implement or the changes that you are willing to make in order to convince your own people and also the Americans in terms that Biden is your best candidate?

AGUILAR: You know, some of that is, you know, campaign strategies and tactics. House Democratic Caucus leadership is asking their members to do, our members is to, you know, talk about the importance of preventing Donald Trump from ever setting foot in the White House.

I don't want Donald Trump on the public tour of the White House. Many of us served when Donald Trump was here. We know the chaos that reigns from that. And we know what we have been able to do together. The Biden-Harris administration, 15 million jobs created, getting us through the pandemic, shots in arms, money in people's pockets, bipartisan infrastructure bill. These are things that we can do together and that's what we have been focused on.

While we chart this path ahead, while the politics of the day continues on to November, House Democrats are very confident in the agenda that we have been a part of for the past few years. And now it's implementing that agenda.

Thank you. Chad?

CHAD PERGRAM, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much. You say you are clear eyed when it comes to making sure that Donald Trump is not in the White House, and that's consistent with all Democrats, but it doesn't seem that everyone is clear eyed about the future of this president. Can you address and characterize what those concerns are and attribute how you do get everybody on the same page?

AGUILAR: You know, our caucus meeting today was about listening to members. There was no instruction to get on the same page. We were talking about the importance, the twin goals that we have, preventing Donald Trump from ever setting foot in the White House and getting 218 votes for Hakeem Jeffries on January 3rd.

That is the focus of House Democrats. You have heard us say before that unity is something that is so helpful to us. Unanimity is not the same as unity. House Democrats bring a different thoughts and ideas and viewpoints each and every day to this house chamber. We learn from that. We accept that. We accept each member's perspective.

And our focus is to be unified and we're unified that Donald Trump cannot win. And we are unified that Hakeem Jeffries needs to be speaker to help the American public.

PERGRAM: It's more about Trump and not so much about Biden, isn't that the issue here that you guys are talking consistently about former President Trump and not advocating for President Biden? Saying he's the guy who has to beat Donald Trump.

AGUILAR: Right now President Biden is the nominee and we support the Democratic nominee that will beat Donald Trump. That is -- that is a fact. That is where we are and preventing Donald Trump from a disastrous reign where he can level Project 2025, where he can deport kids from families, rip families apart. That's what we want to prevent here and that is the focus in addition to ensuring that Hakeem Jeffries is the speaker. Nick (ph)?

NICK: There's a number of Democrats in the party who want President Biden to come to speak to the caucus directly to put their concerns at rest. Should President Biden come and address the caucus?

AGUILAR: That's up to -- that's up to the president and his -- and his team, I can't speak to that. Our job today was to convene the House Democratic Caucus to hear different viewpoints, different ideas and to -- and to be unified behind that message of ensuring that we do everything we can to win this November.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Robert Hurr report. The Republicans have continually asked for the audio of this report to be released because they want to make sure that the president presented himself in a coherent manner. And Democrats have said that this was conspiracy theory because he obviously, as far as we were concerned, that he did present himself in a coherent way.

What are your thoughts on that now, considering what you've seen with the debate and the subject to fall out?

AGUILAR: I'll defer to the vice chair here too, but this is -- this is very clear, Republicans campaigned and have promised to impeach Joe Biden. They were unable to impeach Joe Biden, and so now they will do anything they can to distract away from their own reckless agenda.

That is -- that is who they are, that is all this effort is about and we see that continue. We see House Republican leadership seemingly not supportive of this Luna resolution but she may offer it because it just shows how extreme House Republicans are.


LIEU: Robert Hurr was appointed by Donald Trump. He is a Republican, and he has said that the written transcript is an accurate rendition of the audio transcript. So, you can just read it. Transcript's fine.

But you know what written transcripts are really crazy and incoherent? Look at Donald Trump's transcripts from his rallies.

DEAN: You are listening right now to members of House Democratic leadership taking questions from members of the press after the caucus met together -- met this morning for a couple of hours. Worth noting, we heard the man on the left there, Congressman Pete Aguilar, say that right now Joe Biden is the nominee and we support the nominee.

What we didn't hear, Gloria and Jeff, was any sort of ringing endorsement of Joe Biden and they tried very much not to talk about Joe Biden. They want to talk about Donald Trump.

And I think it is interesting because we had members of con -- democratic members of Congress on yesterday and the first -- there's a rule in politics, if you don't like the question, answer a different one. And that's what we're watching them do. What House Democrats are doing right now.

Jeff, does this put additional pressure on the leaders of the Democrats in the House in the Senate, Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer, to eventually step in and either say, cut it out, he's the nominee or Biden, you got to step aside?

ZELENY: Look, it could, it certainly could, or they could be followers in this respect. This is a true test of Hakeem Jeffries leadership before he would ever become speaker. We don't even know if that will happen. Of course, this -- you know, it's all intertwined now.

But, look, I don't see either one of the leaders, either Senator Schumer or Leader Jeffries, making a move here that their various members aren't pushing them to do.

And it sounds like these are very -- these are therapy sessions is what it sounds like, more than actually a strategy session. So, going forward here, we'll see what they do.

But again, another probably strong day for President Biden because no one has come out against him.

DEAN: Right.

BORGER: You know, Joe Biden is living in a different universe in which nobody wants him to leave. Everybody's with him. Everything's fine. Everything's great.

DEAN: In his mind, yes.

BORGER: In his mind. And that's not the truth. That's not what's going on. But in these therapy sessions, there aren't a lot of people coming out and saying, that's not the truth. You need to go. We're going to lose the House as a result. That's just not happening.

SANCHEZ: Yes, they described it as listening and not sort of dictating what the playbook should be.

BORGER: Listening tour, yes. SANCHEZ: Jamal, we did interrupt your thought to hear these lawmakers. I'm curious on the other side of it, what you took from it, in part because they're not exactly boasting about Joe Biden and his abilities, especially going to another potential four year term. More so they're saying that he's the nominee right now and we have to beat Donald Trump.

SIMMONS: Look, Democrats are wrestling with this. I mean, everyone loves Joe Biden. Joe Biden is somebody who has been around for a long time. People love his personal story. He's been generous to people. I worked in the Biden White House. I feel a great amount of, you know, respect for him and for the people who work there.

There are a lot of people in the party who are still really wrestling with this. I mean, one question I've heard is, are we trading a problem today for a problem that might come up tomorrow? And it might be harder for the Democrats to deal with that problem when it comes up tomorrow.

But today, everybody knows that Joe Biden is the president and they're ready to get back to the question of Donald Trump, who we know, although that debate might have been muddy. We do know that the choice is still clear between Donald Trump who wants to take the country in a different direction, believes in Project 2025, getting rid of the civilian workforce. You know, he's not for abortion or wants an abortion, a national abortion ban.

Donald Trump is somebody who Americans don't agree with, and as we just saw in France, if there's nothing else in America, there is an anti-Trump majority, an anti-MAGA majority that has shown up since 2020, 2022, back in 2018, we've seen it over and over again.

SANCHEZ: Let's go ahead and dip back into this press briefing as these lawmakers are being asked questions by reporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- if Trump wins, do you think that the Biden administration is doing enough to protect progressive regulations for being overturned by a Trump administration according to Project 2025 plans, as you've said, and if not, what do they need to be doing?

AGUILAR: Well, we hope Donald Trump never gets close to the -- to the White House again so that when it comes to plans and getting in place. Our plan is to -- is to win and to prevent Donald Trump from ever setting foot in the White House to carry on Project '25, which would -- Project 2025, which would mean a national abortion ban and defunding the FBI and ending marriage equality, the list goes on and on.

With respect to your first question, it is incredibly clear that the this is a runaway Supreme Court that does not feel that they have a check. They want an imperial presidency under Donald Trump. They are not guided by the ethic standards that other judges are. I think we can start there. That has been a discussion among both sides of the -- of the Capitol dome. Let's start there.

[14:25:12] And if there are other reforms that are -- that are worthy of consideration, we should -- we should debate them as we debate a variety of issues when it comes to keeping government safe and ensuring that we have a functioning democracy.

LIEU: The first thing that's going to happen when we flip the House and hold the Senate is we're going to send a bill to codify Roe versus Wade to President Biden. He's going to sign it. That's the difference. That's what's at stake this election. Donald Trump would veto such a bill because Donald Trump caused Roe versus Wade to be overturned.

We're also going to fix what the Supreme Court did when they overruled precedent for no good reason in what was known as Chevron case.

The Supreme Court has now essentially said that, hey, judges are better than the technical experts at agencies in looking at congressional statutes.

Well, guess what? Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote an entire opinion where he confused laughing gas with another kind of gas. No, judges are not better than technical experts at federal agencies.

Who do these justices think they are? Did they really know biology and science and chemistry and all the things that experts need to know? No, they do not. This was a power grab for the conservative Supreme Court. And we're going to fix that if we flip the House, hold the Senate, and we keep Donald Trump out of the White House. (INAUDIBLE)

AGUILAR: Scott (ph).

SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Aguilar. What do constituents in your district say? What have you heard in phone calls to your office, e-mails, personal conversations? People in San Bernardino and Redlands and those communities that you represent, what have you heard? Do they want President Biden to stay on the ticket, or do they want somebody else?

AGUILAR: Thanks for name checking the hometowns, always appreciate it.

Look, I mean, I think -- I think by and large, what you have heard me communicate is not only as a -- as a leadership member within the caucus, but as someone from those communities from San Bernardino County. We also have the benefit, the vice chair and I, of being from California. California is no friend of Donald Trump when it comes to politics and ideas.

I benefit from having independents, we call them declined to state voters in California who registered as the fastest growing political party in the state has declined to state.

And I've got a lot of those folks who are supporters and friends and overwhelmingly they want to prevent Donald Trump from being in the White House.

And so, that's what I hear. I -- we hear other things too. We hear -- we hear theories and cases, and of course, you know, that's fine. But when it comes back to it, and I -- and I remind people that my

focus as a -- as a -- as a leader here, is to ensure that Hakeem Jeffries becomes speaker, you know, overwhelmingly people say, oh yes, of course, like we have -- we have to do that.

Like, the region, the state, the country will be better with Democrats holding gavels. I'm just convinced of that. I'm convinced of the work product that we are able to do together because of our proven track record when we are guiding these committees, what we can do, the bills that we can put in front of the president, how we can help people. That's overwhelmingly what we -- what we hear.

Of course we hear different, you know, theories and different ideas about the top of the ticket. But overwhelmingly, that's where people -- that's where people come down to.

LIEU: So, like Chairman Aguilar said, we hear a lot from our constituents on different issues, but something I've heard that doesn't seem to be being covered are the Epstein files.

These files were released, and like, Donald Trump's sort of all over this, right? There are pictures of him with Jeffrey Epstein. He's taken multiple plane flights with Epstein with young girls on board. He is on call logs with Epstein. One of the highest trending hashtags on Twitter right now is about Trump and Epstein. I'm not going to repeat the hashtag because we're in a dignified setting.

But yes, you all might want to look at that because that's highly disturbing. And again, it shows that Donald Trump is unfit for office.

And by the way, he was convicted in a civilian court for sexual assault, convicted in a separate court of 34 felonies. Donald Trump should drop out of the race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Gentlemen, you've spoken at length about the need to not only flip the House, but secure the speakership for Representative Jeffries. What do you say to candidates in vulnerable districts in close races who are concerned that these issues with Biden's health, with his ability to withstand the rigors of the campaign may depress voter turnout and not only harm the general election, but Democrats ability to maintain control in the Senate and flip the House?

AGUILAR: Yes, I'm not going to get into, you know, campaign tactics and all the private conversations I have with candidates running.

What I can tell you that I relate is running. The vice chair and I both got elected in 2014. I flipped a Republican held seat in a really rough year in 2014.