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Dem Senate Leaders Speak & WH Holds Briefing After Party Meets On Biden Support; Senate Dems Speak After First Meeting Since Debate; House Democrats Remain Divided On Biden After Meeting; Official: Russia Likely To Conduct Further Large-Scale Attacks On Ukraine During NATO Summit. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 15:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or saying the wrong thing or seeing a change in my appearance, she would probably say, let's go to a doctor just to make sure that you are okay, you have a family, you have an important job. Why doesn't anybody in the President's family urge him just to go to get checked out to say, the coast is clear?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Okay. So just to step back just a little bit, because I think you weren't in the briefing room last week. I don't want to go backwards, but just to share a little bit about that night. The President said it was a bad night. He talked about it. He had a cold, right? He talked about his schedule, right, being abroad.

And so we spoke about what that night was like for him. And we understand what the American people saw, what you all saw. We've spoken to that.

And I also would say, and I think you know this, Peter, you've covered a couple of administrations at this point - administrations at this point that the President, every president, has a White House Medical Unit that is with him 24/7, that is available to him 24/7, that is unlike any other American, right? That is not the norm. That is uncommon.

Just down on the other side of the colonnade is where the medical unit is. And I did share in the - that the President checks in while he's exercising with his doctor on - a couple times a week and so he has that. He has something that most - majority of Americans, all Americans, I would probably argue, don't have, which is a full medical unit that is with him at all times. And he gets a full, full physical, annual physical, that we share with all of you.

And that is very different, very different than an everyday American, who sometimes they're lucky if they can go get a physical. They have to get into a car. They have to take public transportation. The President has, again, a medical unit that's with him here at the White House and travels with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I guess the question is just, this is not - you're saying this is not a situation where you would rather just not know if there is an issue with the President ...

JEAN-PIERRE: What I will tell you is ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... because if he does get a bad result, it is all over.

JEAN-PIERRE: First of all ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has to leave office right away.

JEAN-PIERRE: First of all ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can't run for re-election.

JEAN-PIERRE: First of all, it's a hypothetical, right? That you're giving me a hypothetical, but I will also say, just to clear this up, the White House Medical Unit, his doctor, they don't believe that he needs anything more than what we have been able to provide, a full, full, detailed, very comprehensive physical that he had four months ago. It is their decision to make. It's not yours. It's not mine. It's the White House Medical Unit.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Karine. You mentioned that the Democratic Party was united, perhaps the leadership, but a lot of rank-and-file Democrats have a lot of concerns. One of them, Steve Cohen, said today, not only are they not on the same page, but they're not even in the same book. How does the White House - is the White House concerned about that?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, we - I've said before, right, we respect congressional members. They have their opinions. We respect their opinions, many of them that we've got - we had to - opportunities to deliver really good results on behalf of the American people. But there is, the whole Congressional Black Caucus, they support the President. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus support the President. Those are pretty impressive numbers. Sen. Coons, Sen. Fetterman support the President.

There's also another list here that shows support for this president. You're going to have some congressional members who feel differently. It is - that is up to them, right? The President wants to continue. He's going to have those conversations. He's going to engage with congressional members. He's going to continue to do that as he has. That's not going to stop.

Obviously, the campaign is doing their work. We're doing - continuing our engagement with congressional members as we do pretty much all the time on whatever issue we want to work with them on. So that's not going to change. You heard from AOC, the Congresswoman from New York. She said, the matter is closed, and I support him, right?

You heard from Maxwell Frost, who was on CNN today, gave - was very supportive on CNN. So you do have others out there, just today - just today or yesterday, giving support to the President. I can't - you know, you're mentioning one person, but there are others as well.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On - a separate topic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sen. Richmond this morning, he said that the debate stage was words, the debate stage was performance. I would say look at actions and accomplishments. The President's allies have made some version of that argument to not pay attention to what he said on stage, but what his accomplishments are. But when you're the President of the United States, don't words matter?

JEAN-PIERRE: So when you're the president of the United States, I think any leader, right, especially including a former president, your words do matter.


You're a hundred percent correct.

The President has owned up to that night. He said it was a bad night. He said this. He said this many times. He's even said he screwed up, so those are the President's words. That's all I can give you at this time.

We do believe that we should not just look at the 90 minutes the President has had - has done more than any other modern day presidents, administrations. Historic things have gotten done. When I was watching the Democratic caucus, they talked about $35 insulin, right? Capping that. When you think about seniors who are paying hundreds and hundreds in dollars, we were able to get that done because of a very important piece of legislation that we moved through, right?

And only Democrats made that happen. That's also because of the leadership of this president. And that's just one. That's a bipartisan infrastructure legislation. There's the CHIPS and Science Act. There's the PACT Act for our veterans.

I mean, there are things that he's been able to do that elected officials, presidents before him have been trying to do and could not get it done - can't done, beating the Big Pharma. So there is a ...

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: From one live event to another from the White House, we'll take you to the floor of the Senate where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is answering reporters' questions. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the President, his ability to serve on (INAUDIBLE) that there might be a challenge at the convention. And if there is, is there the ability to throw out the virtual nomination?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): As I've said before, I'm with Joe. (CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Yes. No, don't yell. Way in the back, right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm curious of your reaction to Sen. Whitehouse and Sen. Wyden's request that the Department of Justice appoint a special counsel to investigate Clarence Thomas. Is this something you'd support?

SCHUMER: Look, the bottom line is the Supreme Court is way off the deep end and in so many different ways as we've documented today. And Sen. Whitehouse, Sen. Durbin have many ways of trying to get to the bottom of this, clean up the court in a variety of ways. And I'm looking carefully at all of them.

Go ahead, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, Sen. Murray, who just left, made a statement last night saying that she believes that Biden needs to do more to demonstrate that he's strong enough to defeat Donald Trump, articulate a vision and must seriously consider the best way to preserve his legacy. Do you agree with her sentiment?

SCHUMER: As I've said before, I'm with Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Sen. Schumer ...

SCHUMER: Thank you, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... doesn't it leave Democrats in a difficult position?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to ...

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Okay. You were listening to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer there, who said repeatedly, I'm with Joe. It's what we heard him say when they returned from recess yesterday. It's what we've heard him say now. And it appears to be his standard line. On the other side of the Capitol, Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the House Democrats, has remained mum, but has not certainly come out against Joe Biden. We saw House Democratic leadership earlier today trying to kind of shift the focus back on Donald Trump and away from Joe Biden, the President who remains atop of the ticket.

This as Congress is now back in session, and we're getting new reporting from our colleagues there on the Hill, that on Tuesdays, they go to lunch, as Sen. Doug Jones, former senator sitting right over here, he knows, they go to lunch, and they all talk about, you know, issues at hand and that there was serious concern in the room about the future. So we can dig into all of this.

But so far, the top line from this very important day on the Hill has been that Joe Biden lives to fight another day as the Democratic nominee. SANCHEZ: Absolutely. And we'll get to former senator, Jones, in just a moment. We also have former California senator, Barbara Boxer with us and Gloria Borger, thank you for sticking around.


SANCHEZ: Before we get to discussion of what's happening on Capitol Hill, I just want to point out something significant that came from that White House press briefing, because it was a point of contention yesterday between Karine Jean-Pierre and reporters, this question of Dr. Kevin Kennard and his eight visits to the White House over the last year, at least eight visits, including three this year.

He's, of course, a specialist when it comes to Parkinson's disease. Yesterday, the White House wouldn't give specifics about why he was visiting the White House grounds, except to say that the President does not have Parkinson's and is not being treated in any way for that illness. Today, Karine Jean-Pierre confirming that Dr. Kevin Kennard met with the President's physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, on January 17 at the White House. But that visit, she says, was not related to care for the President, an important distinction as all of these questions about the President's health linger, and as you pointed out, are fodder on Capitol Hill as Democrats, at least privately, continue discussions about having Joe Biden at the top of their ticket.

So now that we've set the table, let's have the conversation and first talk to former Alabama senator, Doug Jones.

Senator, how does this all land with you, this conversation that's happening on Capitol Hill as the White House is forced into a position where they have to answer these questions at a time when Democrats wanted to focus on Donald Trump?


DOUG JONES, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR FOR ALABAMA: Well, it's unfortunate, for sure. But the fact is that we have seen this week and this day that members of the House, members of the Senate today, and the questions concerning any medical issues that are there - I think those have been kind of laid to rest. I mean, the fact is that this doctor has come in there to see a number of people. That's not unusual. You recall, I worked at the White House for a couple of months.

And that medical staff is constantly seeing people in there, bringing people in. That's a nothing burger at this point. You know, the Senate is rallying around. People are staying the course. I think the House is doing that. The President - and it's important this week, in particular, to show that because you've got NATO leaders in. This is a big deal for the European Union and NATO. And it's important to show support for the President of the United States.

And I think he is doing a very good job of solidifying that support, maybe a little bit late, some would argue. But at least he's solidifying at this point. DEAN: And Gloria, you have sat here with us through all of these live events over the last, I guess it's almost been an hour at this point. I'm curious what you take away from all of them. And also, if you - it seems to me the theme, this push and pull - we're getting this reporting from Manu Raju - the closed door meeting, Senate Democrats expressing their deep concerns about how the race is shaping up. House Democrats saying they were deeply concerned, but then publicly saying something else.

BORGER: Nothing.

DEAN: This push and pull between we're really worried, but publicly it's okay.

BORGER: We don't know what to do.

DEAN: Everything's fine.

BORGER: We don't know what to do.

DEAN: Mm-hmm.

BORGER: I mean, I think there's a certain amount of paralysis here. I mean, we know that Sen. Warner wanted to have a meeting earlier than this. Instead, he clearly allowed it to happen at the luncheon today. And that, according to Manu, these concerns were aired out. I think the question is, what do you do.

DEAN: Mm-hmm.

BORGER: Because if Joe Biden says, I'm not going anywhere, what are the alternatives? Can they push him out? Can they make Kamala Harris the nominee? How do you - how would that work? How could you do that? And by the way, would it work? Would it help Democrats? Would it hurt Democrats?

I mean, nobody really knows the answers to these questions. What they do know is that they're panicked to a certain degree, because they see their chances for the presidency evaporating in battleground states before their very eyes. The chance, particularly, to take back the House is very, very much in danger. And they don't want to sit there on their hands.

But they don't have an incumbent who is willing to say, okay, let me work with you on this so we can win. And I think that is a disappointment. I've talked to a bunch of Democrats who are disappointed at Biden's sort of challenge to them. Go challenge me. They didn't feel that that was very gracious.

DEAN: That was in the letter.


DEAN: And then in his appearance yesterday, yes.

BORGER: Yes, they didn't like that, you know. They're like, you know, you don't want to lose. You've been around long enough, and you don't want to lose. And so I think there's a sense of, what do we do? What comes next? And as we heard over and over again today, how do we turn the page and make this about the person we wanted to make this race about all along, which is Donald Trump, who, for the last more than 10 days, has been getting pretty much of a free ride here.

And they tried to do it. We saw that in the press conference after the House Democrats met. And they barely mentioned Joe Biden. But how long can that go on for?

SANCHEZ: Let's bring Sen. Boxer into the conversation. And I'm wondering, Senator, what you make of where the narrative is surrounding President Biden. Because even though you hear from the majority leader there saying, I'm with Joe, you hear from other House members saying similar, the reporting is clear that behind closed doors there is rampant concern about the potential next four years for Joe Biden.

BARBARA BOXER, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR FOR CALIFORNIA: Well, I have to say, the media has got its story. You've just put it out there. Gloria has just put it out there. You ask people in the Congress, the leadership, are you with Joe, they say yes. Now the story is, well, behind closed doors, they're not.

Let me tell you something. I've been around a long time, you can tell that, and I have never seen a candidate pummeled like this day in and day out. And in today's poll, I urge you to look at it, the Emerson poll, he does better than every other Democrat we have and they're terrific. He's the only one within the margin of error.

This is Joe Biden. This is his life story. And I believe he is going to be that kind of a comeback kid because it's in his nature. The more you pile on him, the more he's going to talk about what he's done for the people, 15 million jobs.


The other guy was the only one since records are being kept who actually left office with fewer jobs. He's a convicted felon. He has been found by a civilian court that he, in fact, sexually abused a woman. This thing goes on and on. But the more the press and the elites focus on Joe, the more he's going to win it with the ordinary working people. That's how I feel.

DEAN: Sen. Boxer, do you think that Joe Biden is the only one that can beat Donald Trump?

BOXER: Do I think? Here's the deal, today's poll, the Emerson poll shows he's within three points. Kamala is next best. She's losing by six. Newsom, my great governor, is losing by eight. Whitmer is losing by 10. That's just the poll.

I think Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump. Frankly, I think anyone with a heartbeat and a pulse should be a man who says he's going to destroy our democracy. He's going to criminalize abortion. He's taken away our rights. When his lips move, he lies. So I think anybody could. But again, I think this pummeling of this man at some point is going to backfire on all those who just want to focus on him and not anybody else.

DEAN: But that's people in your - respectfully, in your own party. I mean, these are Congress people. These are Democrats that have come out and said this. It's not just elites and the media.

BOXER: Yes, nine Democrats. Well, excuse me. Nine Democrats out of 435. You're absolutely right. Most people don't know who they are and God bless them. I was one of them. I served for 10 years. What matters now is unity. Just look at what happened in France. People came together. That's what our leadership knows.

If we come together, we can defeat this right-wing, you know, white nationalism. They want to take away all of our private rights. They want to take away our very democracy, our very soul of what it means to be an American. So here's the deal. Joe can do it, I think he can.

SANCHEZ: Senator, it's confusing because I say senator, she's also a senator. But Sen. Jones, she points to polling that indicates that Biden is the best poised to go up against Donald Trump. In CNN's poll of polls, in other words, the aggregate of where polls are, it does show a slipping since the debate. I believe he's down six to seven points behind Donald Trump.

But if you look at polling in battleground states specifically, and you compare where he stands compared to Democratic senators, it looks like the gulf is much larger. It looks like some senators are able to hold support while support for the President is slipping - that isn't a concern that, you know, it does appear that members are moving away from him?

JONES: Let's use the proper term. Concern? Of course. We have - there were concerns before the debate. There's concern.

BORGER: Panic?

JONES: Panic, I don't agree with that ...


JONES: ... Gloria. I don't agree with that at all. I've never seen Chuck Schumer and Democrats in the Senate panic. They - if they have concerns, they work within the concerns that they have. And they've got great candidates in the U.S. Senate. They've got great incumbents. They've got a great candidate in Arizona. They're going to have a great candidate in Texas and a great candidate in Florida.

And that - but the difference is and the things that we're - that I think folks are not thinking about is that you're comparing the battleground polls with national polls today. We need to also look at the polling that occurred and the focus groups that occurred during the debate and right after the debate. And during the debate and right after the debate, everything was almost even. Everybody said, yes, Joe Biden had a really bad night. That was not good. But you know what? So did Donald Trump. He was a damn disaster. He lied throughout and that was a problem. That's what those polls showed. And unfortunately, Democrats, panicking, some of them, panicking that night, started texting you guys in the media, started talking to folks off the record and then there became this media narrative.

And so right now, those polls that you're seeing are not based on that debate. They're based on a narrative that's going on over the last 10 days. And as Joe Biden, in the last couple of three days, has solidified support, that narrative is going to turn around. And they're going to answer the polls. They're going to see things going on. He's going to be in those battleground states and you'll start seeing the shift.

Remember this, in 1988, about this time, in July of 1988, Michael Dukakis was up 17 points over George H.W. Bush. So polls really don't mean a damn thing, except where the trends are.


Trends have been this way, but trends will go back up. I'm absolutely convinced of that. And we do need to talk more about the focus groups and the polling that was done during the debate and right after the debate. Those are very, very important.

SANCHEZ: Your advice to Joe Biden is, obviously, to not ride in a tank the way that Michael Dukakis did. He never recovered from it.

JONES: Do not ride in a tank. And fortunately for him, there is no Willie Horton.

SANCHEZ: Former senators Doug Jones and Barbara Boxer, as well as Gloria Borger, thank you all so much.

DEAN: Still ahead today, a brazen Russian assault on targets across Ukraine, killing at least 43 people, including children. We know rescue operations are underway now and it is a jarring reminder of what's at stake as NATO leaders gather here in Washington today.



DEAN: Just a day after a devastating Russian barrage hit Ukraine, NATO officials warn there will likely be even more large-scale attacks. The death toll from Monday's assault now rising to 43. We know at least two people were killed after a missile hit this children's hospital in Kyiv.


This as we're getting disturbing new images showing the aftermath of that strike, including young children left bloodied after surviving a partial building collapse. Kyiv's mayor saying more than 600 children had to be evacuated from the hospital they were in. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live at the scene of that hospital strike.

And Fred, what else are you learning about this?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jessica. Well, I'm actually right at the impact site where that rocket hit or that missile hit that building. And as you can see behind me, there is massive destruction here. And there is that partial building collapse where a lot of that children's hospital, or at least part of the children's hospital, just really just fell over.

And you can see the debris itself. I was actually out there just a couple of minutes ago that it's really small. It really seems as though the building was annihilated by that missile. And you know, one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that this children's hospital was not only the biggest children's hospital here in Ukraine. It was also one of the biggest in Europe.

You were just mentioning that number, about 600 children that need to be relocated. Well, I spoke to a doctor who was on the ground here, an adjacent building, when this explosion happened. She said, first of all, it was a massive blast that took place. But then the hospital staff also came out here, many of them in panic, and saw that this building had collapsed. And of course, they had people who they were working with, who they believed could be inside that building. And of course, those children were being treated as well.

And she said all that they could do was hope that they had been brought to safety as that rocket missile alert had been in place, that they had been brought to safety before the building collapsed. One of the things that the Ukrainians are actually saying is almost a miracle, is that not more people were killed in the strike on this specific location. Of course, it was two adults that were killed here. Dozens of people were injured here in this specific strike.

But in total, all over Ukraine, in this big missile barrage that took place, 43 people were killed in total. And as far as this strike is concerned, the Russians continue to say that they were not behind the strike on this building. They say that it was a surface-to-air missile from the Ukrainians that went astray, the Ukrainians not having any of it. They say that it's clear it was a Russian missile. They called this an attack on their health care system. They also called this an attack on the children of Ukraine as well.

And, of course, all of this makes that meeting in Washington, D.C., that NATO meeting, even more high stakes for Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Jessica.

DEAN: Over 600 children, as you mentioned, having to be relocated. All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Kyiv, Ukraine. Thank you so much for that reporting. Boris?

SANCHEZ: The threat of more attacks is likely to be a major talking point as NATO leaders meet for a summit in Washington this week. Let's discuss with retired Army Major General "Spider" Marks.

General, thanks so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us. The timing of these attacks by Russia on a children's hospital, we've seen this before. This is Vladimir Putin - his way of getting attention and sending a message to the West, right?

JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it clearly is. If he was trying to solidify NATO's position in advance of the summit this week, he's done a good job.

SANCHEZ: And one of the key discussion points, I imagine, this week is going to be a response, specifically from Ukraine. It appears that members are going to try to get Ukraine's military in line to be more compatible with other NATO nations in several different ways. What exactly does that entail? Why is that a significant step?

MARKS: Well, what's significant about this is that all of the NATO members, when you look across the board at the NATO members, there really is a collection of capabilities. And in many cases, from the training perspective and the maintenance perspective and then the employment perspective, it's kind of a cat's breakfast.

I mean, it's a collection of capabilities that are quite phenomenal, but they're not necessarily similar. They are not the same in many cases. So the key is, it's not just the kit. It's just not the capabilities. It's the methodology of how you employ those capabilities in a very complementary way so that you can conduct.

And that's what NATO has been getting its arms around so effectively over its entire period of this incredible 75 years, where you have these immense differences. But as a result of those differences, we've been able to work through those and to create a synchronized capability and a synchronized command structure that really maximizes all those differences. That's what this is really about.

Look, the Germans have different types of armament. The French have different types of armament. The U.K. has different aircraft from the United States, et cetera. What NATO has been able to do is to create an atmosphere and a command climate that allows all those capabilities to work in a synchronized, kind of a three-dimensional way that really brings what's known as air-land battle.