Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CNN International: Voting Underway In UK General Election; Biden Fights For His Political Life After Debate Debacle; Beryl Left Catastrophic Damage In The Caribbean. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 08:00   ET





WHITFIELD: -- family members there. All right. All right.

A new hour of "CNN News Central" begins right now.


The White House just revealing President Biden saw his doctor in the days after that disastrous debate on CNN. President Biden doing new interviews this morning, fighting for his political life. Doubts were still swirling within his own party on whether he should stay in the race. And Hurricane --

ZAIN ASHER, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Zain Asher. You are watching CNN Newsroom.

Just ahead, going to the polls, millions across the UK are casting their ballots. We are live outside a London polling station. And U.S. President Joe Biden vows to remain in the presidential race, while his challenger Donald Trump claims that he is not fit to serve. And tracking Hurricane Beryl, the powerful storm leaves destruction in Jamaica. We will tell you where it's heading next.

All right. It is Election Day in the UK. The polls are open and voters are casting their ballots to decide their next Prime Minister. They have until, the polls close at 10 o'clock in the evening local time, to decide, which is about five o'clock in the early afternoon Eastern Time. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife voted earlier in Mr. Sunak's Yorkshire constituency in the northern part of England. Labour leader Keir Starmer and his wife cast their ballots in London, also voting in London, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, also joined by his wife.

CNN's Nada Bashir is standing by for us. She joins us live now from a polling station in London. Nada, what more can you tell us?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It'll be a busy day of voting across the United Kingdom, 650 constituencies, that is 650 seats, up for grabs in the House of Commons. And of course, voters will be voting for their local member of parliament, and it is each party contesting this election that will be hoping to secure a majority of MPs voted in, in order to be able to command and establish a government.

Now, of course, that crucial figure of 326 is what they're all looking for. We have seen, of course, weeks of campaigning taking place. Today is the crucial day where voters are heading to the polls. As you mentioned, polls open at 7 a.m. this morning. They will close at 10 p.m. local time, around 5 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S. And of course, it's then that the action really starts, the vote counting begins. And many people will be staying up overnight to watch that counting process, with the results coming in constituency by constituency. Now, of course, we do expect to see exit polls overnight, but the official results will be declared tomorrow. That counting will take place into the early hours of Friday morning. So, many will be staying up to watch those results come in.

At this stage, of course, we are a little restricted on what we can report because of those restrictions around the coverage of this election so as not to sway voters. But, we've been seeing many people coming into this polling station behind me throughout the morning. They will be continuing to come in to cast their ballot until 10 p.m. tonight across the country. And of course, many will be waiting to see those first initial exit polls later tonight, just to get a sense of where this country is heading in terms of the next government. A number of key issues, of course, on many voters' minds. This will be an election that really captures the attention of all across the country. Zain.

ASHER: All right. Nada Bashir live for us there. Thank you so much.

Be sure to watch CNN's special coverage of the UK election, anchored by Isa Soares and Richard Quest. It starts just before 10 o'clock in the evening London time. It's around five o'clock in the afternoon here on the U.S. East Coast.

All right. Against a backdrop of calls for him to drop out of the presidential race, Joe Biden will today preside over the pomp and circumstance of Independence Day celebrations in the U.S. The festivities will include a barbecue with members of the military and many, many fireworks. There will also be a speech by Biden that will no doubt, of course, draw a lot more scrutiny, as he attempts to show that last week's poor debate performance was just a quote "bad night", "just a one-off".

We get more now from CNN's White House Correspondent MJ Lee.


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Joe Biden trying to save his teetering reelection campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President. Mr. President.

LEE (voice-over): After keeping a limited public schedule for days following his disastrous debate performance last week, the President emerging to try to reassure panicked supporters. Biden rallying his campaign staff on a call, telling them, quote, "I'm running. I'm the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one is pushing me out. I'm not leaving. I'm in this race to the end." But, this, as CNN is learning, that the President has been privately acknowledged this week that the next stretch of days will be critical to whether he can save his candidacy.


An ally who spoke with Biden on Tuesday telling CNN that the President was chastened and blamed himself, not his staff, for his poor debate performance.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- with the COVID, excuse me, with dealing with everything we have to do with --

LEE (voice-over): The ally saying Biden is clear-eyed about what it would look like if his efforts to save his campaign were to fail. The polls are plummeting. The fundraising is drying up, and the interviews are going badly.

Meanwhile, the White House struggling to answer a barrage of questions about the President's health and medical records.

LEE: If now is not the time for full transparency, when is?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: We have been one of the most transparent administration when it comes to medical records.

LEE (voice-over): The White House also confronting questions about Biden's new explanation for his halting debate performance, jetlag and fatigue from two foreign trips, despite having had nearly two weeks back in the States before the CNN debate.

JEAN-PIERRE: When he travels abroad, it's a pretty rigorous travel. We get tired looking at him doing his meetings and traveling.

LEE (voice-over): The White House and campaign had previously blamed a cold.

JEAN-PIERRE: I was so focused on a call -- on the cold, and that's what I kind of leaned into and talked about. But, yes, his schedule did have something to do with it. It was the schedule and the cold.

LEE (voice-over): One of Biden's first major tests coming on Friday when he sits down for an extended TV interview. Biden also beginning to call Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries and Chris Coons.

LEE: And President Biden hosting a group of Democratic governors here at the White House Wednesday night. A few of the governors coming out afterwards to tell reporters that they had had honest conversations about the need to defeat Donald Trump and the path forward in the 2024 campaign. And one of the governors, Tim Walz of Minnesota, said that the group was all in on pledging their support for President Biden. This was a large group of governors. So, we will see whether that is in fact the case. But, every single one of the governors that met with the President Wednesday night is in fact all in.

MJ Lee, CNN, at the White House.


ASHER: All right. Meantime, we're getting new details in about President Biden medical exams in recent weeks. The White House now telling CNN that he was examined by his doctor after the debate, and he is in good health. That's according to the White House. But, the White House Press Secretary actually saying that he hasn't had a medical checkup since February.

Let's bring in CNN's White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz. Arlette, just sort of clear this up for us in terms of what we know for sure at this point. Of course, the President's health has added scrutiny, given his age.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Zain. There certainly is conflicting information coming out of the White House in the last 24 hours relating to President Biden's medical examinations. As you noted, our colleague, MJ Lee, yesterday pressed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on this issue, and she specifically asked whether the President had undergone any medical exams since his physical in February. She answered that question, saying, no, he had not. This morning, the White House is saying that the President did in fact receive an examination from his doctors in the wake of the debate where aides had said that he had been experiencing a cold. This White House spokesperson said that several days after the debate, the President was seen to check on his cold and was recovering well.

The White House official described this checkup as a brief check into the President's health following his experience on that debate stage with that cold. It also comes as POLITICO is reporting that the President had privately told the Democratic governors gathered here at the White House that he had undergone a medical checkup after that debate. But, it all comes at a time when many Americans continue to hold concerns about President Biden's health and ability to serve into a second term. So, it's a bit puzzling why exactly there has been this conflicting information on this front from the White House.

ASHER: All right. Arlette Saenz live for us there. Thank you so much.

All right. Hurricane Beryl has weakened to a Category 3 storm after battering Jamaica's southern coast, but it continues lashing the Caribbean and it's expected to pass near the Cayman Islands today, bringing with it destructive winds and a dangerous storm surge as well. Beryl pounded Jamaica without ever making landfall, knocking down trees and then power lines. It's one of the strongest storms to impact the island nation in more than 15 years. So far, Beryl has killed at least eight people across the Caribbean.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins us live now from Kingston, Jamaica. We know that at least one woman died as a result of this storm. But, Rafael, you were in the heart of it. Just walk us through what it was like riding this thing out. RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Zain. Good morning from Kingston. It was one of the most powerful hurricanes that I've seen. It was for about 12 hours that Beryl hammered this island with not only torrential rains, but very powerful winds.


At one point, it was just very difficult to remain standing, when we were reporting yesterday. And let me show you what's behind me. This is a vote -- a boat that the wind pushed across the bay and made it crash into the old pier here in downtown Kingston, and finally, it sunk. So, it gives you an idea about how powerful the winds were. The Jamaican Prime Minister says that his country is now entering into what he called the second phase of this disaster, continuing with relief efforts, and deploying the armed forces to help those displaced by the hurricane and making sure that they can maintain a public order. He also said that about 500 people are now in shelters here on the island, also the storm surges caused extensive damage to areas here along the coastline.

So, we have a very complicated situation here, not to mention that there will be days, weeks and months ahead of Jamaica to recover from what happened here yesterday. This is what the Prime Minister had to say. Let's take a listen.


ANDREW HOLNESS, JAMAICAN PRIME MINISTER: We're now entering into the second phase of this disaster, which is now the actual response. So, we have seen that there are some persons who have been dislocated and are now in shelters. We have been told about some areas that have been affected by storm surges, which would have damaged coastal infrastructure.


ROMO: We also heard from Donna McLeod. She is a former state representative from Georgia. She was here visiting before the hurricane. And she spoke for many when she expressed her concerns and sadness about what just happened to Jamaica.


DONNA MCLEOD, FORMER GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I'm going to cry because this is a place that was born, and it's been nine years since I've been back. And Jamaica is beloved around the world. And so. for me right now, it's very emotional. And so, we're just praying that we can get through this.


ROMO: Hurricane Beryl is now pounding the Cayman Islands. It's going to proceed to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Tourist destinations like Cancun may be affected in the next couple of days. And then after that, it enters the Gulf of Mexico, and it may become a threat for parts of Texas over the weekend. Zain, back to you.

ASHER: Obviously, this is not Jamaica's first go-around when it comes to hurricanes. We all remember Hurricane Gilbert and the sort of devastation and that particular hurricane wreaked on the island. Just talk to us about how prepared Jamaica was for this moment.

ROMO: If you ask the government, and we did, they said that the preparation started 72 hours ahead of the hurricane. But, when you face a hurricane of this magnitude, even if you were prepared, you're going to see a lot of devastation. And there are areas here in Kingston that are below sea level. Those areas were flooded. We have seen downed trees, power lines. We have seen debris across the island. And again, this is going to take a long time to fix, and also, those 500 people who are still living in shelters, they -- some of them, they have no homes to go back to. So, it is a very difficult challenge ahead of officials here in Jamaica, Zain.

ASHER: Yeah. It's a long road ahead just in terms of rebuilding, not to mention people's livelihoods that have been destroyed by the storm as well.

Rafael Romo live for us there. Thank you so much.

All right. Let's bring in meteorologist Elisa Raffa, who is joining us now from the CNN Weather Center. So, Rafael touched on where the storm is headed next. We know that it's on its way to the Cayman Islands and then possibly Mexico. But, just talk us through how much the storm has weakened over the past day or so.

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. It continues to come down slowly. It is slowly weakening because there are some ingredients in its way, some wind energy, some dust that is trying to knock down the intensity. But, even with that, we still have a major Category 3 hurricane on our hands. We still have winds, 120 miles per hour. The location of the center is about 50 miles southwest of Grand Cayman, and we've been finding tropical storm force winds on the Grand Cayman Islands this morning. We've had some wind gusts reported, over 50 miles per hour, in some of these islands here right now. You've got a gust up near 40 miles per hour. Notice that the conditions again getting better in Jamaica but tropical storm force conditions in a Grand Cayman.


What we're watching for is all of this wind sheers. It's that wind energy upstairs in the atmosphere that hurricanes hate. So, this is why the intensity has been slowly and slightly coming down. It's because there are some ingredients in the way that are working to try to just organize it. But, even with that, it looks like it will maintain hurricane strength as it gets towards Mexico. We're looking at a Mexico landfall sometime on Friday. We're going to be looking at some impacts near Cancun, Cozumel, with some storm surge up to four to six feet in some locations, and some torrential heavy rain as well. Then it gets back into the Gulf of Mexico where it could intensify again, and then we'll have to see how much time it could have to intensify.

Here is a look at that rain forecast, about four to six inches of rain across parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. We could be finding some totals up to 10 inches of rain that would cause flash flooding and some other concerns. We do have hurricane warnings that are in effect, because again, it does look like while it does weaken, will keep that hurricane strength as it gets towards Mexico. The land, the dry air, will start to chip away at some of that intensity, but it could get back up to that hurricane status as it gets close to that Mexico-Texas border.

We'll need to see how far north this thing could go. There is a big area of high pressure that's bringing extreme heat for the southern part of the U.S. that is trying to steer it south into Mexico. But, if this thing weakens and gets out of the way, then you can make that turn to the north and to Texas or something that we'll have to watch going into the weekend thing. Zain.

ASHER: All right. Elisa Raffa live for us there. Thank you so much.

OK. A massive heatwave is settling in over parts of the U.S. this Fourth of July holiday period. Nationwide, nearly 140 million people across at least 22 states in the West and the Mid-South are under heat alerts. Excessive heat warnings are blanketing the state of California through Monday, impacting tens of millions of people. The northern part of the state is expected to see record-high temperatures each of the next five days. That's where a large wildfire is prompting the evacuation of roughly 13,000 people.

Stephanie Elam is there for us.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing at Lake Oroville, where the Thompson fire is burning, where we've seen thousands of evacuations and thousands of acres burned. Let me step out of the way so you can see here how quickly this fire has burned down into the lake front area here. It's also burned through some homes. But, what you also may notice is just how windy it is, and that is part of the issue here, spreading fires. We've seen some places where the fire has burned down a house, and right next door to the house, it's totally fine.

What's also noteworthy is that here in California, according to CAL FIRE, we've seen a 1,600 percent increase in the number of acres burned so far this year versus last year. So, you're talking about 7,500 acres burned at this time last year compared to more than 130,000 acres burned so far this year. Part of the issue is that the last two years had been very, very wet, and that means that's given a lot of growth of vegetation. That's the problem. In fact, take a listen to what CAL FIRE says this means for the fire year.

NICK SCHULER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS & INCIDENT AWARENESS FOR CAL FIRE: This winter we had a significant amount of rain, but with rain brings growth, and the challenge with that is that fuels and vegetation continues to dry out, and in California, that spells the next large wildfire.

ELAM: Of course with the Fourth of July, the concern is fireworks. But, here in Oroville, they've canceled their Fourth of July firework shows or battling displays. And throughout the state where fireworks are mainly banned in most places, they are very concerned that this will spark other wildfires. And take a look at this video from San Francisco, which shows you how quickly this three acre blaze blew up because of an ember from a firework that went off. So, they're asking people not to blow up any fireworks at all.

The issue as well is the heat, and it is going to be over 105 degrees in several places, as we are roasting out here in much of the West, those dangerous temperatures, they're asking people to stay inside, to keep their pets inside as well, stay cool. It is going to be roasting like this for several days. And they're saying -- using the words that this is an unprecedented danger that we are facing. Back to you.


ASHER: Stephanie Elam there.

All right. Still ahead this hour, Lebanon's Hezbollah launches rockets at Israel after one of its top commanders is killed, and Israel fires back. A live report on cross-border tensions coming up. Stay with us.




ASHER: All right. Israel says it struck Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon overnight. This comes after dozens of rockets were fired towards Israel. Hezbollah says it launched rockets and drones after the killing of a senior commander in southern Lebanon on Wednesday. Israel and Hezbollah have been ramping up cross-border attacks in recent weeks. Meantime, an Israeli source says that Israel and Hamas appears to be -- appear to be on the brink of a framework agreement for a ceasefire and hostage deal.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is tracking the developments, who joins us live now from Abu Dhabi. So, just in terms of what's going on, we're seeing they're sort of scaling up in terms of tits for tats on both sides. You've got this Hezbollah senior commander who was killed. You've got then Hezbollah responding with a barrage of rockets into Israel. Both sides at this point, Paula, say they don't want an all-out war. Just walk us through what steps are being taken, given the rising tensions to avoid exactly that.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, this is what I guess you would call a sporadic escalation at this point, because this is what we have been seeing over recent months. For a few days, it does become more tense. There are more barrages of rockets coming from the southern Lebanese side. And then, you also see the Israeli military targeting what it calls Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon. So, we have seen this a number of times over recent months. Each time, it has rolled to a relative calm or low intensity calm, I should say. So, certainly, that is the hope at this point that the same will happen because there is not the appetite certainly from the Biden administration. It doesn't appear from Israel or Hezbollah either to have this escalate significantly.

What we've seen, though, it is not just what's happened overnight. There were dozens of missile launches overnight. But, there seems to be about 200 rockets and missiles that have been launched into northern Israel. We've seen there have been a number of fires started. There is no indication on how many of those were intercepted or how many hit their mark. And we are hearing from the Israeli military that they are targeting structures in southern Lebanon as well.

This most recent sporadic escalation has really been sparked by that killing of the senior commander by the Israeli military on Wednesday. Now, they say that he was the leader of the Aziz units. They said that is the unit that basically coordinates and is in charge of rockets being launched from southwest Lebanon into Israel. So, this has led to the retaliation from the southern Lebanon side.

But, we have been seeing concerted efforts on many fronts to try and calm this border. We've seen Hochstein, who is the U.S. envoy for this particular matter, just in the past a week or so, has been in the region. He has been to Israel. He has been to Lebanon, trying to broker some kind of agreement between the two sides to make sure that this doesn't open up another front, that this doesn't spill over into a significant escalate issue of violence, which really no one wants at this point. Zain.


ASHER: And just in terms of the war in Gaza, we're hearing word that ceasefire talks are now showing signs of life, that Hamas is presenting new ideas to mediators. Just talk us through what we know on that front too.

HANCOCKS: So, Zain, there has been a response from Hamas. They've told the mediators, Qatar and Egypt, of their response to this Israeli proposal, the U.S.-backed proposal that's on the table, and that's now back with Israel. We understand from an Israeli official familiar with these discussions that mediators will be talking to the Israeli leadership in the coming days to decide if they need now to go to the next phase of negotiation. It's effectively the Israeli Prime Minister's ultimate decision whether he would do that or not. But, it seems as though there is something that they can work with. At least this is what we're hearing from the Israeli side. So, it is creating some hope.

But, I should caution, we have been here a number of times before, only to see the talks stall. From Hamas' side, they've said that they're looking at this positively. They have said that they've reiterated the fact they want a permanent ceasefire and they want a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Now, the difference now from the last time when these talks stalled several weeks ago is the fact that we've now heard from the Israeli Prime Minister that the level of intensity of the fighting in Rafah appears to be coming to an end, not saying the war is coming to an end, but certainly that fighting in Rafah is coming to an end.

So, potentially, from the Israeli military and political point of view, they may feel that they're now at a better point in their minds where they can agree to this complete ceasefire. But, as I say, this is an ongoing process. It is one where we have believed to have been close to an agreement before, only for the talks to have stalled. Zain.

ASHER: All right. Paula Hancocks live for us there. Thank you so much.

All right. We're now getting firsthand accounts of Russia's deadly strike on Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Drones and missiles pummeled the city Wednesday morning, killing at least six people and leaving several others injured. Ukraine says the attack destroyed a medical clinic and damaged other buildings, including schools and a children's hospital, while starting multiple fires. That's despite the fact that Ukraine says it shot down 11 drones and missiles. Ukraine's President later said only two things can prevent strikes like these, modern air defenses and long-range capabilities for Ukraine to hit back.

All right. More U.S. military hardware will be headed to Ukraine soon. Washington has announced a new batch of military aid worth about $2.3 billion. It includes artillery rounds, interceptor missiles, and anti- tank weapons, which will be taken directly from U.S. military stocks. Now, it's the fifth aid package since Congress approved about $61 billion in aid for Kyiv. In April, U.S. has provided close to $54 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the war began.

All right. Still to come, we return to the race for the White House with a look at how the Trump campaign is reacting to questions about Joe Biden's future. And a former manager for troubled planemaker Boeing speaks with CNN in his first TV interview. You'll hear about the alleged safety violations that pushed him to speak out against his former employer.




ASHER: All right. Starting today, Joe Biden gets a couple of chances to maybe reserve -- reverse, rather, the talk that he needs to pull out of the race for the White House. Biden is going to be delivering a speech later this evening as part of Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in Washington. But, the bigger moment comes on Friday when he sits down for a lengthy interview with ABC News. Biden did a radio interview a short time ago, trying to remind voters what is at stake in this race.


VOICE OF BIDEN: He's made it harder for people to vote. He did everything from -- and he still has not admitted that he lost the 2020 election. And now he's saying if he loses in 2024, it'll be a bloodbath. Can you imagine the President saying? A bloodbath? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHER: The Biden campaign, as you might imagine, is using the questions about Biden to go on the offensive. Trump's senior advisors issued a statement, saying "Democrats, the mainstream media, and the swamp colluded to hide the truth from the American public - Joe Biden is weak, failed, dishonest, and not fit for the White House."

Let's get more on the Trump campaign's take on all of this. CNN's Steve Contorno is tracking developments there. So, Steve, interesting, because if Biden steps down this late, you would think that it would benefit the Trump campaign. But really, it would be a double-edged sword. That's because the entire sort of political machinery, the opposition research, the advertising has all been set up against Joe Biden. And if another candidate comes four months out into the election, it's really not that simple to pivot all of that.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. We will be in totally uncharted water at that point. And I think you have seen a remarkably restrained Donald Trump in recent days, partially because they are happy to let Joe Biden's controversies dominate the news cycle for once they are used to Donald Trump and his many controversies being in the spotlight. But, it's also because there is so much uncertainty going forward. They don't know exactly what's going to happen here. Now, they believe, internally, that the most likely outcome is Joe Biden remains the Democratic nominee, the hurdles to removing him from the party's nomination at this point are two great, not the least of which is his own defiance, but they also are just in this posture of having to sort of wait and see what happens.

And I did talk to one Republican pollster who says, to your points, you'd rather the devil you know than the devil you don't know. And I think that is something that they are trying to internalize right now, what sort of options are on the table for Democrats, and how might they address all the options and potential contenders, including some that the public don't really know that well and will have an opportunity to introduce themselves under extraordinary circumstances.

ASHER: All right. Steve Contorno live for us there. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN contributor Lulu Garcia Navarro. She is a reporter and podcast host for "The New York Times". Lulu, we spoke about this at length yesterday. Good to see you again. So, my question to you is, in 2019 and in 2020, Joe Biden intimated, at least privately but it was reported publicly, that if he was elected, he would only serve one term. That was his sort of private promise, if you. I don't think he made it public per se, but that was his private promise. What happened to that promise?

LULU GARCIA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, & NEW YORK TIMES JOURNALIST & PODCAST HOST: I mean, that was something that he said early on, that he was going to be a sort of bridging candidate, that he was going to be someone who was going to be transitional, I think the word was, and what I think you saw is a President who saw the rise again of Donald Trump, and felt compelled to put his name in the hat yet again.

I also think it's just very hard to give up power once you have it.

ASHER: Yes, it is.

NAVARRO: This is a man who is looked to being President.


And so, he is sitting in the biggest chair in the world, and I think it's very hard to leave that chair, especially when you're surrounded by advisors and family members who are encouraging you to stay there. So, this is, I think, a very difficult decision. I mean, we saw private comments yesterday made by Donald Trump, sort of mocking the President, talking about how he was forcing him out of the race, and making fun of him. And that's got a sting. I mean, regardless of what the stakes are here, and they're very high, it's got a sting.

ASHER: I think you're absolutely right about just how hard it is to give up power. It would be hard under any circumstance, but especially when you're Joe Biden and you've -- this has been your life, right, since you were 29-years-old. I mean, this is the life that he knows. And also, he has attempted at least three times to become President of the United States, once in 1988, once in 2008, and in 2020, he finally did it. And of course, on top of that, his family has been through so much. I mean, he was sworn in as Senator in the hospital room where his sons were being treated after that car accident. You think about what this family has actually been through. And so, I'm sure it means so much that Joe Biden actually finally managed to get to this point. You're absolutely right. It's not easy to give up power.

When it comes to the Trump administration, though, or sorry, Trump -- I just anointed him President just there by accident, when it comes to the Trump --

NAVARRO: I'm not (ph) Trump.

ASHER: -- right, when it comes to the Trump campaign, how do they sort of capitalize on this moment, on this chaos going on with Democrats?

NAVARRO: Well, I think you're seeing that. Right now, the best thing that they can do is stay quiet, and that is precisely what they're doing. You're seeing very little in terms of Trump taking the mantle. In fact, he has delayed the announcement of his vice presidential pick because he does not want to take the eyes away from the chaos in the Democratic Party. And make no mistake right now, I mean, we are in, my professional estimation, what is called here a hot mess for the Democrats. I mean, there is literally, just in every single corner of the party, discussions about what to do.

Right now, you saw yesterday, a very important meeting with allies of the President, Democratic governors that all flew into Washington, D.C. This is pretty unprecedented to have a face-to-face meeting with Joe Biden. And what came out of that was, I think, a pretty tepid endorsement of his candidacy going forward. I don't think this is settled yet. I think we're going to have to see going forward what happens. You mentioned that President Biden has this sitdown with ABC News,

which is a big broadcaster here in the United States, with George Stephanopoulos. I just don't think it's going to do the business. I mean, yesterday, there was such a contentious White House press briefing, and everyone was asking, why isn't Joe Biden here taking these questions? Why are you sending your spokesperson?

ASHER: It's interesting about that meeting with Democratic governors, because you're right, it was a sort of tepid support for his candidacy. What's interesting about that is that it's one thing to sort of tell the President to his face that you support him. It's another thing just in terms of what they might be saying privately, especially when you have mega democratic donors like Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, coming out and saying, listen, this man really needs to go. What is it going to take at this point in time? And obviously, a lot of governors have said publicly now that they are standing with the President, and a lot of sort of Democratic leaders in the Senate, in the House are saying that they're standing with the President. And what is it going to take at this point in time for Joe Biden to reconsider?

NAVARRO: I think you're seeing it in real time. I think, first of all, donors abandoning the President if there is no money. That simply means it's much harder to run in this country. I mean, this is costing really hundreds of millions of dollars to mount an effective campaign. Secondly, the polls are showing a real dip. And at the end of the day, elections are about winning. They're not loyalty tests. They are about actually trying to hold on to power. And Democrats have been saying over and over and over that this is a pivotal election. We're seeing more and more reporting on what Republicans are planning to do. And so, for Democrats, that is deeply concerning.

And at the -- and I think it might become that his candidacy becomes untenable if this continues. We're seeing bleeding from voters, bleeding from his supporters in the Democratic Party and bleeding among the people who are giving him money. And so, it really is a ticking clock and it's -- it remains to be seen whether he can staunch that or not.


But, it is very, very difficult at this point to see a path forward for Joe Biden.

ASHER: Just quickly, was this debate and was agreeing to this debate a mistake for the President?

NAVARRO: Well, I mean, not if he'd done well. I think --


NAVARRO: -- I think the idea was a sound one, right. I mean, the idea was, he was not doing well in the polls. He wanted to have this early so that he could reset things. He could basically --

ASHER: Yeah. NAVARRO: -- assuage voters' concerns, which I have said over and over that age is the big issue. I mean, whenever you talk to voters, they basically say, I know what I see, and what I see is a man who is not as at his peak. And so, that is -- the idea was, hey, we're going to show voters that we can really do this. And what instead people saw is something very, very different. And it is very hard to tell people that what they saw and what they heard --

ASHER: Yeah.

NAVARRO: -- isn't actually reality.

ASHER: Don't believe your own eyes. Yeah, exactly. Lulu, always good to have you, Lulu Garcia Navarro of The New York Times. Appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

NAVARRO: Thanks.

ASHER: All right. Despite the questions about whether or not President Biden should step aside before the November election, First Lady Jill Biden continues to be his fiercest supporter. This as Mrs. Biden faces mounting criticism over her role in shielding her husband from the public.

CNN Sunlen Serfaty has more.


JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe, you did such a great job.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the most critical moment of President Joe Biden's political career, it is Jill Biden who is assuming the mantle to save him.

JILL BIDEN: You answered every question. You knew all the facts.

SERFATY (voice-over): The First Lady is all in, a source tells CNN, saying that she is still committed to her husband remaining in the 2024 race.

JILL BIDEN: I loved him from the start. I saw in him then the same character that I see in him today.

SERFATY (voice-over): In the 60s since the debate, her flurry of campaign events and outfront public statements has signaled that resolve --

JILL BIDEN: There is no one that I would rather have sitting in the Oval Office right now than my husband.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- waging a public display of damage control, telling fundraisers that her husband set up the debates. I don't know what happened. I didn't feel that great, in attempts at narrative setting, telling Vogue, they will not let those 90 minutes define the four years he has been President. We will continue to fight. This is a role Joe Biden has had for nearly five decades --

BIDEN: My name is Joe Biden. I'm Jill Biden's husband.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- as the President's chief confidant, staunchest advocate and fiercest defender, after nearly 50 years of marriage, all in the political arena, where they have been battle tested together.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST WOMAN": She does not want to give up this position and she doesn't want her husband to give it up. And I think it says a lot about her belief in him that she was the first person we heard from.

SERFATY (voice-over): But, that outsized influence in this crisis is being scrutinized, as questions over President Biden's fitness for office are mounting. Some are pointing a finger at the First Lady, a Texas Republican musing (ph), who is the commander-in-chief, with a video of the Bidens hand in hand after the debate, another Republican member of Congress accusing Jill Biden and the campaign of elder abuse. In a Wall Street Journal opinion article, it says Jill Biden should ask herself whether her admirable loyalty to her husband will serve the best interests of her country, adding that fate has given Mrs. Biden the power to shape history. May she use it wisely.

Presidential historians drawing comparisons to past first ladies, protecting the legacy of their husbands around sensitive issues.

ANITA MCBRIDE, AUTHOR, "REMEMBER THE FIRST LADIES": There were allegations or rumors of President Reagan's condition or some signs of cognitive difficulty or perhaps early dementia. She dismissed that, and again, was focused on his legacy, what he could contribute in his presidency.

SERFATY (voice-over): The White House says that is not what is happening here. Asked if the First Lady is covering up a medical condition of the President's, the First Lady's communications director tells CNN, no, an emphatic no.


ASHER: All right. Still to come --




MUNTEAN: To get points out the door, to make money.


ASHER: -- a former Boeing manager turns whistleblower over alleged safety violations at the aerospace giant. You'll hear his story after the break. And Japanese shoppers may notice the country's new banknotes feel a little bit different. Coming up, we'll tell you all about the new yen's special ingredient.




ASHER: All right. A former Quality Control Manager at Boeing is speaking out. He says the plane manufacturer routinely took unsafe parts from a scrap yard and put them on to factory assembly lines. In his first network TV interview, the 30-year-old veteran, rather, 30- year veteran of the company, told CNN an elaborate, off-the-books practice was used to meet production deadlines.

CNN's Pete Muntean has more.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): If Everett, Washington, is a Boeing company town, then Merle Meyers was a company man. A 30-year veteran of Boeing, Meyers says his job as a quality control manager put his kids through college. It's a family tradition. His late mother was a Boeing inspector, able to unilaterally decide if a new airplane just off the factory line was fit to fly.

MUNTEAN: What would she think about what is happening at Boeing?

MEYERS: She'd be absolutely livid.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Meyers' new allegations detail an elaborate off- the-books practice centering on parts deemed not safe to put in new airplanes. He is the latest whistleblower to come forward with claims of quality control lapses at Boeing. This is his first TV interview, inspired by the January 5th door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9. Spray painted red, bad parts deemed not up to Boeing standards are taken from Boeing's Everett plant and sent to its scrap facility in Auburn. But then, one day in 2015, Meyers says a crate of bad parts were improperly sent back from Auburn to Boeing's Everett factory. Meyers alleges the practice continued for years, tallying that more than 50,000 parts escaped Boeing quality control.

MUNTEAN: 50,000 parts?

MEYERS: That's what we counted at the time.

MUNTEAN: It seems like a heck of a lot.

MEYERS: It's a heck of a lot indeed.

MUNTEAN: What does that say to you?

MEYERS: Well, that says it puts people's lives at risk, not just passengers but flight crews. And a lot of these are flight-critical parts that made it back into the production system.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Company emails show Meyers repeatedly flagged the issue to Boeing's corporate investigations team, pointing out what he says were repeat violations of Boeing safety rules. But, Meyers insists investigators routinely failed to enforce those rules. In a 2022 email, he wrote that Boeing investigators ignored eyewitness observations and the hard work done to ensure the safety of future passengers and crew.

MUNTEAN: Why would they do this?

MEYERS: To schedule. Just schedule.

MUNTEAN: To get points out the door, to make money.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Meyers believes he was forced out of Boeing last year and is concerned there are still problems at the company. Well, I think they need to punish.


MEYERS: They need to fire people that blatantly violate the process and endanger the flying public. It's a huge problem. And a core requirement of a quality system is to keep bad parts and good parts apart.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): In his statement, Boeing says it encourages employees to speak up, and that to ensure the safety, quality and conformance of our products, we investigate all allegations of improper behavior, such as unauthorized movement of parts or mishandling of documents. We then work diligently to address them and make improvements.

Meyers says he is coming forward now because of the pride he has in Boeing. He goes so far as to call it a wonderful company, one he says has been going astray and is in desperate need of change.

MEYERS: But, you have to care. Leadership has to carry to do that. But, if you can't even keep parts segregated from good parts, what else aren't you doing right?

MUNTEAN: The mystery here is that we did not have an exact accounting of where these parts are. They range from the superficial like fasteners to the critical wing flaps used for landing. If these parts weren't returned to the scrap yard, our whistleblowers worry that they ended up on new planes delivered to airlines and other customers in the last decade or so. How big a deal is that, also hard to know, since we don't know exactly how or where they were used. But, there was no question that these scrap parts should not have been put on planes.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


ASHER: All right. After 20 years, Japan gives its banknotes a makeover. Why these new bills may feel a little different going into the Japanese wallet? That story coming up.


ASHER: All right. Japan is debuting its redesigned banknotes this week as the country's first new currency in two decades. The shiny, freshly printed yen bills are designed to fight counterfeiting.

And as CNN's Hanako Montgomery tells us, they're sourced from an unlikely location.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Along the winding paths of Nepal's Himalayan peaks, thrives a key cash crop for one of the world's wealthiest economies, mitsumata. This small yellow plant is essential for making Japan's bills. But, shrinking farming populations and climate change means it can no longer be sourced locally. Instead, it's found in abundance in Nepal's highland regions, a chance discovery made by Kanpou Inc., a company that produces paper for the Japanese government.

TADASHI MATSUBARA, PRESIDENT, KANPOU INC. (Interpreted): The profits from the mitsumata are used to build elementary schools to offer better education to children, in hair salons in the village.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Tadashi Matsubara's company first went to Nepal for a charity program to help farmers dig wells. But, after discovering mitsumata in the mid-90s growing wild as far as the eyes could see, they taught farmers how to cultivate the crop-turned cash, transforming the local economy, Matsubara says.

MATSUBARA (Interpreted): I really think that the poor contribute to Japan's economy. As cash is fundamental to Japanese economy, without Nepal, Japan will not function.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): And as Japan unveils its first new bills in 20 years, the demand for the plant skyrockets.


MONTGOMERY: These are Japan's brand new bills. They're the first to have 3D holograms of historical figures to prevent counterfeiting, and have tactile marks for the visually impaired.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): The new bills arrive as cash-loving Japan pushes for more digital payments. In 2023, nearly 40 percent of transactions in Japan were non-cash, but it still trails far behind neighboring China, where it's almost completely cashless. In Japan, where cash reigns king, this vital crop from the Himalayan hillside is key to filling its wallets.

Hanako Montgomery, CNN, Tokyo.


ASHER: All right. Thank you so much for joining us here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Zain Asher. Connect the World with Max Foster is up next.