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CNN International: Defiant Biden Vows To Stay In Presidential Race; Biden Fights For His Political Life After Debate Debacle; Voting Underway In UK General Election. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 11:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

Ahead on CNN Newsroom, campaign in crisis, President Biden defiant, as calls grow for him to end his reelection bid. I'm going to discuss with my panel. Plus, it is Election Day in the UK. We're going to take you to London where voters are casting ballots to choose their new leadership. And Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak with President Biden later today. This as Israel and Hamas appear to be on the brink of a framework ceasefire and hostage release deal, though we have seen disappointment before. We are live in Tel Aviv and the White House with the latest.

On America's Independence Day, it is Commander-in-Chief fighting for his political life, and time does not appear to be on his side. The White House tells CNN President Joe Biden was examined by his physician at some point after last week's debate. That, in contrast, contradiction, in fact, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters Wednesday that Biden had not seen a doctor since his physical back in February. A group of Democratic governors emerged from a critical White House meeting Wednesday with the President saying resolutely they still have Biden's back.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): President Joe Biden is in it to win it. And all of us said we pledged our support to him because the stakes could not be higher.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): What we saw in there today was a guy who was the guy that all of us believed in the first time who could beat Donald Trump.


SCIUTTO: A Biden ally tells CNN that privately the President acknowledges the reality that the next few days are critical, as he weighs whether he can overcome the damage done by his debate performance. A New York Times/Siena College survey found Donald Trump now leads Biden by 49 percent to 43 percent. This among likely voters nationally, picking up a three-point swing from a week earlier before the debate. Here is what the President said in a new taped radio interview that aired today.


VOICE OF JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a bad night. And the fact of the matter is, that, you know, it was -- I screwed up. I made a mistake. That's 90 minutes on stage. Look at what I've done in 3.5 years.


SCIUTTO: Regardless, the White House is still facing a barrage of questions about his disastrous performance in that debate, but also broader questions about his mental sharpness, nearly a week after that debate aired.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: It's the jetlag and also the cold, right? It is the two things and that occurred, and you all heard it in his voice when he did the debate, right? It is not even something that we shared ahead of time. You heard it in his voice and we confirmed it.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us now with more. Listen, the second difficult, uncomfortable, frankly, press conference for the White House Press Secretary to be answering repeated questions about not just the debate, but his overall fitness. And I wonder, based on your reporting, Sunlen, are you hearing that there is actually an open discussion in the White House of leaving the race, or is this a President that's digging in?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, publicly, Jim, you're right. There is a disconnect between publicly and privately what's going on. Publicly, they are digging in. They're expressing that he is going to be the nominee. We heard that not only from the President, but from the First Lady Jill Biden on the campaign trail yesterday. But, there are these contingency plans that are being talked about behind closed doors. And we also know importantly on Capitol Hill, they have a huge potential say in potentially tipping the balance, pushing this over the edge, if indeed it gets to that place.

House Democratic leaders heard an earful for many top Democrats on Capitol Hill last night having this conference call where they talked about essentially the path forward, plotting out their strategy. And we know, according to sources on this call, that many top Democrats on the Hill said, look, it's time for Biden to go. He must go. Then, there was another contingency of House Democrats that said, look, this wouldn't cause a frenzy and put our party into chaos if we had to switch nominee.

So, on Capitol Hill, there is this active discussion on what comes next. Notably, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, he did not say what his opinion on the call was, what path he wanted to choose, and that's important because he has so much sway not only with members, but certainly with the White House's.


They are deliberating over what comes next. Now, we have heard from many Democrats publicly, calling for him to step aside, two officially now, and others like Seth Moulton, Congressman Moulton stepping right up to that line, saying that his age potentially is a factor and saying that he has grave concerns. We did hear from some Democrats who are supportive of President Biden, but saying, look, time is of the essence. The time right now is to step up. Here is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell this morning.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I think that the one clear thing this week is that there is only one person that can show he is up to the job, has the stamina to do the job, that he will do the job, and that is Joe Biden, and he needs to get out there on a sustained basis and do things spontaneously. One interview is not going to reassure folks. We got to be realistic.


SERFATY: So, sources in the White House tell our White House team that the President acknowledges that these next few days are critical. He understands the conversation that's taking place. And what Congresswoman Dingell was saying there as well, our sources are also telling us privately that the next few days are crucial. They're going to see how he does in that TV interview on the campaign trail. And then everyone, Jim, will be back in Washington on Monday. The House and Senate will be back after a recess. So, certainly, this will only magnify and amplify potentially the concerns.

SCIUTTO: Sunlen Serfaty, and of course the attention to that interview tomorrow on ABC, even greater focus, appreciate it.

Let's bring in our panel now, Meghan Hays, former Special Assistant to President Biden, currently a consultant to the Democratic National Committee Convention, and CNN Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings, a former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, also Senator McConnell. Good to have you both here on this Fourth. Let me begin by saying Happy Fourth of July to you, and I appreciate you squeezing some time out of the holiday to talk to me.

Meghan, I'd like to begin with you, given your long work with President Biden himself, and a very basic question. Is it actually an open question that the President might step out of the race, or is this cable news talk? Right? I mean, is there an actual discussion? I mean, we're certainly hearing lawmakers on the Hill openly discussing it, but is the President, is the President's team openly discussing that?

MEGHAN HAYS, U.S. DEMOCRATIC NATL. CMTE. CONVENTION CONSULTANT, & FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: No. I don't think so. I think that the President has made his feelings known. He said yesterday he is in. He is not going anywhere. He made that very clear to the staff when he talked to the campaign and the convention and the DNC staff yesterday on a call with the Vice President. And I just -- I don't think he is going anywhere. Do I think that they probably discussed it? Do I think that they're looking at the polling? Do I think that they're having realistic conversations? Absolutely.

But, the President is dug in. And I think the President is very smart. He understands that he made -- like, he did not do well, last Thursday. He did not reassure the voters that he can do the job, and he would have been spending that time since then reassuring voters. So, I do think he is trying to do and reassure voters that he is in it. But, I don't think that there is any wavering on his part.

SCIUTTO: Let me -- I want to go to Scott. Is that the right call, Meghan? I mean, because it's not just the debate. Right? I mean, if you go back to Robert Hur's report, that was a moment, clearly the Biden administration was concerned about that. You remember he went right to the podium afterwards to try to explain it away. But, there are open questions about this, about his stamina, and whether it's changed over the last --

HAYS: Absolutely --

SCIUTTO: -- couple of years and even last couple of months. Is it the right call, in your view, for him to stay the nominee in a race that he and his allies describe as a race in effect for the country's future?

HAYS: Look, I haven't seen the President in about a year. So, I'm not exactly sure if there has been a decline in the past year. But, when I was there, he definitely was up to the job. He definitely made decisions, and he was running the show. But, I do think that this needs to be taken to the voters. He needs to go to the voters and he needs to see if they have confidence in him, and that's why we have elections. I just think the stakes are too high. We're not focusing on what the realities of another Donald Trump presidency. And I do think Joe Biden is the only person that's beat Donald Trump, and if he believes that he can do it, and the team around him believe strongly that they can do it, then they need to prove to the voters that they will do it and continue through with the election.

SCIUTTO: Scott Jennings, thank you for your patience on this July 4. What has Trump won here? I mean, there is reporting from inside the Trump camp from our own reporters that actually Trump would prefer if Biden were to stay in if there wasn't another choice, that he views Biden is more beatable than perhaps another replacement. What's your view?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FORMER SPECIAL ASST. TO GEORGE W. BUSH: First of all, Happy Fourth to you all. The United States of America is the greatest country on Earth. It was on the first day and it is today. It's never changed, and I'm proud to be in America. Number two, here is what Donald Trump wants in the short term,

nothing. He has to do nothing. He is doing exactly the right thing, watching these Democrats eat themselves alive here. And honestly, I don't think it matters whether he runs against Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. If Biden does step aside, which I still regard is something of a possibility, they can't give it to anybody other than Harris.


So, it's going to be one of the two, and she is just as unpopular as he is. So, right now, I think Trump is doing the right thing strategically, lay back, let the Democrats freak out about this, and let them come up with all the excuses they want. I mean, he has got a cold. Give me a break. He doesn't have a cold. He is just old. We all saw it. And everybody that's been covering up for his condition for the last three and a half years, and has been not telling the truth to the American people, is now revealed. And those same people now, like Democrat governors last night, are coming out, and once again, oh, behind closed doors, he is real good. That's not going to cut it anymore. The veil is off.

SCIUTTO: For voters, Scott, let me ask you a difficult question. Are lapses in -- well, I don't know about judgment. I don't have experience of that. But, lapses in his communication, as we saw on the debate and elsewhere, which is worse, that, or the lying that we saw on the debate? And you know. You've been honest on this broadcast and others about Trump's willingness to just make things up, right, which is, as voters make a choice here, which is worse, I suppose, is the question.

JENNINGS: Yeah. It's a great question. And for a political strategist, it's an interesting exercise. There was a survey yesterday. It might have been the CBS/YouGov. I'll have to look. But, it asked that very question, what's more concerning to you, Joe Biden's mental acuity or Donald Trump's issues, however they describe it? And more people said, Joe Biden's mental acuity concern them than the criminal issues going on with Donald Trump. In The New York Times story two nights ago, Jim, there were two diplomatic officials in the article, one American, one European saying they weren't sure whether you could put Joe Biden in the room with Vladimir Putin or another world leader right now. That is alarming.

And so, I think when Americans are judging this, they're looking at a guy that they already thought wasn't doing a very good job, 38 percent approval rating. And now, on top of that, saying, oh, my gosh, and he is pretty compromised right now. It's pretty bad, and that's why the polling, by the way, is the way it is.

SCIUTTO: Meghan, what's your answer to that? Those are -- whether one agrees or disagrees with that assessment, right, the assessment of the President's acuity and so on, to have those questions being asked openly and have -- it it's not just questions, right, because to Scott's point, it's accounts, people sharing granted, without sharing the name, but people sharing their own experience of what they say is less sharpness than they knew in the past. You don't want those questions in a tight election race. Where does that leave the presidential campaign?

HAYS: No. Absolutely not. You don't want those questions. And that's why he needs to go out and do this interview and continue to show to the American people that he can do it. But, I do think that we're not shining a spotlight on the over 50 lies that Trump told during the campaign and really what's at stake. Project 2025 is extremely scary. They want to take away healthcare for women. There is like a number of things and freedoms that they want to take away, that they plan to do on day one. He has already said he wants to be a dictator. That is extremely scary stuff that we're talking about.

We're celebrating our Independence Day today and that we're fighting for the things again that we fought so hard for through our country's history. It's just -- it's not a rational argument. And it's -- yes. Is Joe Biden old? Yes, absolutely he is. No one is arguing that. But, I just -- I have a hard time believing that there are people who genuinely believe that having Joe Biden would be worse than having Donald Trump, who legitimately wants to take away their freedoms.

SCIUTTO: Meghan Hays, Scott Jennings, thanks so much for joining today.

JENNINGS: Happy Fourth.

HAYS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And Happy Fourth indeed.

UK now, and voting has been underway for about nine hours. People have until 10 p.m. local time to cast their ballots in the UK's general election. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, he himself voted earlier in Yorkshire in northern England, and Labour leader Keir Starmer cast his ballot in London.

CNN's Nada Bashir joins us from a polling station in London. Nada, I wonder, as you've been there, what's the turnout look like today?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, we've been seeing people coming in all through the morning and now to the afternoon to cast their ballot. There are tens of thousands of polling stations, like this on behind me, up and down the country. And of course, as you mentioned, these polling stations are open until 10 p.m. local time. So, we've still got a while to go before we get a full picture of the turnout here across the United Kingdom.

There are 650 constituencies -- 650 seats in the Houses of Parliament up for grabs. And what the parties are looking for here is, of course, for that majority. Now, unlike the U.S. system, voters here are voting for their local MP, their local member of parliament. So, parties are looking to secure a majority of MPs, of course, in the House of Commons, before they can declare a comfortable majority, before they can declare, of course, that they have won the election.


Now, when these polls close at 10 p.m., that is when the interesting part kicks in. That is when the vote counting begins, and that is set to take both overnight. We'll see those results coming in constituency by constituency. Many people across the country will be staying up overnight in fact to watch this process take place. We will, of course, expect to see early exit polls throughout the night, giving us a sense of which direction the country is swinging towards when it comes to which party is in the lead. But, we aren't expecting the official announcement, the official declaration of which party has won the election until Friday morning, at which point, of course, the King will invite the leader of the party which has secured the majority to form a government.

So, of course, lots still to come. We're a little restricted about what we can say right now because, of course, reporting restrictions until those polls close. But, of course, we'll be getting into all the policy details, all the debates in our special later tonight once polls close at 10 p.m., around 5 p.m. Eastern Time. Jim.

SCIUTTO: It really has been a year of elections, hasn't it, in India and the UK, and of course, big one coming up in the U.S. as well. Nada Bashir in London, thanks so much.

Please do be sure to watch CNN's special coverage of the UK election anchored by Isa Soares and Richard Quest. It begins just before 10 p.m. in London. That is before five in the afternoon here on the East Coast.

And still ahead, a critical conversation about the Israel-Hamas war. U.S. President Joe Biden expected to speak soon with Israel's Prime Minister amid reports that a framework ceasefire deal could be near. Plus, concerns of an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah, as back and forth strikes continue along the northern border. We're going to tell you what sparked this latest increase in hostilities.


SCIUTTO: U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to speak soon with Israel's Prime Minister about a possible ceasefire agreement for Gaza. We should note, we've seen hopeful signs like this before only to be dashed. However, an Israeli source says that Israel and Hamas do appear to be on the brink of a framework ceasefire and hostage release deal. We've just learned from an Israeli official that Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized a negotiating team to return to indirect talks with Hamas. That's a step. The Prime Minister is set to convene his cabinet tonight.

Israel also focusing on the threat, though, now from the north from, Lebanon. Hezbollah, which occupies the southern part of that country, says it fired more than 200 missiles and explosive drones at Israeli military sites. This they say in retaliation for an Israeli strike that killed a senior Hezbollah commander. Israel responded to Hezbollah's barrage with new attacks of its own. That's how it tends to go with these things. The violence fueling concerns about a possible all-out war.

Let's go live now to Washington and CNN White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz. [11:20:00]

Arlette, as I approach this, because you and I have been covering these negotiations for so long, we've seen signs of hope, and then the sides went their separate ways. This one does seem different right now. And I wonder what the White House view is of the situation now. Do they feel that they're on the brink of something?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't have any White House officials going so far to say that they do believe that a deal will be cemented. But, one U.S. official, I touched base with this morning, said that they viewed Hamas' response that was relayed to the Qatari and Egyptian mediators, they viewed that response as being constructive while also noting that there is still more work to be done.

Now, President Biden is expected to jump on the phone at some point this morning, possibly soon, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to talk about these latest developments relating to a possible hostage and ceasefire deal. I'm also told by a White House official that Vice President Kamala Harris will also be joining the call. Another source noted that she has joined many of these calls between Biden and Netanyahu. But, of course, it's all coming at an interesting time, as you think about the political dynamics playing out back at home, especially when it relates to the 2024 election.

Now, the U.S. recently had presented some language that they would had hoped would bridge the gap between the Israelis and Hamas. Last weekend, I had been told that that language specifically focused on trying to bridge the gap between phase one and phase two. So, phase one is when there would be a temporary pause. There would be with the release of some hostages. But, that would also set a time for negotiations to begin to try to get to phase two of the deal. That is the language that the U.S. had proposed in recent conversations. And so, we will see what exactly the Hamas response entailed, what the Israelis' response will entail going forward.

But, President Biden, of course, for some time has been hoping that they would be able to work towards this deal to secure the release of hostages, including the Americans who remain in Gaza, as well as eventually a permanent end to the war. I will note that Vice President Harris and her team have been especially focused on what happens in the days after this war. So, that might be something she is bringing to the conversation today.

But, it's all also coming at an interesting time as President Biden is fighting for his own political survival back at home, of course, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and his handling of it, is something that does not sit well with some Democratic voters, especially younger voters, voters and Arab American and Muslim American voters. And so, this is an area that the President has hoped to make some traction on. The White House always says it's not because of political matters. But, he does hope that this is something that they can work towards in the coming months, as he has been seeking it into this war. SCIUTTO: Yeah. And you might imagine, the President seeing a deal with

U.S. involvement as a sign that he can still do the job, right, in the midst of all these questions. Arlette Saenz from the White House, thanks so much.

I do want to go now to Tel Aviv where our Jeremy Diamond is standing by. So, Jeremy, I'm asking the same question of you that I asked of Arlette, because you and I have talked about other hopeful moments when a deal appeared close, this one does appear closer, I mean, even just to resume indirect talks between Israel and Hamas here. What is your best sense of how close the two sides are at this time?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (Inaudible) these two sides are closer than they have been in months now, and that is mainly because for months now, the negotiations have centered on trying to reach a framework that will allow for the detailed negotiations to begin to take place. And now, what we have learned is that the Israeli Prime Minister has now authorized the head of the Mossad, David Barnea, to begin engaging in those detailed negotiations, which indicates, for all intents and purposes, that Hamas and Israel have effectively agreed to a framework for a potential ceasefire and hostage release deal. And that is very, very significant.

But, it does not mean, of course, that a deal is assured. It certainly does not mean that a deal has been finalized yet. And I'm told that those detailed negotiations are expected to last somewhere between two and three weeks if indeed a deal can be achieved. What they will be turning their attention to now will be the details, such as the number and the types, the identities of the Palestinian prisoners who would be released during a first phase of an agreement in exchange for a couple of dozen Israeli hostages, beginning, of course, with those women as well as the sick and the elderly hostages, humanitarian releases, effectively, as it's been termed, over the course of these negotiations.

What has happened over the last couple of days, as Arlette just mentioned, is that some new U.S. language, U.S.-proposed language for effectively what the scope and the sequencing would be of the negotiations going from phase one into phase two.


It appears that Hamas received that language positively, agreed to it, and that Israel has then agreed to, as a result, enter into those detailed negotiations. So, like I said, this is a very, very positive step. I think we can safely say that. The only caution that needs to be applied here is that now the devil will indeed be in the details. And we know that even as they enter into those detailed negotiations, it does not mean that the outcome is certain, that the outcome of actually getting to the finish line is assured. But, it does appear that these two sides are now further than they have ever been in the course of these negotiations since that last truce fell apart at the beginning of December. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. And I imagine the families there in Israel waiting, waiting for some positive news. Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much. All right. Let's go now to Becky Anderson. She is the host, of course,

of CNN's Connect the World, and she is onboard now a floating hospital set up by the United Arab Emirates off of Egypt, near southern Gaza. Becky, I wonder what you're seeing there. You must have an incredible vision now into the costs of this war.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR, CONNECT THE WORLD: Yeah, absolutely, Jim. Mussab (ph) is a victim of this war, but also one of the very few lucky ones who has been evacuated from Gaza. He was in a school, he is 14, in a school that was blown up and was attacked. And he had, as I understand it -- Dr. Hamid (ph), just, he is my friend here, just explain what happened to Mussab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Mussab was in a school. And then, after explosion --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the school collapsed and he got his lower limb --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- broken. They put him on external fixator temporarily in Gaza. And then, he came back here to us and then we fixed him with internal fixator.

ANDERSON: This is, as you rightly point out, a medical ship. It's a reconditioned roll-on/roll-off ferry, Jim. But, this is state of the art. It may not look like it, but these are wards here, and there are about 12 of these. There are 100 beds on this medical ship. And just further down the corridor, there is an intensive care department. There is an operating theatre, where Mussab will have been operated on. There is a radiology department. It is one of the sort of unique and rather remarkable stories. Dr. Hamad has been here now for some weeks before that. Dr. Hamad, you were at the Emirati Field Hospital --


ANDERSON: -- which is just in Rafah. Just tell me how they compare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Now, talking about the field hospital, Emirati Field Hospital, in Gaza Strip, of course, the situation is very different there. It's a big hospital with a lot of specialities there, orthopedic, surgery, emergency and other specialities.

ANDERSON: You've 40,000 patients there --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen 40,000.

ANDERSON: -- since it was set up in November, as I understand it, and it has been in the thick of it. I mean, you have been there, you told me earlier --



ANDERSON: -- while the Israelis were bombing the area. How do you cope? How do you cope with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can explain that. It's a very difficult situation. But, as a surgeon, and we have our oath, we have to work. We have to help the people there even if we are under attack. If we leave them like this, they're going to definitely die. So, we have to interfere to stabilize the cases and then we can triage them later on.

ANDERSON: Jim, this medical ship is operated by the UAE, complements the Emirati Field Hospital, which is inside of Rafah. This ship is more just off El Arish, which is about 25 kilometers from Gaza, inside of Egypt. And what is happening here is that they are accepting those who've been lucky enough to be evacuated. So, that is a seriously injured off times kids like the ones that you see here, and cancer patients. From here, many of these patients are being evacuated back to the UAE, particularly those kids and cancer patients --

SCIUTTO: Yeah. It looks like we lost the shot there. But, listen, such an important view into the human costs of the war in Gaza ongoing and you can see it in that little boy's face there. That was next to Becky Anderson. Thanks so much to her, on a floating hospital ship near Gaza. That ship run by the UAE.

Well, it is the Independence Day holiday here in the U.S., but it's anything but a picnic right now for the Biden campaign.


Next, more on how the President is pushing back on calls for him to step aside, as he fights for his political future. Plus, the Trump campaign slams President Biden after last week's poor debate performance. We're going to have a live report. Of course, no acknowledgement from Trump for the many lies he told during the debate.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. You are watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

The next few days maybe the most critical of the 2024 presidential election for Joe Biden, as the President decides whether to stay in the race. In a new interview, the President told a Wisconsin radio host that he, quote, "screwed up in last week's CNN debate" but says he will be the one to take on former President Donald Trump in November. The President will spend part of the July 4th holiday huddling with family members about his political future. His poor debate performance may already be having an impact on voters. Donald Trump widened his lead among likely voters to six percentage points in a new poll from the New York Times and Siena College. The Trump campaign responding to the debate over the President's

future. Trump's senior advisors issued a statement saying, quote, "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" end quote. The statement comes after a secretly recorded video showed Trump trash-talking Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on a golf course, using some offensive language. It was shot after the CNN debate, obtained by The Daily Beast. In the video, Trump suggests President Biden will quit the race, not clear how he knows that, and that Harris will be the nominee.

For reaction to that, we're joined by CNN's Steve Contorno from St. Petersburg, Florida. Steve. I mean, we've seen quite publicly the Trump team doing a victory lap here, enjoying the debate within the Democratic Party over steps forward. Do they see their best option here as Biden staying in the race as opposed to a new candidate?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: There are certainly Republicans who believe that the path forward is definitely much easier if Joe Biden continues to be the nominee, not only because they view him as a weak candidate, but because they have spent so much time, energy, planning, getting ready for Joe Biden to be their opponent this fall. And there were -- it was so much unknown about these other individuals. Yes, you can look at polling that suggests that they might be trailing behind the President or Vice President in a head-to-head match against Trump.


But, the contours of the race would change entirely if there is a switch at this point. And as one Republican pollster told me, be careful what you wish for. The devil you know is maybe it's sometimes better than the devil you don't know. And what's interesting is that the Trump campaign -- Trump himself, actually, has been saying for almost a year that they didn't expect Joe Biden to be the nominee at the end of this race. However, they don't seem to have a contingency plan in place for how to maneuver if that becomes an actual reality. They are starting, though, to attack some of the potential contenders that have been speculated about in recent days.

We saw the campaign put out a statement criticizing the Vice President and the potential field of people who might be considered. Listen to what they said. Joe Biden is weak, failed, dishonest and not fit for the White House. Every one of them has lied about Joe Biden's cognitive state and supported his disastrous policies over the past four years, especially Cackling Copilot Kamala Harris." So, clearly, they're already laying the groundwork to attack some of those potential people who are being tossed around now as names who could replace Biden.

Of course, when you do talk to the campaign and you get their thoughts, they do believe that Joe Biden will ultimately be their opponent for the remainder of this race. The obstacles to removing him are just incredibly high, not the least of which his own defiance. Jim. SCIUTTO: Yeah. And listen, let's acknowledge "Cackling Copilot". That's the way the former President is describing the sitting Vice President of the United States, but language, of course, we're familiar with. Steve Contorno, thanks so much.

So, for a look at the Biden campaign, let's go to CNN Political and National Security Analyst David Sanger. David, good to have you on, on this Fourth. Let me begin by saying Happy Fourth of July to you. Thanks for taking the time from the holiday.


SCIUTTO: I want to begin with a piece you and your colleagues put out yesterday, which described Biden's lapses as, according to people who witnessed them, more frequent and more pronounced in the months leading up to the debate. That is -- that cites a change. Right? I mean, that's the key question here, right, is has there been a decline, and it sounds like you're hearing from people that there has been a decline.

SANGER: So, that's right, Jim. The core question was, was this just a bad night --


SANGER: -- the result of jetlag, as the President has said, and a cold, or was it a symptom of something that people had seen increasingly? And so, we sent our entire White House team, six members of The New York Times White House team, our foreign correspondents, others to talk to people who had encountered the President during the D-Day celebration, during the G7 summit, which I was covering with sometimes, colleagues at other moments, meetings that he has had at the White House, and what they reported back was that these lapses are not consistent. They frequently occur when he is in larger groups. They're less likely to be noticeable when he is one on one, and that they were more frequent, and thus, more worrisome.

And what they were seeing was wandering off the point of the conversation, or appearing to freeze up for a bit. And the question was, was this just the result of slowly advancing age, hits all of us, or was there something else going on? And on that, they were not at all certain.

SCIUTTO: That suggests that Biden's closest advisors would be aware of that change, right, because they would have been in the room for some of those meetings. How do his closest advisors respond? How does the White House respond to those accounts?

SANGER: So, the White House, interestingly, at least so far, as I have heard, has not pushed back on those accounts. Instead, they have simply gone with what the President himself has said to donors and in other events that he was jetlagged, that he had a cold, that he had a bad night. In other words, they've made this sound like a one-off. And it's a big difference, because what voters are looking at here, Jim, is not just how the President is today. They're trying to project ahead from their own experience with elderly relatives and so forth of what kind of shape he'll be in a year from now, or three years from now, and so are allies and so forth. And it's very hard to project, but we found it interesting that people around him were seeing this happen with increasing frequency.

Now, what else strikes me, Jim, is we're a week out from the debate, and it's not like this whole issue has quelled.


If anything, it is sort of built-up. And that's why these next few days are so critical. The President has got some big campaign events coming up. He has an interview with George Stephanopoulos that I think everybody will be watching on Friday. And then, next week, he has the NATO Summit, where he is going to be engaging with more than two dozen world leaders who are all going to be in Washington for the 75th anniversary of NATO. And --


SANGER: -- I think both those leaders and the rest of us will be looking to see how he operates in that environment.

SCIUTTO: No question. I'll be at the summit as well. I want to ask you a difficult question before we go. You've covered this administration for years. You've covered a lot of administrations and you've covered Washington for a long time, and you know that there is often a disconnect between the conventional wisdom and the fact. So, a lot of folks are pontificating and guessing as to what the future holds. In your reporting, is there actual consideration at the very top, including the President, of the President stepping down from the campaign, or is that just TV talk at this point?

SANGER: It's a really good question, Jim, and it's difficult to answer. We have reported that he has mused with at least one or two big supporters about whether or not if he couldn't quell this, he would have to step down. That's a different thing from saying that he is planning to. All of our reporting suggests that his family is urging him to stay the course, everything we know about Joe Biden's self-image as somebody who gets up, as he says, when he is knocked down, and move forward, would suggest that he would stick with it.

I think in the nervousness you're hearing from the party, it comes from the uncertainty of whether they are better to stick with him and count on his ability to come back from this or change courses at the very last moment. I mean, we're only four months out from the election, and that's a really difficult time to run somebody who has never before run for President and see how they do. And it's a big roll the dice either way. The reporting you had on before, it suggests that the Trump administration would like to see Biden stay in.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, I hear that a lot. At least, that's his calculation, not that his calculations are always right either, of course. David Sanger --

SANGER: That's right. SCIUTTO: -- great to have you on. Thanks so much.

Well, Hurricane Beryl tore a path of destruction through Jamaica. It's not over yet. Here is CNN Meteorologist Elisa Raffa with a look at where this powerful storm is headed next.

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's still a Category 3 storm, pulling away from the Cayman Islands. We're talking about landfall in Mexico by tomorrow. That's coming up next.




SCIUTTO: Hurricane Beryl has killed at least nine people across the Caribbean and is now pulling away from the Cayman Islands. While the storm has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, still pretty strong, Jamaica is feeling its impact from Wednesday. Here you can see some of the flooding and damage unleashed on the island in the 12 hours of heavy rain and strong winds. In just 24 hours, Kingston received more than double the amount of rain it typically gets during the entire month of July.

CNN's Rafael Romo felt Hurricane Beryl himself, as it bore down on the Jamaican capital. Here now is his report on the damage left behind.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was one of the most powerful hurricanes that I've ever seen. Beryl hammered the island for several hours with devastating winds and torrential rains. And as you can see behind me, the winds were powerful enough to carry a boat across the bay and make it crash here by the old pier, and now it's partially sunk.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he believes the country is now entering into what he called the second phase of the disaster and response efforts, after Hurricane Beryl dumped rain and brought hurricane force winds to the island on Wednesday. Holness told CNN, storm surges have damaged coastal infrastructure in some areas. The Prime Minister also said that some 500 people have been displaced and are now staying in shelters.

According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the eyewall of Hurricane Beryl brushed the southern coast of Jamaica last night with hurricane conditions occurring throughout much of the island. It continued raining on and off overnight. We have seen downed power lines, boats that were not properly secured and were sunk, like the one right behind me, and debris all over the island. Prime Minister Holness says that his government is ready to face the challenges ahead.

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: Earlier, I had an opportunity to speak with Donna McLeod, a former Georgia state representative who was born here in Jamaica. She spoke for many when she expressed the serious concerns she has for her native country.

DONNA MCLEOD, FORMER GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I'm going to cry because this is the place I was born. 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: Mexico has already upgraded its tropical storm watch to a tropical storm warning for the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, which includes popular tourist destinations like Cancun. Beryl is expected to then emerge over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico Friday night and make a northwest turn, becoming a threat to parts of Texas. But, it's still too early to know the actual path it will take.

Rafael Romo, CNN Kingston, Jamaica.


SCIUTTO: CNN Meteorologist Elisa Raffa joins us now, tracking the storm from Atlanta. Still looks pretty big, and Category 3 is no small thing. Tell us what happens from here.

RAFFA: Yes, still a major hurricane. We're looking at it making another landfall in Mexico going to tomorrow. It has kind of shrunk in size a little bit, the radius of where we're finding. The tropical storm force winds is decreasing some, but it still has 150 mile per hour winds in its center as it's moving away from the Cayman Islands. Some of their conditions will start to get better over the next couple of hours. We're still finding winds up to 28 miles per hour. There are gusts there this morning. We're over 55 miles per hour at times. So, again, conditions starting to get better across the Cayman Islands in the next couple of hours.

We're going to continue to find it weaken slightly as it starts to go into Mexico because there are -- there is a pocket of wind shear here. That's the wind energy upstairs in the atmosphere and hurricanes hate it. It really does a good job at kind of knocking down the intensity of hurricanes. So, as Beryl continues its track towards Mexico, it looks like it will maintain hurricane strength, but again, starting to come down a little bit in that intensity.

Here is that additional landfall going into tomorrow for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Cancun to Cozumel, as we go into Friday, looking at storm surge up to five feet possible along this coastline here, intense heavy rain as well. Then we get this storm back into the Gulf of Mexico, where it could maybe even re-intensify back into a hurricane before it makes another landfall. Here is a look at some of the rain forecast totals, looking at some

four to six inches of rain, up to 10 inches possible, and that could lead to some significant flash flooding.


So, it's something that we'll have to watch out for. Here is that official track, and you could see what I was talking about, about the way that that intensity gets shaved, but still looking at hurricane conditions along the coast here of the Yucatan Peninsula as we go into Friday. Then it comes back out into the Gulf of Mexico, where it could really re-intensify into a hurricane after getting knocked down a little bit because of dry, air interaction with land. But, we could be looking at a hurricane landfall again somewhere between the Mexico and Texas border, as we go into the weekend and early next week. Where this actually makes landfall, will really be determined by the strength of this high pressure. If it weakens some, that's where you get some more impactful conditions in Texas. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Elisa Raffa, thanks so much. We'll continue to watch, of course. We should note that CNN has gathered a list of vetted organizations that are on the ground helping the victims of Hurricane Beryl. I know a lot of you will see images like this and want to help. You can find details on exactly how at a special section of our website, It's easy to find and it's a good way to help. We will be right back.



SCIUTTO: Well, here in the U.S., we are, of course, celebrating Independence Day, the Fourth of July, and for many celebrating, that includes watching the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. The women's competition began last hour. We have a winner, reigning champion Miki Sudo. She set a new record, chowing down 51 dogs in 10 minutes, yowzers (ph). The men's competition is due to begin in just a few minutes, but it's going to be missing a big favorite.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Nathan's Famous Fourth of July champion of the world.


SCIUTTO: I mean, Joey Chestnut, he owns that competition. He has been a winner so many times, including last year, but he is not competing this year after signing a sponsorship deal with the, wait for this, plant-based Impossible Food Company. The major league eating organization says it is, quote, "devastated that Chestnut chose to represent a rival brand instead of Nathan's." Chestnut has won the Mustard Yellow Belt 16 times.

[11:55:00] In 2021, he ate a world record 76 hotdogs and the buns, you got to eat the buns too, in just 10 minutes. He is set to hold an alternative competition today, taking on four U.S. Army soldiers at floor at Fort Bliss, Texas. He is good at it.

And before we go, one more thing. Take a look at this. It may be the Fourth of July in the U.S. but it is also the 100th birthday of, what, the Caesar salad. There are competing claims about who exactly invented it but tradition holds. The salad was actually born in Tijuana, Mexico, Mexican chef and restauranteur Alex Cardini III says it was his grandfather Alex and great-uncle Caesar that came up with the original recipe. They created it for their American friends who were pilots and used the lack of ingredients they had due to supply shortages after a flu outbreak. Alex says he wants his children and grandchildren to continue the Caesar salad legacy. I didn't know that.

Well, thanks so much for spending part of your day with me. If you're here in the U.S. celebrating July 4th, a very Happy Fourth of July to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. Stick with CNN. One World is up next.