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Biden Resists Growing Calls to End Re-Election Biden; Trump on Video Calls Biden Old Broken Down Pile of Crap; Beryl Near Grand Cayman Island After Pounding Jamaica. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 10:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Thursday morning and a very happy 4th of July to you. See, we've got music and everything. You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Erica Hill in New York. Thanks so much for joining me on this Independence Day.

It is a day with added significance for thousands across this country who are marking their first Fourth as American citizens. These are images from just one of some 200 naturalization ceremonies being held this week and ahead this hour you are going to meet one of them. Maria is becoming an American citizen actually right now and she is going to join us later to share her story. Looking forward to that.

Plenty of celebrations, of course, planned across the country today in Washington. The president and first lady will be hosting a barbecue with active duty military service members and their families followed by a 4th of July celebration and fireworks. Just give you a taste of what those folks can expect, these are some images from last year's event, a concert hosted for military families there at the White House.

Well, here on CNN, we've got big plans for you tonight as well. You can join us for The Fourth in America, live fireworks from around the country, must see musical performances from Bebe Rexha, T Pain, Ashanti and The Killers.

You can catch it all right here on CNN. The party kicks off at 7:00 P.M. Eastern.

But first today, the president's fight. Within the last 24 hours, more calls for Joe Biden to step aside as concerns grow. One source telling CNN, in last night's Democratic House leadership call, several lawmakers urged Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to tell President Biden it is time to drop out of the race.

Now, Jeffries, for his part, did not share with colleagues what he thinks. The president should do. But that meeting comes as a second House Democrat is already calling on President Biden to withdraw and his serious doubt is setting in even in the highest levels of Biden's own administration about whether he can survive this. That's according to a senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Boston Globe's editorial board joining The New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's and calling for Biden to step aside, writing while the party is demoralized. Just panicked and angry, there is a ray of hope, a bevy of potential candidates are waning in the wings to take on Trump. All that they need is for Biden to graciously bow out of the race and free his delegates to cast their votes for someone else at the Democratic National Convention, going on to say, for the good of the country, his party, and his legacy, Biden must do this and soon.

The Biden campaign and the administration may not be helping amid all the questions with a narrative that has continually changed since that disastrous debate performance now a week ago.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: They said that President Biden had a cold and that he was recovering from that. I mean, that came about 50 minutes into the debate after he had been on.

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, there was a slow start, but it was a strong finish.

It was a slow start. That's obvious to everyone. I'm not going to debate that point.

REPORTER: Mr. President, how did you perform tonight?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think we did well.

REPORTER: Do you have any concerns about your performance?

BIDEN: No, it's hard to debate a liar.

I know I'm not a young man, to state the obvious.

I don't walk as easy as I used to. I don't speak as smoothly as I used to. I don't debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth and I know how to do this job.

MITCH LANDRIEU, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: The president politely declines a New York Times offer to stand down. He's going to stay in this race and he's going to win. People have bad nights. These things happen in campaigns. And I think everybody who watched that debate last night kind of wondered, you know, why did he show up that way? But it has happened before. It will happen again.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: According to the reporters who were in the room, the president acknowledged that he didn't have a great night on the debate stage, but neither did Trump. And he went on to say that he thinks voters are going to have a different reaction to the debate.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The Biden family is urging the president to stay in the race. First lady Jill Biden told Vogue magazine that President Biden, quote, will always do what's best for the country, adding, they will not let those 90 minutes define the four years he's been president.


We will continue the fight.

HARRIS: Look, Joe Biden is our nominee. We beat Trump once and we're going to beat him again, period.

REPORTER: Are you ready to lead the country if necessary?

HARRIS: I am proud to be Joe Biden's running mate.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not taking away from what you all saw or what the American people saw. We understand. It was a bad night.

REPORTER: What medication in the days or hours leading up to the debate.

JEAN-PIERRE: And I know that question has come in a couple of times to us. He was not taking any cold medication.

REPORTER: Was he taking any medication that would have interfered with his performance?

JEAN-PIERRE: He was not taking any cold medication.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He largely blamed the extensive travel that he did, the foreign travel that he did right before the debate. He apparently said that that was not a smart decision on his part. At one point, interestingly, he said, I almost fell asleep on stage.

You did get numerous questions yesterday about the president's debate performance. You didn't mention travel, the jet lag, the foreign trip. So, I think you can understand why it was a little bit puzzling to hear the president mentioning that as his explanation for the first time last night.


LEE: Can you clarify whether -- when you took the podium yesterday, did you not know that --

JEAN-PIERRE: And I want to say that is my bad.

I did know that. I did know that. I did. I did know that. But we were so focused. I was so focused on the cold, and that's what I kind of leaned into and talked about.


HILL: So, there's been a lot of back and forth. There was also new CNN reporting this morning, the White House changing the story again, looking to now set the record straight after the president said he actually did see a doctor in the days just after the debate. Just yesterday, the White House said the president had not had any medical exams since his physical back in February.

Joining me now, CNN's Arlette Saenz, who is at the White House this morning. So, just bring us up to speed on this latest reporting here. This came up as a question, then the president talked about seeing a doctor, I believe, in his meeting with governors yesterday, and then the White House essentially had to retract and go back and correct the record yet again.

SAENZ: Yes, Erica. There has been some conflicting statements from the White House in the last 24 hours relating to the president's medical examinations. But this morning, a White House spokesperson is saying that President Biden was examined by his doctor in the days after the debate. Advisers had long said that the president was experiencing a cold on debate night.

But this runs contrary to what White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday when she was asked by our colleague, M.J. Lee, whether President Biden had undergone any medical exams since his physical in February. I want to play for you the exchange that M.J. had with the press secretary just yesterday.


LEE: Has the president had any medical exams since his last annual physical in February?

JEAN-PIERRE: And got, and we were able to talk to his doctor about that, and that is a no.

LEE: He hasn't had any kind of medical exam?



SAENZ: Now, this morning, Politico first reported that President Biden told the group of more than 20 governors he met with yesterday that he had undergone a medical check and that he was fine. This morning, a White House spokesperson, Andrew Bates, said that several days after the debate, the president was seen to check on his cold and was recovering well. Another White House official added that this was a brief checkup with his doctor.

But so far there's no immediate explanation to why there have been these conflicting explanations offered, but it does come at a time when many Americans continue to hold reservations and concerns about President Biden's age and his ability to serve in a second term.

HILL: There is also an effort to get the president out there a little bit more. He actually took to the airwaves, taped two interviews yesterday, airing today, the first interviews that he's taped since the debate. Fairly friendly audiences, I believe. Talk to us more about this effort to get the president out there, which has taken a week.

SAENZ: Yes, it's been a week since President Biden's debate, and he still hasn't fully assuaged the concerns within his party about his ability to serve a second term and what it would mean if he means remains at the top of the Democratic ticket. But the White House has been trying to find these venues for the president to start engaging and taking his message directly to voters.

He did so taping a pair of radio interviews yesterday with two black radio hosts. Both of those interviews aired this morning. And he argued that voters should not simply judge him on the 90 minutes on the debate stage but also in his three and a half years in office and his record. The president was speaking primarily to black voters and talked about what an important role they will play in this upcoming election at a time when he was struggling with some black voters prior to the debate. Take a listen.


BIDEN: The vote of the black community matters intensely, intensely. Look, it would make up a significant portion of the American population.


Who's going to represent you except folks like me? And we're not going to be able to represent you if you're not showing up, in fact, to vote. It matters. Your voice has to be heard. Lots of close elections the last couple of years and every vote counts.


SAENZ: Now, Biden has privately acknowledged to an ally that the coming days will be critical to the future of his candidacy, and he's going to face a major test in the coming days as well, sitting for a major interview with ABC News tomorrow and traveling to the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in the next three days, all trying to take his case to voters following that halting debate performance.

HILL: Arlette Saenz at the White House this morning, Arlette, thank you.

Also with me now, David Walters, the former governor of Oklahoma, a member of the Democratic National Committee. Governor, good to see you this morning.

Give me a sense, over the last week, I have heard from lawmakers, as my colleagues have, I have heard from donors who have told me very clearly they are not getting the communication they need from the Biden camp, whether that is communication from the White House or the campaign itself. Are you getting the information that you need from the campaign at this point?

FMR. GOV. DAVID WALTERS (D-OK): I think you know, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee held a briefing last Saturday and I think did a good job of talking about all the things the campaign was engaged in, the many events that were going on, how confident they were in this. And they talked briefly about the debate performance, but not extensively. And but I do think there is a time now for more reality to have set in and for people to begin to look carefully at the alternate candidate polling statistics and to determine what the best option is going forward.

HILL: What do you believe the best option is going forward?

WALTERS: The best option is for the president, Joe Biden, and his family to come together and to try to make a reasoned decision based on how best to protect his legacy. Is that to continue on, or is that to step aside, allow new leadership to step into the role in contrast to Donald Trump?

And then he can -- I can imagine if the president did make this decision. him giving a wonderful speech to the nation that would bring us together, that would recite his legacy and that would have him going forward to complete his job, which he has done so impeccably well over the last years.

HILL: What is the timeline in your mind? When does that decision need to be made and what does it hinge on?

WALTERS: You know, we have four months. We've got you know, six weeks -- a little less than six weeks before the convention. I think there's still time for a week or ten days or maybe even two weeks to let the voter sentiment settle in, to let the polling get refined. There's a lot of polling out there now that suggests that if you poll the alternate candidates and Vice President Harris and President Biden, that there are several candidates that do much better in the swing states.

What we do know is that there's been an apparent collapse in the polls in the swing states. And, in fact, now we have two or three blue states that have suddenly become competitive, Virginia, New Hampshire, and some others, and Minnesota, for goodness sake. So, I think it's a it's a dire condition. I know people like to talk about bedwetting and too much worrying, but I think this is a very serious threat to our nation.

I agree with the president that the choices here is clear, but that's really not the issue. The issue is not the contrast between Trump and Biden. It's not about protecting Biden's legacy. This is about saving the nation from an existential threat from Donald Trump as he and his criminal gang go back to the White House.

HILL: Well, to that point, what we hear so often in the messaging is this is this existential threat from Democrats, right? So, you have to choose between the existential threat, who they view as Donald Trump, saving democracy. Joe Biden is the guy to do that. But the reality is this is more than -- and I think you're alluding to this, this is about more than just an election and who can win in November. For many voters now, and I would say beyond voters, elected officials, big donors, as we know, this is also about if the guy for the Democratic ticket remains Joe Biden, can he do this job for another four years? WALTERS: Yes, I don't have any question about that. I think Joe Biden did a marvelous job. He won a very close race and saved us from Donald Trump once. He led us out of the pandemic. He's built a robust economy. He's been brilliant internationally in his leadership. I think Joe Biden still has plenty of capacity to do a very good job going forward.

But in politics and campaigns, perception is greater than reality. He may be operating at 100 percent capacity.


But 14 months into this 18-month campaign, they're losing this argument, and the voters seem to be pulling away from this notion that he's a strong enough leader to continue. And that's the ballgame. If you don't win these swing states, if you don't hang on to the blue states, well, then Donald Trump becomes president.

HILL: Former Governor David Walters, great to have you with us this morning and happy Fourth. Thank you.

WALTERS: Thank you.

HILL: This just in to CNN, a White House official says President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to speak later this morning about the progress of a potential ceasefire deal in Gaza. According to an Israeli source familiar with these negotiations, Israel and Hamas appear to be on the brink of an initial agreement.

A deal, though it's important to point out, has not yet been finalized. It's been nearly two months since Biden and Netanyahu last spoke. A source telling CNN the two leaders will also meet in a few weeks when the Israeli prime minister is in Washington to address Congress.

Still ahead this morning, old broken down pile of crap, Donald Trump not shy about his feelings when it comes to President Biden and his debate performance. That's next.

Plus, all day, we are celebrating America on this 4th of July. So as we head into break here, a little look at Lady Liberty herself, my neighbor, just a little bit south here in New York City, of course, one of the nation's most beloved icons and certainly gets a little extra attention every year on America's birthday.



HILL: An old broken down pile of crap, how about that? That is Donald Trump's assessment of Joe Biden's debate performance. The candid reaction caught on a secret recording, which was obtained by the Daily Beast. Trump speaking with supporters on his golf course also hurled insults at Vice President Kamala Harris while insinuating she will ultimately be his election opponent. CNN's Steve Contorno joining me now. So, Steve, look, it's important to note too, this was -- we mentioned how that audio was obtained, but for the most part, the former president has been remarkably quiet since the debate, and every Republican I speak to notes that this is a great plan, and it's a good thing that he is listening to his campaign advisers there. They just want Democrats to hold on to the headlines and the chaos right now.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Erica. Certainly they are enjoying watching Democrats be in the spotlight for once, and they intend to continue to let the focus sit on Joe Biden's debate performance and the Democratic handwringing over what to do next. And that is going to be their posture through the holiday weekend.

Now, he will hold a rally on Tuesday at his Doral resorts. However, he has remained remarkably quiet and that is not just because it's been good for the campaign to stay out of its own way but also because they are watching this unfold just like everybody else. And they don't know where it's going to end either.

Donald Trump has been saying publicly for about a year that he thinks Joe Biden wouldn't make it to November. Well, now that we are closer to that actually happening. They don't really have a contingency plan for what to do next, and so they are just like everyone else, trying to figure out what mechanisms there might actually exist for Joe Biden to step down at this point.

Now, they believe that it is more than likely Joe Biden will remain their opponent through the rest of this election. However, they are starting to consider contingencies and to start reading up on some of the people who are being thrown out there as possible replacements.

And for the first time, they acknowledged publicly all this speculation around all this Democratic handwringing, putting out a statement that said, quote, every Democrat who is calling on Crooked Joe Biden to quit was once a supporter of Biden and his failed policies that led to extreme inflation and open border and chaos at home and abroad. Every one of them has lied about Joe Biden's cognitive state and supported his disastrous policies over the past four years, especially Cackling Co-Pilot Kamala Harris.

So, clearly, there are quite a few shots at the Democratic field, as well as Vice President Harris. And I'm told that there is concern that a change at this point would bring a lot of uncertainty into this race. One Republican pollster telling me, quote, you'd rather the devil you know than the devil you don't.

HILL: Yes. All that time and money that they have spent on planning the race against Joe Biden, this certainly throws it up in the air. Steve Contorno, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Still ahead here this hour, we are continuing to keep a close watch on Hurricane Beryl. It's now a strong Category 3 storm moving from Jamaica now to the Cayman Islands. We're going to be joined by a hurricane hunter on what it's like to venture into the eye of the storm and what this storm is telling us about what's ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HILL: Right now, Hurricane Beryl is battering the Cayman Islands. Heavy rain, 120 mile-per-hour winds. The storm is now a Category 3 hurricane, and it is expected to bring a dangerous storm surge of up to four feet above normal, before then making landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula tomorrow. Communities, meantime, across Jamaica, well, they're now wading through the damage, cleaning up after Beryl pounded that island with destructive winds, nearly nine feet of storm surge in Jamaica. The death toll this morning from Beryl stands at eight.

Look at some of these pictures. So these are some of the pictures from Jamaica's capital of Kingston. You can see the before and after there of a bridge that you really can't see anymore. After it was submerged in floodwaters. Abbott Elementary actress Sheryl Lee Ralph was in Kingston when that hurricane hit and she shared this update.


SHERYL LEE RALPH, ACTRESS: We don't have any lights. There is no power, but we have life. Thank you all for understanding. Kingston is on the south coast. We got scrubbed by the eye of Beryl, but she is on her way off somewhere else.


HILL: Joining me now on the phone from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Pituch. He's the commander of the Air Force unit known as the Hurricane Hunters. He flew a mission into Hurricane Beryl.

So, you had, Lieutenant Colonel, an aerial view into the eye of this storm. How did it match up? Really powerful when you were in there. It still is powerful but it was even above a Cat 3 when you were there in it.

LT. COL. STEPHEN PITUCH, 53RD WRS COMMANDER, ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: That's correct. Yes. Thanks for having me this morning. We flew it approximately 36 hours ago, still a low Cat 5 strong, Cat 4 when we were in the storm.


Unfortunately, not much of a view, it was through the night. Landed about 1:30 in the morning down here.