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Hurricane Beryl in Cayman Islands; Allies Eyeing Biden's Next Moves; Biden Resists Growing Calls to End Re-Election Bid; Joey Chestnut Missing at the Hot Dog Eating Contest; New U.S. Citizens Welcomed in Naturalization Ceremonies. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 10:30   ET




LT. COL. STEPHEN PITUCH, 53RD WRS COMMANDER, ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: -- 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. It landed about 1:30 in the morning down here in Saint Croix. So, not a whole lot of viewing.

A lot of lightning, a lot of strong wind, rain, and hail were mixed in with it where we were up there. Still seeing winds in the high 140s at altitude when we passed. But it was definitely a strong storm that's leaving a wake behind it.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: We've been talking a lot about how big this storm is, how early it is. Of course, this is the -- this was the first recorded Cat 5 on record, right, this early in the season. Is there anything else you noticed in the storm that may signal to you what's to come for the rest of this hurricane season, which is expected to be pretty active?

PITUCH: (INAUDIBLE) that would give us a new insight into what the rest of the season would be like. It was a little abnormal in the sense that the northwest quadrant was stronger than the northeast quadrant when we were there. A lot of rain focused on the north side. The southern side wasn't as large of a storm when we were there, but these storms change literally every hour, hour and a half, they have their own attitude and personality as they develop and go through Iowa regenerations and their life cycle changes.

So, they're never the same for more than about an hour or two until they reach, you know, a strong Cat 5 and they become established and stay that way. And this one luckily has been spinning back down. It's falling. That's (INAUDIBLE) a lot of what the forecast is said it would. So, hopefully, we'll continue to spin down as it gets closer and closer to the Yucatan Peninsula.

HILL: And give us a sense when you are up there, the type of data that you're collecting. What is that data? How is it used?

PITUCH: All the barometric pressures, all the surface winds, the wave heights, the speeds across, both the water and the air up to altitude, all the way to the surface, all that's being collected and SATCOMed out to the National Hurricane Center down in Miami and NOAA and they build all the models and all the meteorologists get their forecast data from there.

So, we're pretty much putting out all the real-time data for them to build these forecasts. And put the storm surge, the warning areas, everything that's being used for these small islands and countries and the coastlines of the U.S. as these storms approach.

HILL: All that essential information to plan and to allow people to hopefully stay safe. Real quickly before I let you go, will you be heading back up into Beryl at this point?

PITUCH: We will be leaving Croix hopefully here tomorrow. We have planes still flying in it right now, and they'll be starting to launch out of Biloxi, Mississippi, at Keesler Air Force Base. They'll be launching out of there either late -- early tomorrow, late tomorrow timeframe. And then, hopefully, we'll see if they need me to jump back in and fly again. And if they do, that's what we do, so we'll be on the way. If not, the cruise will be flying it until landfall across Yucatan. And then, once it goes back into the Bay of Campeche, we'll be on it again to see how it builds and changes until it reaches landfall again on the other side of the South Texas or Northern Mexico. We'll see.

HILL: All right. Well, we will be watching as well. Appreciate you taking the time to join us today, Lieutenant Colonel. Thank you.

PITUCH: Anytime. Thanks. Have a good day.

HILL: You too. Just ahead here, as concerns are mounting at home over President Biden's mental fitness, what are our allies seeing overseas? The impact that this ongoing debate in the country may be having on the world stage, that's ahead.

Plus, all day here we are celebrating America on this 4th of July. So, as we head into a break, it is never too early in the day for fireworks, my friends, especially on the 4th. These coming to you from the skies above the largest overseas U.S. military installation in South Korea.



HILL: As pressure continues to mount for President Biden, more moments of concern are coming to light. The New York Times reporting this week that Biden's lapses over the last few months are "increasingly common and worrisome" according to those around the president.

David Sanger shares the byline on that piece for The Times. He's of course, also a CNN political and national security analyst and the author of "New Cold Wars: China's Rise, Russia's Invasion, and America's Struggle to Defend the West." David, good to see you this morning. I'm curious, in the wake of your reporting, if more people have come forward to you and your colleagues expressing concern or sharing other moments with you.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST AND WHITE HOUSE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, good morning, Erica, and happy 4th to you. We have heard from some more. We've certainly heard a lot of concerns. It's been interesting that not many Democrats have openly said that the president should drop out. We've, of course, seen one or two of those, there was a statement last night from Seth Moulton, who's a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts. Occupies, I think, one of the old districts of roughly equivalent to what John F. Kennedy district was near Boston. And he walked right up to the edge of saying that the president should cede the post to another candidate.

But I think they want to give the president time to get there himself. I think this interview that's got coming up tomorrow with George Stephanopoulos is viewed by the White House as a critical part of trying to restore confidence. But when you think about it, it's been a week since the debate, and the calls have only grown louder since that time.

HILL: You know, it's such an important point, it has been a week. And we have heard -- we've heard of these plans, right? There were two radio interviews which were taped yesterday, which aired today. We have the Stephanopoulos interview coming up, some campaign events coming up. I believe it was on Tuesday, though, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, I'm paraphrasing here, was saying, you know, we want to get him out there across the country, and we want to look forward.

The reality is, to your point, David, there has been a full week here where the president could have been interacting more, whether it's with voters, taking questions from reporters at some of these events at the White House. That lack of interaction and the lag time on it is creating separate concerns. Does the White House --


SANGER: I think that's right.

HILL: Sorry. Go ahead.

SANGER: I was just going to say, there's risk both ways, Erica for the president. Sorry to interrupt you there. One is get him out more to show that that was just an anomaly on Thursday night. On the other hand, the more you have mouth, the more you more risk you're taking.

HILL: When you look at this from, if we step back and we look at it, I mean, this is dominating, right? It's dominating the headlines because there are still so many questions because we're waiting for that next big interview, certainly dominating the coverage here in the United States.

Globally, as we take a look at it, what is the impact of this will he, won't he discussion that we're having here domestically? SANGER: Well, I think there are two elements to it. I've been in the past two weeks in Britain, in Brussels, and in Berlin and basically heard versions of the same thing. This was both before and after the debate. So, the closest U.S. allies view the Biden presidency as a great relief from Trump era because at least the alliance was steadfast.

And, you know, during that time NATO countries did step up and contribute a lot more to the alliance in large part because of Ukraine and because they see their concerns about what Vladimir Putin might be doing next. On the other hand, while they are very apprehensive about the possibility of a return to a Trump presidency, I think they were truly shaken by what they saw in the debate, including a failure by the president at that time to make the case for how he had rallied the world on Ukraine, which is something he has done routinely at many other -- in many other times.

I think they're pretty nervous, and we're going to get a real dose of this next week, because Tuesday is the long planned 75th anniversary of NATO in Washington, with 32 national leaders roughly in the capital. The president's going to be meeting with many of them, and they're going to have a moment to take their measure at this period where they feel the U.S. is sort of right on the precipice.

HILL: Yes, certainly a lot riding on that summit next week. David, always good to see you, and happy 4th to you as well, my friend. Thanks.

SANGER: Happy 4th, Erica.

HILL: I had here next, 23 years after first coming to this country, one woman can now officially say she is an American. You're going to meet her next and hear her story about her community commitment and her commitment to her country as well.

We are, of course, celebrating America on this 4th of July. That looks like a lovely place to celebrate in Florida. This is courtesy of EarthCam. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea there. A nice place to spend your day. Many Americans, of course, heading to a beach somewhere. Maybe a barbecue. Hope you're enjoying it.



HILL: It is a 4th of July tradition. You've got the parades, you've got the fireworks, you've got the barbecues, soon there's going to be a new top dog as well. The annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition, but notably missing this year, 16-time champion Joey Chestnut. Our own Andy Scholes joins us now. This is a major loss, perhaps for the competition or win, depending on how you look at it, actually. He's out because, I mean, I guess in some ways, Nathan's feels like he made a deal with the devil. What's the story, Andy?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes. So, Joey Chestnut, he signed a deal with Impossible Foods. Yes, is a vegan hot dog. I guess so. And they're like, basically, look, if you're with a competing brand, you're not allowed to compete in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. So, we're not going to get any joy Chestnuts today, Erica.

First time since 2000 that he and Kobayashi, neither of them will be in this event. Chestnut will still be competing today. He's actually going to be taking on some U.S. soldiers at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He's doing that just to help raise money for some military families. Not going to be the, the level of competition that he faced there at Coney Island in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

So, with Chestnut out, you might be asking, well, who is going to win this competition? Well, Geoffrey Esper from Massachusetts is the betting favorite right now. He's the second ranked eater in the world. He came in second to Chestnut last year in the competition. And Esper has actually eaten 17 and three quarters of bagels with cream cheese in eight minutes.

HILL: Wow.

SCHOLES: Think about that, Erica, more than 17 bagels in eight minutes. That is an impressive number. But --

HILL: I'm letting it all sink in, Andy.

SCHOLES: Yes, that's a lot. I would have loved to have witnessed that happen. James Webb, he's the second favorite today, Erica, but he's from Australia. So, we can't have him winning on the 4th of July. So, we're big Esper fans today. And you might be wondering, well, how many hot dogs do they end up eating today with Chestnut not in the competition. So, he ate a record 76 back in 2021. Just 62 last year, but with him not in the competition, the over under right now is just 51 and a half dogs.

HILL: Is that all?

SCHOLES: That's it. So, 51 and a half. That's dog and bun dipped in water. And --

HILL: Right, right.

SCHOLES: But I don't -- in 10 minutes, Erica, give me a number. How many hot dogs do you think you can eat?

HILL: In 10 minutes? Like, you're lucky if I'm getting one. Andy, but next year, maybe this is time for you to start training and next year you can get in on this. There's an opening here. I see it for you.

SCHOLES: Oh, I don't know. I'm not about dipping buns in water. I'm not here for that.

HILL: Noted. Noted. Good to see you, my friend. Happy 4th.

SCHOLES: All right. You too.

[10:50:00] HILL: Well, this is a very special Independence Day for 100 newly minted United States citizens. They just took the oath of allegiance at President George Washington's home, Mount Vernon. This is one of several naturalization ceremonies happening around the country today. And joining us now, one of those newly minted U.S. citizens, Maria Becerra Barrera.

Congratulations, Maria. First of all, it's great to have you with us. How are you feeling? Do you feel any different?

MARIA BECERRA BARRERA, NEW U.S. CITIZEN: I sure do. I think this moment I've been waiting for over 24 years. So, I'm happy to be here and finally call myself official an American. And I can finally join my family as being an American. And it's a special day. It's 4th of July. George Washington's home. It can't get any better.

HILL: Yes, you're checking all of the boxes there for a true 4th of July celebration.

BARRERA: Yes, absolutely. (INAUDIBLE). Yes.

HILL: You were -- as I understand, I think you were eight years old when you came to the U.S. from Bolivia. What made you ultimately want to become a citizen?

BARRERA: I think, for me, it really resonated on September 11. I happen to be here. My dad was actually working at the Pentagon that day. So, it really made me realize I really, truly want to be an American. And I already felt like this is already home. And ever since then, I devoted my time and happened -- making that dream come true. And thanks to my husband, he's been supporting me throughout the years and he's here with me and we're both embracing the moment and just happy that it's finally done. But we're starting a new chapter as a family.

HILL: It's wonderful. You talk about starting a chapter of a family. I believe you have to two children as well. You and your husband are both really committed to your community. Can you just talk to us a little bit more about that? Because I think, especially in these moments where it feels like people are so divided, it's nice to take a moment and sit back and remember how united we really are in so many ways. And I think the way you feel about your community is a perfect example of that.

BARRERA: Absolutely. You know, my husband is a firefighter. So, he is and always helping everyone. And I'm just happy that I get to join him in that sense. I mean, we've always been part of our community, helping and volunteering our time when we can. So, we're just happy that we're finally get officially to call myself an American.

HILL: Yes. It's a pretty exciting day for you. What do you love about this country on this Independence Day? What do you think makes the United States a special place?

BARRERA: The possibilities are endless. I think that's what makes it great. And, you know, the possibility as I was little, I imagine what can I be. And it's still -- the choices is endless for me and my children. So, that's one thing that I love the most about this country.

HILL: What do your kids think about today, about this moment for you?

BARRERA: Oh, they're so happy. They finally get to say, oh, mommy's an American just like us. So, they're very, very happy.

HILL: It's not the easiest process, by the way, to become a citizen. It takes a little bit, doesn't it?

BARRERA: It does. I started my process, unfortunately, the pandemic hit. So, it delayed it even extra two years. So, it's been seven years trying. And finally, that part has ended.

HILL: And when you -- you know, this all happened for you today out at Mount Vernon. I'm just curious, how were you able to make that happen, to choose to take that pledge, to take this oath on July 4th in that location?

BARRERA: We didn't get to choose, but when I received the letter and I saw the date and the location, I just thought it was so appropriate and it just felt right.

HILL: Yes. How do you plan to spend the rest of this 4th of July, you're very first as an official American?

BARRERA: Actually, it's my nephew's fifth birthday. So, it's a special year for me. So, happy birthday, Geo (ph). But yes, we'll be celebrating his fifth birthday with my family, and just enjoying the day as usual. And we're going to go see the fireworks in Leesburg.

HILL: Well, it sounds like a great day. Wish him a happy birthday from us as well. Congratulations, Maria. And thanks for taking the time to join us today.

BARRERA: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

HILL: And of course, in terms of celebrations, we have one for you right here on CNN. Fireworks coming your way from across the country tonight. Must see musical performances and a whole lot more. Be sure to tune in for "The Fourth in America." Everything kicks off tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Stay with us. More news after a short break.



HILL: Good morning and a happy 4th of July to you. Thanks for joining us here in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Erica Hill in New York with our festive music.

It is a hot one, I probably don't need to tell you that, across much of the U.S. Many folks are going to be really experiencing that heat as they celebrate the country's 248th birthday. And it is extra special for a number of Americans. Thousands of people have that extra reason to celebrate today because they are newly minted American citizens. About 200 naturalization ceremonies being held this week.

Also, looking ahead to tonight --




HILL: Bebe Rexha there, of course, who will be right at home here on CNN, performing tonight as part of our Independence Day celebration. We have live fireworks from across the country, and in addition to Bebe Rexha, you'll see.