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Hurricane Beryl Batters Cayman Islands; President Biden Increasingly Under Fire. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 04, 2024 - 11:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Performing tonight as part of our Independence Day celebration. We have live fireworks from across the country. And in addition to Bebe Rexha, you will see performances from The Killers, Ashanti, T-Pain, and more. It all kicks off right here at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

So you will want to be sure to stay with us for that.

Still a lot of news, though, happening on this holiday and certainly a lot of news that is focused around the president, President Biden struggling to convince a wary nation that he is healthy, robust enough and ready for that second term.

There's new CNN reporting this morning too that is perhaps raising some more questions, the White House now setting the record straight, saying today that, in fact, the president did see a doctor in the days after that debate, the very difficult debate -- excuse me -- a week ago.

Just yesterday, though, the White House when asked by my colleague M.J. Lee at the briefing, said he hadn't had any medical exams since February.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House this morning.

So, this correction, I guess, Arlette, isn't the first one. What are we hearing now from the White House about the president and whether or not he did see a doctor?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, you're right. There have been these conflicting reports over the past 24 hours relating to President Biden's medical examinations.

This morning, a White House spokesperson saying that he was in fact- checked out by his doctor in the days after the debate, during which aides had said that the president had been experiencing a cold. Now, this is different than what White House press Secretary Karine Jean- Pierre explained yesterday when she was asked specifically by our colleague M.J. Lee whether the president had undergone any medical examinations since his physical that took place in February.

I want to play for you a clip of that exchange that happened in the White House press Briefing Room just yesterday.


M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Has the president had any medical exams since his last annual physical in February?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And the doctor -- 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, Politico first reported this morning that President Biden told the group of governors he gathered with last night that he was -- did have a medical checkup following the debate 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 officials described this as a brief check with his doctor.

The White House hasn't explained why they offered these conflicting explanations, but it does come at a time when many Americans and Democratic allies have started to express concern about the president's age and his ability to serve in a second term.

HILL: Separately, when it comes to the business of being president, Arlette, we're also learning that President Biden is speaking with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning.

SAENZ: Yes, that's right.

President Biden is expected to jump on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That's according to several sources I spoke to this morning. I'm also told that Vice President Kamala Harris will also be on that phone call. She has joined some of these calls between Biden and the prime minister in the past.

But it does come as there have been some developments relating to the talks for a possible hostage and cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. Hamas indicated that they had presented a response to the mediators in Qatar and Egypt in recent days.

The Israelis have been looking at that response, deciding what the next steps forward would be. But, of course, President Biden has long hoped that there would be some type of way to reach a cease-fire agreement that would ensure the release of hostages and also an eventual end to this war.

That is a politically tricky issue for Biden, especially as there are some in his own party who are quite frustrated with the way that he has handled this conflict between Israel and Hamas. We know that that is a concern for many young voters, as well as Arab American and Muslim American voters in this country.

So we will see what kind of progress is made in those potential talks in the coming days and what arises from President Biden's conversation with Netanyahu a bit later this morning. We are anticipating that the two men likely would meet when Netanyahu travels here to Washington a bit later in the month to address Congress, and so still many moving parts relating to that relationship, but also this conflict between Israel and Hamas.

HILL: Yes, absolutely. Arlette, appreciate it and appreciate the new reporting. Thank you.

In a pair of taped radio interviews that aired this morning, the president said it's time to move forward with his campaign. On "The Earl Ingram Show," which is out of Wisconsin, he stressed how important black voters are to this election.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vote of the black community matters intensely, intensely.

Look, it makes up a significant portion of the American population. Who's going to represent you except folks like me?


HILL: And when talking about last week's debate, the president admitted to the radio program "The Source" he had a bad night.


ANDREA LAWFUL-SANDERS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Is there any reason for the American people to be concerned?


BIDEN: No. I had a bad debate.



BIDEN: I had a bad debate. But 90 minutes on stage is -- does not erase what I have done for three-and-a-half years. Proud of the record. And we just got to keep moving.


HILL: Well, joining me now is the host of the source, that radio program, Andrea Lawful-Sanders.

It's great to have you with us this morning.

Look, you got right in there with the president in this interview, which aired this morning. What are you hearing from your listeners in reaction to what the president told you?

LAWFUL-SANDERS: I am so glad that -- first of all, thank you for having me on this morning on your show. It is an honor.

I am so happy that that was the first question that you asked, because right after the interview aired at 6:00 this morning, I began getting comments like: "You just saved the democracy. You were patient. You were kind. You allowed him to speak. And we understood what he was saying" amidst the noise that we had been hearing about the fact that he was too old and it was time for him to retire and give it to someone else.

And so I was proud of that. I was proud that WURD was chosen to be a part of this conversation, so that people could get a clearer sense of what he was discussing and why he wanted to stay as the presumptive nominee for Democratic president of the United States of America.

HILL: You told my colleague Laura Coates that you were a little concerned in the wake of the debate.


HILL: I think -- were your listeners as concerned?

LAWFUL-SANDERS: It was interesting, because the listeners, as we were concerned, myself, Joann Bell, James Peterson, and Nile Blass, who is 24 years old, we found someone who was much younger who was willing to have the conversation with us.

As we were beginning to feel concerned, the listeners said -- and they were typing away as we were talking -- they said: "I don't care if he's walking with a cane. I'm voting for Joe Biden. I am watching my freedoms slipping away."

And, at that point, the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on all the things that they'd come down with a day later, and that even solidified it even more for them that they would rather vote for Joe Biden than Donald Trump.

So I was so heartened by that. I have been in many living rooms having this conversation over the last few months, and I said to the people who were waffling, oh, my God, this doesn't look good, et cetera, et cetera, I said, you have been listening to two men. Both of them are older than we would have liked them to be.

But of the two men that you are listening to, who was the one that would make more sense for the United States of America? Who is the one that would work with the people? Who was the one that has the data, the proven policies that would give us what we needed as a country to move forward?

We're already so fractured from what happened on January 6, 2021. This has only frightened the people more. And so many of my friends have gotten passports and visas and gone on to other places to live as a direct result...

HILL: Wow.

LAWFUL-SANDERS: ... black and white, right?

And so we have to create a space of calm in our country, bring it back to center, and find ways for us to work together again.

HILL: When you got this call, was it the White House or the campaign that reached out and said, we'd love for you to speak with the president?

LAWFUL-SANDERS: Both, the White House and the campaign. And they called and said: "We have been listening to you. We want to give you this opportunity."

And I tell people all the time, when you do your work and do it well and keep your head down, people will notice. You don't have to draw attention to yourself.

And so, on WURD Radio, which is a small station, only one of four that is owned -- four owned black media stations in the country, I said to Sara Lomax, who is the owner, and it's independently operated, I said to her in 2019: "Sara, the ultimate goal is to get people to work together, to get our folks to understand the importance of what it is to be black in our community and to take on the stories that matter most to us."

In a time where we can only get 30 seconds on another radio station or 15 seconds on air at a television station, we're able to delve a little deeper. So it is an honor. When I tell you it is an honor for us to have been chosen, it truly was.

HILL: And then that gives you the opportunity to express what your listeners are saying and feeling and the questions that they have.

Look, the interview with you -- I also spoke with Earl Ingram out of Wisconsin. He did an interview yesterday as well. These are two important places for President Biden, of course, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.


HILL: We know he's going to be making trips there. There is so much talk about whether the president not only can win this election, but whether he can serve, whether he is fit to serve another four years. Those questions are out there.

Based on your conversation with him, do you believe he is?

LAWFUL-SANDERS: I believe he is fit.

But I also want to remind people that he is not the he's the face, the figurehead, as president of the United States. He has a whole staff around him that has created so many changes over the last three years. Now, I'm not telling people who to vote for one way or the other.

[11:10:00] I just want them to take a look and see what's happening on either side of the aisle and decide which would be best for their life, their well-being and their freedoms.

So, people, as I'm talking to them, are saying things to me like: "Andrea, I don't care if they have to roll them in a wheelchair. I'm voting for Joe Biden. I don't care. We are seeing our freedoms in a way as black people."

He has helped with black wealth, as he told me; 60 percent of black wealth -- black wealth grew 60 percent since the COVID. He says we have to do more. He's talked about debt, student debt relief. He's talked about pouring money into creating spaces for black-owned businesses so that we can grow our wealth.

He's talked about putting $16 billion into HBCUs. The man is one of the few people. And that includes Barack Obama, our former President Barack Obama, who has just really honed and focused in on people of color in this country. And then he went further to create spaces where we have the most black justices, the black judges, federal judges.

He's the only president that's created that many black judges in the country. So, we have to look at his record, right, not just look at his frailty.

And as someone who's from the island of Jamaica, I tell people all the time, we have to stop discarding our elderly, right? They have not lost their minds. They have worked so hard to get to where they are. And, yes, we slow down as we get older and our bodies move a little slower.

But we tend to be moved by what we see people doing, how charismatic they are, and not by the truths or untruth we hear.

HILL: Andrea Lawful-Sanders, really appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning. Thank you. And happy Fourth.

LAWFUL-SANDERS: You are so welcome. Bye-bye.

HILL: Let's discuss more with CNN political commentators now Shermichael Singleton and Maria Cardona.

Good to see the both of you. Happy Fourth to you as well, my friends.





HILL: Thank you.

The fact that the White House, the campaign has started to put the president out there for these taped interviews, I know, Maria, that is part of the plan, right?

CARDONA: That's exactly right.

HILL: Get him in front of more Americans.

But it does beg the question, why did it take a week after this debate for that to start?

CARDONA: Yes, I agree. And those questions are out there.

But I think the important thing, Erica, is not just the fact that they're doing it, but exactly what Andrea has said was a reaction of her listeners, because that is not a one-off. I have been hearing from so many people that I talk to from groups that are going door-to-door in swing states post-debate, and the sentiment is very, very much the same, Erica.

They saw what we all saw on Thursday night. There's no question about that. But what Andrea underscored, I think, is the critical piece that has been missing in so much breathless coverage since Thursday about the president and whether he should drop out and who's going to replace him if that happens, and is he well, can he do another four years, when, in fact, the voters actually also listened to what the two candidates were saying on Thursday night.

And I think it comes down to this, Erica. Millions of voters today would rather take Joe Biden on his worst day or his worst night than somebody like Donald Trump, who wants to impose the imperial presidency, who is a 34-times convicted felon, fraudster, somebody who is accused and was found guilty of sexual abuse, and somebody who would rip babies from the arms of their mother, somebody who would put in place mass deportation camps around the country.

I also heard your amazing interview with Maria Becerra Barrera (ph), who just got her citizenship. And everything that she talked about, the promise of this country, which is the reason my family came here when I was 2 years old,all of that is in major jeopardy because of Donald Trump and what he wants to impose.

The imperial presidency given to him by the MAGA Supreme Court sponsored by Donald Trump is a huge flash point for millions of voters in this country.

HILL: It is absolutely a flash point, and I agree with you. And I think it is really important to hear from hosts like Andrea, to hear from Earl Ingram, who I heard from last night talking about what their voters are saying.

But we also can't ignore the voters who are speaking to the pollsters, and there have been multiple polls since the debate. And on the low end, right, they're all at about 70 percent and up as showing, Shermichael, that, in the wake of the debate, there are a number of voters in this country who don't believe Joe Biden is the man for the job.

I wonder, Shermichael, do you think the messaging or lack thereof from Biden's team has contributed to that at all, because it's been all over the map? It was a bad debate because it was a cold. Then he had jet lag, but the White House didn't know he had jet lag. Then he hadn't seen a doctor. Now we're learning he did see a doctor. None of this is helping.

SINGLETON: Yes, I mean, look, in terms of strategic messaging, this has been a complete nightmare.


And if I were one of President Biden's closest advisers, I would probably advise the president that it's time to dismiss a couple people. The fact that it's taken them this long to try to find a cohesive and coherent message is incredibly problematic.

And I'm just saying this as a conservative here. I just -- I'm baffled by the fact that it's taken this long. Now, I will give credit to the fact that the president did speak to Andrea. I think it's very, very smart to go to where your weaknesses are, but to the groups that are most likely to come to rally behind you, such as black voters, maybe Latino voters, maybe looking at younger voters.

So I will give credit there. I think they need to do a lot more of that to sort of shore up support around the president. It's good that they're sitting with George this Friday. I don't think that's enough, Erica. I think you have to put the president in front of a live audience, whether that's a town hall.

Maybe it's in front of a pool of reporters for 30 or 45 minutes, so that you can display to the American people who are now skeptical about your candidate that, despite the age, maybe he's a little slower, that he still has the mental faculties to lead the country for another four years.

And so until they can move over that hurdle, they're going to still have an issue with the poll numbers.

HILL: I was struck by a moment in this interview, which aired this morning, where Joe Biden sounded a little bit more forceful than I think we have heard him be, at least certainly in the last few weeks. Take a listen.


LAWFUL-SANDERS: What do you say to the people who plan on sitting this election out?

BIDEN: Same thing that was said to me when I was a young kid getting out of school during the civil rights movement. If you don't do something about it, you're to blame. You're responsible.


HILL: Maria, that's more forceful messaging. Do you think Joe Biden is feeling the reality of this moment here and seeing, right -- he's talked about what he believe is at stake, but do you think something has shifted?

CARDONA: Well, I don't know if -- shifted in the sense that he didn't know the urgency of the moment before this. I think he always has.

But, yes, you're right. He knows what's at stake, especially after Thursday. There's no question about that, Erica. And Shermichael is right that he needs to be out there doing more of what we just heard, because that's the Joe Biden that won in 2020.

That's the Joe Biden that I believe is going to show up for the rest of the campaign. But he needs to show it. He does need to be out there talking to voters.

But let me talk a little bit about the polls that you just mentioned, Erica, because, frankly...

HILL: I'm going to make you do it quickly, because we're almost out of time.


CARDONA: OK, frankly, those aren't the polls that matter, because we know, from the beginning, polls have showed that they don't want either candidate, because they think both candidates are too old.

The polls that matter are the heads-to-heads. And, right now, there has not been a fundamental shift in the foundationals of the campaign. There have been polls that have shown Joe Biden ahead, tied, and a little bit behind. So let's see what happens in the next couple of days.

SINGLETON: But I would say quickly, Erica -- I know we're almost out of time -- if you look at the battleground state polls, former President Trump has seen a net increase around 3 to 4 percentage points in terms of his advantage.

HILL: And it is those swing states, I know that...


HILL: ... even just speaking to folks from the DNC this morning, those are really -- the more swing state polling is what they're really waiting on. And there is some concern.

Look, the good news is, my friends, we're out of time today...


HILL: ... but this will not be the last time we have this discussion.

I hope you both have a great holiday. Thank you.

CARDONA: Happy July Fourth, Erica.

SINGLETON: You too, Erica. Thank you. HILL: Still to come here: Hurricane Beryl hitting the Cayman Islands

now after pummeling Jamaica. So, could this massive storm soon threaten the United States?

Plus, the first TV interview with a Boeing whistle-blower. What this 30-year veteran of the company is now telling CNN.

Stay with us. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HILL: This just in.

The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta has been canceled. They have canceled the rest of the event due to the extreme heat. Just after 10:30 this morning, organizers -- and, keep in mind here, this is the world's largest 10K race. They said they had stopped recording official results, and they were asking all participants to leave the area.

The heat index in Atlanta is already 92 degrees. It is forecasted to reach over 100 today. The race did begin earlier this morning, so most of the elite runners and a large portion of the other participants had already finished by the time that announcement was made, again, just under an hour ago.

Well, right now, Hurricane Beryl is battering Cayman Islands, 115- mile-per-hour winds, heavy rain. It's a Category 3 storm at this point, but is expected to bring a storm surge with it of up to four feet above normal, and then we will head on to make a landfall tomorrow in Mexico.

Meantime, in Jamaica, it is the aftermath that they're dealing with, surveying the damage this morning after Beryl slammed into the island, destructive winds there in terms of the storm surge, nearly nine feet when it roared across Jamaica. At least two people were killed, we have learned.

This brings the total death toll related to Beryl now to nine.

Here's Rafael Romo with more.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was one of the most powerful hurricanes that I have ever seen. Beryl hammered the island for several hours with devastating winds and torrential rains.

And, as you can see behind me, it -- the winds were powerful enough to carry a boat across the bay, 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 eye wall 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, PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA: 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.

FMR. STATE REP. DONNA MCLEOD (D-GA): I'm going to cry because this is the place I was born. It's been nine years since I have been back. And I -- 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'll take.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Kingston, Jamaica.


HILL: Just ahead here: He visited every county in the United States. And, in case you didn't know, that means 3,143 counties. So, what did he learn about connecting with Americans of all stars and stripes? Well, we will ask him directly.

Stay with us. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)