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Biden Faces Critical Day of Campaigning, Primetime Interview; Framework in Place for Ceasefire and Hostage Release Deal; Labour Party Landslide Ends 14 Years of Conservative Rule. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good morning to you. You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

Today is a pivotal day for Joe Biden, the candidate. Next hour, the president will leave the White House for an afternoon campaign event in Wisconsin. And it is there where he will sit down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos for an interview that could decide whether his re- election can survive.

This will be his first television interview since the CNN debate, when his many stumbles and stammers raised serious questions inside his own party about his ability to leave for more years. Wary Americans will be closely scrutinizing everything he says and does, and how he does it, with one lost thought, potentially, ending his campaign. But Biden is digging in, insisting he is not dropping out.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This could not be done without the family support. So, thank you, thank you, thank you, we love you, and I really mean it from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Thank you.

You got me, man. I'm not going anywhere. All right.


SCIUTTO: I'm not going anywhere, he says. So, let's go to the White House, CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. Priscilla, I understand you have new reporting just in about how the White House, how the Biden team is viewing this interview tonight.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Look, Jim, this is going to be a high-stakes moment for President Biden as he tries to reassure allies and voters through this primetime interview. Biden campaign officials tell me they recognize that. But they also note and are managing expectations and expectations with the president's verbal missteps. He has prone to those. He has talked about that before, noting that he has taken efforts to overcome his childhood stutter. So, at times, that is what is coming through. And there has been pushback as well over the last several days from the Biden campaign when there is a magnification of those verbal missteps, with one spokesperson saying that it is, quote, not news, end quote, past the point of absurdity.

But what is the point here, Jim, is that while the president's -- what the president says in this interview is going to be important, it's also the delivery of how he says it, to try in hopes that he can show that reassurance by also demonstrating that vigor and aggressiveness that allies or rather, I should say, officials and advisers say they see behind the scenes.

SCIUTTO: Priscilla, this morning, Biden's campaign announced what they described as an aggressive travel schedule. That said, it's CNN's reporting the president intends to stop scheduling events after 8:00 P.M. so he could get more rest. This apparently part of his message to Democratic governors when he met with them at the White House. Tell us what the actual strategy is in your reporting.

ALVAREZ: Well, in some ways, Jim, this is the campaign telling allies, we hear you. Of course, we have heard over the last several days that they want to see the president have more unscripted moments. They want to see him on the campaign trail, engaging with voters often to, again, demonstrate that the president is up to the job.

And so this is a campaign memo that tries to outline how they're going to do that with, quote, an aggressive travel schedule. That includes the president, the vice president, the first lady, the second gentleman, collectively going to every battleground state. The president also going to Nevada to talk at two conferences targeting black and Latino voters and the conventional methods of a $50 million paid media blitz.

So, certainly taken together, you can see how the campaign is trying to use momentum or gain momentum going into the next few months after a very challenging week. And you heard from the president himself yesterday that he's not going anywhere.

But I should also note, Jim, that during that July 4th celebration, he was joined with Vice President Kamala Harris. She has not been observing the fireworks from the balcony with the president before, typically engaging in other July 4th celebrations. So, that moment in and of itself appeared to be a show of unity as they both faced multiple pressing questions about the trajectory of the race and President Biden's viability as a candidate.


SCIUTTO: Yes, he's close to the vice president's certainly going to be -- going to attract a lot of attention given the open discussions behind the scenes about options going forward.

Priscilla Alvarez at the White House, thanks so much.

So, let's continue this conversation. Joining us now, Brian Stelter, CNN's former chief media correspondent, now a special correspondent for Vanity Fair. Brian, good to have you on. And this morning you wrote a piece for the Atlanta Journal- Constitution with a different focus for this debate, and that is George Stephanopoulos, and that he will be watched, as the headline says there, as much as Joe Biden, quoting you, the longtime journalist and former Politico has been on both sides of a crisis. Tell us what the stakes are here. I imagine he will be judged in large part based on how much he pushes to some degree.

BRIAN STELTER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: Yes, because today George Stephanopoulos is all of us. He's every journalist in the country. He's also many voters who want answers from this president. Astoundingly, Jim, the White House is almost portraying this interview as a cognitive test, like it's some sort of televised doctor's appointment. The White House and the Biden campaign have raised the stakes for this interview as if it was not already important enough.

So, it is both the most important interview of the interviewer's career, Stephanopoulos, but most importantly for Biden. As you said, his presidency is on the line here. And yet at the same time, it's only one interview. It's not nearly enough compared to what Biden has to do more broadly to prove to the country that he's fit for service.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's an interview. It's not a debate. And part of the issue with the debate, right, was the split screen. And trust me, I'm not discounting the many lies Trump told in that debate, but in terms of quickness, sharpness, et cetera, even as Trump was delivering many lies, it was that contrast that was part of the problem. So, I mean, there are some things that this interview will never solve.

STELTER: No. George Stephanopoulos' former boss, Bill Clinton, used to say, strong and wrong always beats weak and right. That's what we saw at the debate last week. And now the fallout is tremendous and a single interview can't change that.

I know this is a frustrating story for many viewers because the public-facing story is so different from the private story. In private, Democrats are panicking, governors, lawmakers, even Biden allies and aides and donors all privately panicking. And yet in public, some of them are still supporting the president. You know, governors, for example, were saying they support him after that meeting but then they privately leaked their concerns.

Unfortunately, though, this is the reality. This is how the political world works. People are more honest in private than they are in public. And in private, they're saying this president has to go. Why hasn't he held a news conference? Why isn't he doing that today?

You know, Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984, when she was the V.P. nominee with Walter Mondale, she was in a political crisis. And she had a two hour long press conference with 200 reporters trying to prove that she could take on any question. Of course, the candidacy ultimately lost. We know Mondale lost in a landslide anyway. But that idea of a massive press conference, those are the sorts of things we haven't even seen the Biden campaign admit to thinking about in the past week.

SCIUTTO: You know, it's interesting that the disconnect between the private and the public conversation regarding Biden is not unlike the difference we saw between the private and public conversation about Trump, right? Privately, many Republicans would say he can't be the candidate, damaging, et cetera, but they wouldn't say that publicly. Loyalty to party fears about their own political futures. I mean, all these factors play a part.

I want to show you cover the British magazine, The Economist here. It mocks Biden with, well, there's a walker there, no way to run a country, deliberate reference to age. You're closely following the media coverage of this story. And let's be frank, it's not just national, it is international. Overall, what's your assessment of it over the last week?

STELTER: I think before the last week, voters were ahead of the media on this. What I mean is that voters had already decided, most voters, that Biden was too old to be president for four more years. But now the elite media is ahead of the Democratic base, the elite media, like The Economist, calling on Biden to resign. There's all this talk about a Kamala Harris presidency. Look, Jim, we may be in a world where we're going to have the first female president in the United States in a matter of weeks. That is not impossible.

It seemed crazy maybe a couple weeks ago before the debate, but we are now in an environment where there are a lot of possibilities. I think that points to the asymmetry of these two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. The Republicans are backing their convicted felon candidate to the hilt. Democrats are having a very active conversation about throwing their guy overboard. These two parties are so different. They're not the same. There's an asymmetry here. And you're seeing that in the media coverage as well, where liberal leaning outlets are pressing for Biden to go because they believe that's the way to stop Trump. At the end of the day, this entire conversation about Biden is actually a conversation about Donald Trump. True.

SCIUTTO: And you did not have a similar conversation in right wing media or at least publicly from Republican lawmakers following Donald Trump's criminal convictions right here in New York, which, of course, raised its own questions.


Brian Stelter --

STELTER: And, by the way, imagine, if Kamala Harris becomes the candidate, Trump is suddenly the old one. Trump is suddenly the one that can't be trusted on stage because he's full of word vomit. Yes, I was at a 4th of July parade yesterday, Jim. There were very few Biden signs. There were very few Trump signs. It was mostly just people who are tired of this kind of politics. They want change. They want newer, younger faces.

SCIUTTO: I saw similar watching the fireworks last night as well. Brian Stelter, thanks so much.

STELTER: Good to see you. SCIUTTO: And still to come this morning, while Americans have to wait until November for Election Day, of course, across the pond, a new era is beginning in the United Kingdom. What the shift left signals to the rest of the world, that's next.


SCIUTTO: A framework is, quote, now in place.


Israel and Hamas appear to be nearing an agreement on a ceasefire and a hostage release deal. This comes on the heels of a call yesterday between President Biden and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A senior administration official tells CNN the deal remains very consistent with the one that President Biden proposed back in May. That three-phase proposal includes the withdrawal of Israeli forces, the release of all living hostages, as well as the eventual reconstruction of Gaza.

It is important to note the deal has not been finalized. There have been moments where we appeared to be close and then the deal fell apart. But this one does appear to be closer based on accounts we're receiving. We'll continue to share all the developments.

Well, this morning in the U.K., Britain has a new Prime Minister. His name is Keir Starmer. Here he is meeting with King Charles earlier this morning, as tradition calls for there. This marks a landslide victory for the U.K.'s Labour Party, giving them control of the British government for the first time in 14 years.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have just returned from Buckingham Palace, where I accepted an invitation from His Majesty the King to form the next government of this great nation.

RISHI SUNAK, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I am sorry. I have given this job my all. But you have sent a clear signal that the government of the United Kingdom must change.


SCIUTTO: Starmer ends Rishi Sunak's tenure as prime minister. He officially left Downing Street, turned in his resignation this morning. Things move quickly in the U.K. following elections. The British tabloids telling the story, Keir We Go, read one paper.

CNN's Max Foster joins me now from London. Max, this is quite a political shift for the U.K. after 14 years and not a slim one, right? I mean, the margin for the Labour Party is going to be enormous here.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: It is enormous. The last election, they had their worst election anyone can remember. So, the turnaround, you see how things can move quickly in U.K. politics, but also the electorate can move quickly flipping between parties in an extraordinary way in this case.

So, after 14 years of conservative rule, that has now collapsed and Labour's in power. They're both centrist parties, so their center ground is held up. But underneath that, Jim, there is an undercurrent here. A lot of people saying Britain hasn't had the same sort of lurch to the right as other European nations, but perhaps that debate was had out around Brexit.

Certainly on the right, you had the Reform Party getting four seats, which is pretty extraordinary considering their size. On the left, you also had the Green Party getting three seats, and Nigel Farage is now going to be a big part of the debate about the future of the Conservative Party, which is utterly broken. He's got a seat here. But there's many in the Conservative Party that are saying it has to move right towards Nigel Farage's Reform Party, seeing those two groups come together, you know, may be the way forward for them. But at the moment, it's looking pretty, pretty bleak for Rishi Sunak's party.

SCIUTTO: Max, a lot of Americans not familiar with the U.K.'s first past the post system, but we'll put the percentages back up on the screen here, a clear win for the Labour Party, no question. But 34 percent to 24 percent, 14 percent for reform. The percentages don't show the landslide as much as the ultimate number of seats in Parliament.

FOSTER: So, in each constituency, it's basically the person that gets the most votes. So, if you take the Labour Party, they were very smart in the way they targeted particular seats they knew they were going to win, and the Liberal Democrats also did extremely well as well in that case. You know, other parties didn't do so well. So, it's a quirk of the British system.

And that's what Keir Starmer is really talking to. He didn't get as many votes across the nation, but didn't get the seats. He's aware he hasn't got the full mandate, despite the fact he's got a lot of power here now.

SCIUTTO: I wonder how much Brexit played a role in this. That was, of course, a signature achievement, or at least if you want to call it that for the Conservative Party. And, of course, the U.K. has been living through it. Economic growth is down. Immigration, remarkably, is up given that part of the justification for Brexit was to stem immigration here. Is that your read of this, that this was in part a referendum, not just on the party, but on the Brexit decision?

FOSTER: I think so. I was in France last weekend as well. I mean, what you're finding in these European elections is it's all about cost of living. The right is making a really clear argument about how they're going to solve that. In the U.K., cost of living went up. Economists would say that's because of Brexit, so Brexit broke the Conservatives, arguably.

SCIUTTO: And it's notable, too, that you have a right wing result in France, seems like they're going to make progress there, of course, a liberal result here.


The final point I'll make is that there was a very clear recognition of the results here, no disputing of the results as, sadly, we're all too familiar with in this country. And things move very quickly in the U.K.. You already have a new occupant to number 10.

FOSTER: Yes, and it's going to be very busy. He's got a NATO meeting, as you know, Jim, coming up. He's also got an E.U. -- European heads of state meeting. He's got an enormous amount and he just hasn't got a lot of money to live up to the promises he's made. I mean he knows the challenge, but it's going to be tough.

SCIUTTO: Max Foster, in London, thanks so much.

And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: As voters closely watch President Biden's next move, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a pointed suggestion for what the next move should be. In a new piece out on this morning, Sanjay is calling for President Biden to undergo detailed cognitive and neurological testing and then share his results publicly.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now. Sanjay, tell us what your reaction was to the debate and what's transpired over the last week. Based on you calling for a cognitive test, it's quite clear you believe that these questions about his fitness should be taken seriously.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think there was a level of concern, you know, and I heard this from a lot of doctors, frankly, who are brain specialists like me, from around the country and around the world. I mean, the essay that I wrote, Jim, is not a political one. It's a medical one, and, frankly, many of the things that, you know, people saw, I think, were not even necessarily new episodes. But what they were, I think, we're more sustained and I think a little bit more profound for people to see that.

I think that's why testing can be so important. And I think the real question you're trying to answer is, are these episodes just episodes that could be explained by lots of things, a poor night's sleep, low blood sugar, viral illness, or is this reflective of something that is deeper, a condition? That could potentially be treated as well, Jim. And I think that's a really important point.

Some of the signs that we saw that, you know, people observed during the debate the slowness of speech, the halting of speech, sometimes the confused ramblings. Again, these are types of things that can be explained by lots of different things, and you cannot make a diagnosis simply by observation. But that's why it may warrant more testing. If you were my patient, frankly, if you were my father, I would advocate for this sort of testing, again, in large part because there might be something you can do about it. And it could be hopeful times with regard to some of these diagnoses. So, that's really what's going on here.

I will say that the White House, they do say that there's various explanations for what happened here, late nights, jet lag, having a cold. But, again, if this is an episode, those things kind of make sense. If this is a more sustained condition, it needs to be investigated, I think.

SCIUTTO: Sanjay, the president's last full medical exam was about four months ago, though the White House says that he was seen briefly following his debate performance, what did we learn from that medical exam, and would that have included a cognitive test?

GUPTA: Well, we know that it did not include a cognitive test. It was something that we looked for, and the White House was asked about that, and the response was the doctor said that there was no need for any kind of cognitive test.

You know, it sounded like a pretty thorough exam, as these presidential physicals often are. 20-some specialists were involved, including a neurologist. And what we heard, in addition to sort of basic information about his physical health, was that there was no evidence of having had a stroke, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease as well, which was notable. But one thing to say about that is that Parkinson's disease is the most common cause typically of Parkinsonism, but it's not the only cause. And there was really no mention of really ruling out other things that could potentially be causing Parkinsonism.

So, again, this all gets back to why you would possibly do this more detailed cognitive testing, as well as testing for things like movement disorders.

SCIUTTO: So, what -- we have an image of the test up there. Can you explain to folks what is in such a cognitive test and what you would expect to gain in terms of determining the answers to the questions you're asking?

GUPTA: Yes. So, I think the image you might be looking at is of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. And that is a test, first of all, that President Trump says that he took and scored a perfect score on twice in the past, according to him. That is a sort of screening test, sort of a blunt screening test, to sort of parse out, is there something that should be looked at even further?

Once you start to do more detailed cognitive testing, these are pretty involved, Jim. I mean, how many words can you name in the next minute starting with the letter T, how many animals can you name in the next minute, things like that, but also looking at patterns, seeing if you can actually put patterns together. It's really looking at your executive functioning, your processing speed, and memory.

And to do it properly, it takes time. You've got to get a very significant history and physical exam. You're often talking to the patient's family because they're the ones who often notice things first and then really piecing it all together and trying to arrive at some conclusion. It's not easy, but it can be very worthwhile, Jim. SCIUTTO: And in fairness, we should know during the Trump administration, journalists like yourself and myself pushed for a public sharing of President Trump's assessments, et cetera, which they didn't always share, we should note.


But public has the right to know this sort of thing.

Dr Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much for joining us.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up --