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Biden In First TV Interview Since Debate: "It Was A Bad Episode"; Biden Declares He's "Staying In The Race" & Will Beat Trump; Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) Discusses About His Take On President Joe Biden's Campaign After Last Week's Debate; Report: Sen. Warner Seeks To Form Group Of Senate Democrats To Ask Biden To Exit Race; Biden Pushes Back On Concerns Over His Health; Dr. Gupta: Time For Biden To Get Cognitive Tests, Share Results; Biden: Trump Talking Over Muted Mic Distracted Me During Debate; Biden "Completely Ruling Out" Dropping Out Of Race; Trump Claims He Knows "Nothing" About Project 2025, And That He Disagrees With Some Of It. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 20:00   ET



ARLENE HENRY, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: So I - I'm scared for my son. It's too hot. I wish we had electricity.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear when the Light Up Navajo initiative will reach Arlene's home. Until then, her family will find refuge from the heat by chasing the shade cast by their home as the sun passes over.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Our thanks to Ed for that report and to you for sharing your evening with us. CNN NEWSROOM with Jim Sciutto starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutto.

Breaking news this hour: President Biden defiantly saying he will stay in the race, blaming nobody but himself for his disastrous debate performance. In an exclusive interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, Biden says it was just a, quote, bad episode, not a serious condition, in his words.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Let's start with the debate. You and your team said - have said you had a bad night.


STEPHANOPOULOS: But your friend Nancy Pelosi actually framed the question that I think is on the minds of millions of Americans, was this a bad episode or the sign of a more serious condition?

BIDEN: It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted. I didn't listen to my instincts in terms of preparedness and it was a bad night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you say you were exhausted and I know you've said that before as well, but you came and you did have a tough month, but you came home from Europe about 11 or 12 days before the debate, spent six days in Camp David. Why wasn't that enough rest time, enough recovery time?

BIDEN: Because I was sick. I was feeling terrible. Matter of fact, the doc's with me. I asked if they did a COVID test because they're trying to figure out what was wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn't. I just had a really bad cold.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

BIDEN: I don't think I did, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what I'm trying - what I want to get at is, what were you experiencing as you were going through the debate? Did you know how badly it was going?

BIDEN: Yes, look, the whole way I prepared, nobody's fault, mine. Nobody's fault but mine.

I prepared what I usually would do sitting down as I did come back with foreign leaders or National Security Council for explicit detail. And I realized - partway through that, you know, all - I get quoted The New York Times had me down, 10 points before the debate, nine now or whatever the hell it is.

The fact of the matter is, what I looked at is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn't - I mean, the way the debate ran, not - my fault, nobody else's fault, no one else's fault.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seemed like you were having trouble from the first question in, even before he spoke.

BIDEN: Well, I just had a bad night.


SCIUTTO: We will have more of that interview this hour. The stakes could not be higher for the President. It is unclear if his response to the debate and the campaign strategy will be enough. CNN has spoken with dozens of Democratic politicians and operatives who say the conversation has already moved to who Kamala Harris' running mate will be if Biden were to drop out and she is the one chosen to lead the ticket.

At the same time, The Washington Post is reporting that Democratic senator, Mark Warner, is working to gather Senate Democrats to ask Biden to exit the race. A Democratic Senator. We're going to speak with another Democrat, Sen. Fetterman, a staunch ally of Biden's later this hour.

But first joining me now is our powerhouse panel, Maria Cardona, I want to begin with you. This is just two minutes of an interview. We will, over the course of the next hour, have several more minutes. But this is a point in this campaign where every minute is a chance for the President to contradict the impression that he is declining based on this admittedly short clip. Did he do so for you?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he looked great in that interview. He - in that clip. Let's see what the extended one looks like. He looked relaxed. He looked tan. He looked like he was in a good mood. And I think he answered the questions exactly as George Stephanopoulos was giving it to them.

And so I think if the broader interview is similar to that, I think it's going to give many Democrats a little bit of peace. It doesn't mean it's going to quiet down all of the panic because there is still a lot of concern. I think that if that continues to be what he does, let's remember that right before this, he had a rally. He was fantastic at the rally from what I hear.

And I talked to a lot of voters who went to the rally and were very pleased with what they saw.


He was strong. He was forceful. He delivered the right message, the contrast against President Trump or so against former President Trump. And so, again, this is not going to be it, right? Everyone is talking about talking to lawmakers, but as we were talking about earlier, you can still count those lawmakers who have come out publicly on one hand.

SCIUTTO: The ones that have come out publicly, yes.

CARDONA: That's what I said, come out publically.

SCIUTTO: But the one who was saying so privately is different.

CARDONA: Yes, that's right and that's fine. People will talk privately, but until it becomes public, it's not going to be anything that moves the needle for President Biden to do anything different than what he's doing today.

SCIUTTO: David Chalian, he continues to say he had a bad night. Now, that's what we heard from the White House podium. We've heard it from other of his advocates. That, though, the fact is that contradicts the reporting because the reporting is that folks who have been close to the President have seen a decline over weeks and months and years. Is that a satisfying answer as given in that first clip we're seeing tonight?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, two things could be true. He had a bad night. I think that's objectively clear, and he may be declining in his abilities and energies with age and the like, as some of the reporting has suggested. He, though, took that question from Stephanopoulos, framed around the Nancy Pelosi comments this week ...


CHALIAN: ... which were not, of course, made by accident, right? I mean, Nancy Pelosi doesn't do anything by accident. So when she comes out publicly to frame the entire conversation this week of we, Democrats, need to know whether this is an episode or a condition, he took that question and said, it's an episode, not a condition.

There's not, as you noted, some reporting with blind quotes and the like. It is not - we have not seen a definitive, because they don't make the doctor available for interviews. They haven't put out fully comprehensive medical reports. That would be helpful to get at this question of an episode or a condition, to sort of test the President's answer here.

SCIUTTO: They are mostly blind quotes, but they're not all blind quotes, Jeff Zeleny. Another Democratic senator coming out tonight, Democratic senator Mike Quigley of Illinois - Congressman, rather, of Illinois, Mike Quigley. That is, at the very least, unusual to have sitting Democratic lawmakers say that the President of the United States who is running for re-election should not run for re-election. And granted, can be counted on Maria's one hand, but that's still a significant development, is it not?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: I mean, I think it's clear that by the end of the weekend or maybe next week when Congress comes back, you might need both of those hands.


ZELENY: Because the reality is Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts, also lent his voice. Look, regardless of what the number is, what is happening now is that President Biden, he basically dodged a Democratic primary and that was a worry early on in his first term. Was there going to be a primary, a challenge from the left? They dodged that. So the party was unified.

Now, four months from today is Election Day. This party is anything but unified. It is remarkable that we're almost going to re-litigate whether he should be the nominee, of course, based on different things, based on the debate.

So what's happening right now? If he's not dropping out, the question is, should he? And what is his path forward? And that is something the campaign has yet to answer, what is his path to victory here. I mean, never mind all of these interviews and sort of getting up to speed that he is a fit for the campaign. What is the state of the campaign tonight?


ZELENY: And the reality is the battleground map is bigger than it was on the night before the debate. And when I talk to Democratic strategists, and these aren't blind quotes, these are people we talk to who are afraid of speaking publicly about the White House. But these are members of Congress, these are Democratic strategists, all of whom actually want what's best for Joe Biden. And they are worried that the party is on a path to defeat in November, not just the presidency, but the House and indeed the Senate.

SCIUTTO: At least we'll have an opportunity - I'll be speaking to Congressman Quigley later in this broadcast tonight. I want to ask you, Shermichael, when you look at the dynamic here, it has been said often that Donald Trump would prefer Biden to stay in the race, that he considers his chances better against Biden, that he looks perhaps nervously at some of the replacements that they might be more formidable challengers to him. Is that your view as well from a Republican standpoint?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I absolutely think so. I mean, looking at that clip, asking the President, did you watch the debate. He said he didn't think he did. That certainly made me pause. Maybe I'm looking too deeply into this, but I think that clip is going to be re-shared over and over and over again, and so voters will probably look at it again.

When Stephanopoulos asked, did you know, were you aware of what was going on, he started to answer, and I thought it was a pretty good answer. Then he sort of got lost in the fray and veered on to something else.

SCIUTTO: There were pauses, no question.


SINGLETON: I just don't think this looks good. Just as a strategist, I think they had 24, 48 hours to respond to this. We're on what, day seven - eight. They're still talking about maybe doing some town halls next week. I'm confused about why the delay. This, in terms of political strategy, has been a tactical nightmare, a disaster.

And so if you're Donald Trump, if you're a Republican, generally speaking, you're going to step back. You're going to allow the disarray to continue. You're going to use this time to raise more money. You're going to use this time to further build up your campaign operations and those key battleground states that Jeff was just talking about. And then you're going to strike when you believe the moment is right.

SCIUTTO: Maria, there's a basic question here as to what is the standard, right? There's one standard of can the President answer questions simply and directly, and then he appeared to do that in that clip there in the Wisconsin rally earlier, a brief moment with reporters. But is that the voice that Democrats need? Is that the standard of the voice? Because the rap on the debate was - he missed multiple opportunities to call out those lies that he said, the 28 lies ...

CARDONA: Right. SCIUTTO: ... to call out sharp differences, to make a vocal case for reproductive rights, right? I mean, he completely missed on that one. So the question for Democrats really is, is he a passable voice or is he a winning voice in an election that Democrats frame as existential for the Republic?

CARDONA: Right. And I think that that's the question that is still being answered. The Joe Biden that was at the rally, absolutely he would be the right voice for all of that because he did all of that at the rally.

SCIUTTO: But he can't just - that voice can't just show up every other day, right?

CARDONA: Understood. Understood, and that is what the campaign is trying to show that that will be a consistency between now and November. And there's no question that it's a huge challenge. But I want to bring something else up and we talked about this earlier too.

We're all up here diagnosing everything that is happening to Joe Biden. I hear from voters and other strategists are also hearing from voters. I hear from grassroots groups on the ground that are going door to door in these swing states. Do you know a lot of what they're hearing? I would prefer Joe Biden on his worst day, including the debate night, than Donald Trump who will put my family in mass deportation camps and get rid of them, who would take away my rights and freedoms and make me raise my daughter in a country that has less rights than I did, who would impose an imperial presidency on us, especially after the MAGA Supreme Court gave him immunity where he could today be planning SEAL Team 6 to go and murder his political opponents.

They are scared to death about the possibility of Donald Trump. And before you say, well, then shouldn't they then be the first ones to say they should change out Joe Biden? No, because Joe Biden - to them, Joe Biden is the one that has brought them the tools necessary after a disastrous four years of Donald Trump, after so many communities lived in fear. Donald Trump is the one that had - I'm sorry, Joe Biden is the one - see, it happens to everyone.

Joe Biden is the one that had their back and they, at least as far as, and until Joe Biden decides he is not the one, it is up to him, they will have his back.

SINGLETON: Jumping quickly here.

SCIUTTO: And then we'll go to David.

SINGLETON: I understand everything Maria is saying. Just really quick, Dave.

SCIUTTO: Mm-hmm.

SINGLETON: When you look at those battleground states and many of those swing voters, Joe Biden isn't capable when he's not scripted of making that argument. And so if I'm a Democrat, it's one thing to say this for 18 minutes at a speech, at rally, trying to get the troops excited about moving forward. But when you're talking to the press and they're asking you very detailed questions about the next four years, and the President, unfortunately, doesn't appear to be capable of responding the way many would like ...

CARDONA: Well, that's your opinion. I mean, let's see what happens in the interview.

SINGLETON: ... the way many would like. That is a problem. And the poll numbers showcase that the American people are concerned about this, Maria.

SCIUTTO: And we should note the interview as well, well, about 13 minutes in.


SCIUTTO: We do expect additional clips from it shortly. David, tell me where you're ...

CHALIAN: Well, I was just going to say, I'm sure, Maria, you've heard some voters with that reaction. You also have heard voters or if you haven't, you haven't been paying attention ...

CARDONA: Absolutely, yes.

CHALIAN: ... who are very concerned about what they saw.

CARDONA: That's fair.

CHALIAN: And are questioning whether they can vote for Joe Biden for four more years until he's 86 years old. So I think voters have been expressing that as well. We saw in our poll, three quarters of Americans, three quarters of Americans don't agree on anything in today's world. Three quarters of voters say the Democrats would have a better shot with someone not named Joe Biden on the top of the ticket.

And I think the pressure, besides the pressure on Joe Biden that he's experiencing from Democrats, is on his campaign to prove the path to a viable victory here.

CARDONA: I agree.

CHALIAN: And I don't think they've been doing that in this last week.


I think they've been doing tactics like, look how much money we've raised.


CHALIAN: Look at where we're going in the battleground states, but I don't think they are laying out a truly viable path to victory in the current context of this last (INAUDIBLE) ... SCIUTTO: You can call that accentuate the positive strategy. Let me ask you about data here, because you quote the three quarters of Americans or respondents who said that they would prefer another candidate. That did not move dramatically from the last time we asked that question. I believe that the last figure was 72 percent. Earlier in the week, CNN's reporting was that the Biden team's approach was if his support was plummeting, right, that he might reconsider. Based on the data we've seen since the debate night, polling that we've seen, is it sliding? Is it plummeting?

I spoke to Larry Sabato earlier today. He said that the race, based on his numbers, isn't even close at this point.

CHALIAN: Yes, I think you would - well, I think you would be hard pressed to say plummeting is a word you could apply to any of the polls that have come out now that suggest it. And by the way, Donald Trump's rate remained consistent. It's not like he's numbers are benefiting from this moment, and that's true.

But there has been, you know, I mean, our horse race was the same before and after.


CHALIAN: The New York Times did show a little slippage. And most of the polls are consistent, though, right now. Joe Biden is about six points behind Donald Trump in this race. He's currently four months out from behind.

SCIUTTO: Well, it gets to your point, if he was behind before, this certainly didn't help him, right? And they still have yet to articulate how they narrow that difference here.

ZELENY: And now there's divisions in the party which did not exist on the night before the debate.

SCIUTTO: Quite public divisions.

CARDONA: There's also some polls that show him ahead, so again ...

SCIUTTO: Hold - well, the majority do not. Hold that thought for a moment because we do have a new clip from the interview. We're going to play it now and get your thoughts. Have a listen.


STEPHANOPOULOS: ... last several months?

BIDEN: Can I run the 110 flat? No. But I'm still in good shape.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you more frail?


STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you spoke ...

BIDEN: Complete my schedule.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you spoke with your doctor after the debate. What did he say?

BIDEN: He said, he just looked at me. He said, you're exhausted. I said, okay. I have medical doctors traveling with me everywhere - every president does, as you know. Medical doctors from the best in the world traveling with me everywhere I go. I have an ongoing assessment of what I'm doing. They don't hesitate to tell me if they think there's something wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you said you have an ongoing assessment. Have you had a full neurological and cognitive evaluation?

BIDEN: I've - I get a full neurological test every day with me. And I've had a full physical. I had - you know, I mean, I've been to Walter Reed for my physicals. I mean, the - yes, the answer is yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know your doctor said he consulted with a neurologist. I guess I'm asking a slightly different question. Have you had the specific cognitive tests?


SCIUTTO: Several questions there, are you more frail, he answers no. He says when he spoke to the doctor following the debate, the doctor said he's exhausted. He was asked directly, has he had a full cognitive test? His answer was, in effect, the job is a full cognitive test going forward.

CARDONA: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: Your reaction to that segment there?

CARDONA: Again, I think it's fine. It - the man has never been a terrific orator or Churchill or speech giver, this - and this is part of the frustration that I'm hearing from these voters. And you're right, there are others on the other side. But because, you know, we need to represent both sides, let me just tell you about what the other voters who are still supporting Joe Biden are saying.

This is somebody who has spoken this way for decades. Yes, he's a little slower, and he has admitted that. Yes, he might be a little bit more halting, and he has admitted that. But he has a stutter, he has - like, I remember even in 2016, when he was starting to think about, after Donald Trump won, about whether the next one was going to be, I - it was really frustrating to see him speak publicly and I was like, oh my God, I'd love to give him some media training. Because it's something that - this has always never been a gift to him.

SCIUTTO: Shermichael, just your view, do you have a different read as you listen to those two clips now?

SINGLETON: You know, like, the questions about the President's cognition are not going to disappear or dissipate because of this. I think the simplest thing the campaign could do, take a cognitive test. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has detailed what that would entail. And release the results. And if the results are positive, all of this will disappear overnight. But I think there's a reason they haven't done that.

And if you're a regular voter, left-leaning, right-leaning, whatever the case may be, it's hard not to beg that question. Why not just take the test and put the results out there for us to see?

SCIUTTO: All right, fair point. We have a lot more sound to come. Everyone stick around. We're going to have much more from that interview shortly.

Up next, one of the President's staunchest defenders, Democratic senator John Fetterman, he's going to join us. He's going to weigh in on Biden's primetime interview. Also tell us if he still thinks he's fit for a second term.




SCIUTTO: President Biden's high stakes interview with ABC News could potentially determine if he remains in the White House race. Joining me now is one of President Biden's most vocal defenders, Democratic senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time tonight.

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Yes, it's great to be here. Hi.

SCIUTTO: As you watch just the initial sections of this interview here, are you hearing enough from the President to quell concerns among those in your own party?

FETTERMAN: Well, of course, it's going to be an ongoing conversation. But yes, of course, he did a fine job on that. And this is a guy that's been through a pandemic. This is a guy that's been - managed two wars. Do you think, you know, like he's going to have too much trouble with an interview or these kinds of other concerns? You know, I'd like to remind everybody, Joe Biden has held every line that was ever asked of him. No experts now back in 2020 thought he was going to win the primary, but of course, he did.

And then he is the only American that's ever beaten Trump in an election right now. And throughout all of those things, the pandemic and the wars, and now the American economy now is the world's envy right now. And that's undeniable. In fact, just today, over 200,000 new jobs were announced as well, too. And I don't know why we're not talking more about Donald Trump. And I think it's easier to count how many true things he actually said than counting the lies during in a debate or in an interview.

SCIUTTO: But let me ask you this, Senator, because it's the candidate's job, right, to articulate some of the points you just made about the strength of the economy, or when you look back to the debate to articulate his case for women's reproductive rights. It's the candidate's job to do that, and not just in the debate, but at other times, he hasn't risen to that challenge, right?

If this election is, as you and the President and others say, truly, for the heart and soul of the nation, is he the right, is he the strongest voice to make that case to voters?

FETTERMAN: Yes, he's our president, he's our leader and he's been a great president. And he has a career of 50 years, and I refuse to throw that away because of 90 minutes of a rough debate. I had a rough debate. I was right there, and the media was after me, and people were saying terrible things and all kinds of things, and the guy that I was running against now, just two days ago, was tweeting about constipation and kinds of things on Twitter, and thought I was going to lose.

So I leaned in, and now I can be here today, and I'm going to be - and I just want to remind everybody, what you might say right now, we are not the sum total of what a debate may be.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, and we celebrate your recovery from what was a serious health episode here.


But part of the way you have done that, shown that to voters, is by doing what you're doing right now. It's a live television interview being extremely available, right, to show what you can do, show how you can communicate. Would you like to see the President do more of the same?

FETTERMAN: Well, I mean, he's doing all of that. He was in Wisconsin, and I'm going to be chilling with him in Pennsylvania on Sunday. He's just doing a national interview on ABC. I mean, what else does he need to do? I don't understand it.

So - and again, I disagree with the President on issues, whether it's Israel or maybe even in the border, but I wouldn't be here right now if I didn't absolutely believe that he is the right man, and he has deserved the - you know, to have our kinds of support and all that. And this thermonuclear meltdown and just a couple of days after that, it's like, for Democrats, for God's sake, you know, get a spine or grow a set one or the other. It's just, you know, when panicking and those kinds of a thing, yes, I can't ever think when that's ever made better when you do those kinds of things by panicking.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And listen, to your point today, in a single day, a - we've seen him at a rally, we've seen him have interactions with reporters unscripted, and of course, we have this sit-down interview with ABC that's ongoing right now. We do, though, have some of your colleagues, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, according to The Washington Post, attempting to assemble a group of senators to ask Biden to exit the race, and you have a handful of Democratic lawmakers who have called for him publicly - Biden publicly, to leave the race.

What's your reaction to some of your colleagues saying that? FETTERMAN: Yes, if a couple of members of the JV (ph) team wants to say those kinds of things for their 10 minutes of fame or whatever, that's up to them or they're entitled to their ...

SCIUTTO: Mark Warner is a - is - I mean, he's in the Senate Intelligence Committee.

FETTERMAN: No, no, no, I'm talking about random reps from a couple of days. Mark Warner, I have a lot of respect for Sen. Warner as well. I'm not referring to him, and he's entitled to his opinion, and he carries a lot of weight. I admire him, but I just don't happen to agree with this on this as well. And now, he ...

SCIUTTO: Before we go, do you believe that Joe Biden we're seeing right now can beat Donald Trump in November?

FETTERMAN: I do, and - but I just want to be very clear. I've been having this same conversation for eight years. In 2016, in Western Pennsylvania, it was very clear that Trump could win, and he actually beat Clinton, unfortunately, although a lot of these experts say that Clinton can't be beaten. And then I knew it was going to be very close in 2020, and the polls actually show Biden was up by several points, and I knew that wasn't going to be accurate.

And right now in 2024, it's that same dynamic, and it's going to be very close. Before the debate, after the debate, or how Joe Biden continues to campaign, not much is going to change other than it's going to be very close.

SCIUTTO: Sen. John Fetterman, we appreciate you joining us tonight. Thanks so much for joining.

FETTERMAN: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: When we do come back, why our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta believes President Biden should get a detailed cognitive test and be transparent with the American people about the results. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: Four months from the election, there are questions whether President Biden is physically and cognitively able to run and win a successful campaign and then govern for another four years. This is what he said in his exclusive interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos tonight.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: -- that and the American people have been watching, yet their concerns about your age and your health are growing. So that's why I'm asking, could -- to reassure them, would you be willing to have the independent medical evaluation?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Watch me between -- there's a lot of time left in this campaign. There's over 125 days.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the answer --

BIDEN: They'll make a decision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The right answer right now is, no, you don't want to do that right now.

BIDEN: Well, I've already done it.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now is CNN's Resident Neurosurgeon and Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. His own analysis of Biden's debate performance, along with those of more than a dozen medical colleagues, led him to conclude that, quote, "It's time for President Biden to undergo detailed cognitive and neurological testing and share his results."

Sanjay, good to have you on tonight. First, as you've seen these initial clips from this interview, which are intended in part by Biden and his team to show the country that he is capable of continuing, do you think that they convince you, convince others that's true?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, first of all, with regard to the clip you just showed, you know, the idea that testing is potentially going to embarrass somebody or something like that, that's certainly not the intent of cognitive testing or neurological testing. It's maybe to try and get some answers to what has been causing some of the symptoms that he seems to have from time to time.

He seems much more coherent tonight as compared to the debate. But I still think that that's an open question. Is there something else that's going on here? Or are these truly just episodes that appear from time to time? I think also this idea that you get the benefit potentially of early diagnosis and treatment from testing. That's part of the reason you do it.



GUPTA: Because if you can diagnose something early, potentially treat it early. So we don't get the answers to that, or even get a baseline test. Or you don't get the peace of mind that there's nothing to sort of worry about. It's very hard from looking at the brief clips here to really make an assessment.

It doesn't change the idea that I think testing would be beneficial. And, frankly, as you know, Jim, in the United States, anyone over the age of 65, Medicare asks that they get a cognitive test as part of their annual wellness checkup. For everybody over the age of 65, that would be President Biden and former President Trump. So, that should be part of the regular testing. SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. He says he has not had a cognitive test recently. He did claim in that interview that the job, in effect, is a cognitive test, but has not had one for a number of months, going back to his last annual physical in February. Could an 81-year-old patient see a change, a marked change, in that time frame, in the span of, say, four or five months?

GUPTA: Yes, that's a great question and the answer is yes. And it's very interesting, Jim, because you -- we learn, and this -- some of this is recent sort of learnings that the brain can be very biodynamic in this regard. It can improve very quickly as well.

In fact, the clinical trial from Dr. Dean Ornish showed that within 20 weeks, five months, people had reversal of signs of cognitive impairment. So they got better, but at the same time, people got worse during that same time frame in the trial who were not on the program. So, yes, things can change quickly, not only within, you know, a year or so, but even within weeks and months.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that's an interesting point because it fights the sense that this only goes in one direction. You've recommended a cognitive test. Can you explain to viewers right now what exactly that would look like? How long would it be? What kind of questions would he be asked? And what would the results look like?

GUPTA: Yes. And, again, I just want to point out that anyone over the age of 65, as part of their annual wellness checkup, should be getting these cognitive tests. They're pretty detailed. Usually about an hour, a physical exam, a significant patient history, oftentimes talking to family members as well to see what's going on.

The cognitive testing is all sorts of different things, matching of patterns. A sniff test smell can be one of the first things to sort of give you a clue that something's going on. Blood work, looking at genetic risk factors, trying to piece it all together. But ultimately, you're trying to figure out how is someone doing in terms of their processing speed?

How are they doing in terms of their executive judgment? How are they doing in terms of their memory? And if all those things look good, at a very minimum, you now have a baseline. And if somebody's getting these tests every year, you can start to compare them and maybe even notice things before the patient does themselves.

SCIUTTO: And those things you described, there are things that, well, certainly the American people have a reasonable expectation of high performance at this level given the kinds of decisions a president has to make.

GUPTA: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, it's good to have you on. Thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, we will have more from President Biden and his critical television interview that could amplify potentially or calm critics urging him -- some of whom are urging him to quit the race.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news, we will have more tonight from President Biden's potentially make or break interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos. The president insisting he has the stamina for another term in the White House.

Our panel is back with us along with Van Jones now joining former special adviser to President Obama. And Van, before I go to you, I understand we have a new clip from the interview. Let's play it and I want to get your thoughts.


BIDEN: -- I was having a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I let it distract me. I'm not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn't in control.


SCIUTTO: So Van, that's a new explanation among several for his debate performance along with the cold, loss of sleep, jet lag, et cetera. He's saying that Trump was speaking over the mic. You've only seen a few minutes so far of a 30-minute interview. Based on what you've seen, does this change the dynamic at all for you or for folks watching?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it will stop some of the bleeding because this is more the Joe Biden we're used to. It can be a little bit mumbly and stumbly, but he was clear. And one thing I think he gets credit for, everybody's been pushing him to throw his staff under the bus and he refused to do it.

He kept saying, nobody's fault but mine. Nobody's fault. That's the character. He -- it is his instinct to protect others even when his back is against the wall.


JONES: I think that kind of -- that's -- there's something beautiful about that. Because the playbook is blame the staff, fire somebody, do something, he won't do it. So I think that it will stop some of the bleeding. I don't think it reverses though the damage. That's what I think.

SCIUTTO: And to be fair, that is a clear contrast simply based on the facts between Biden and Trump, tendency to blame others versus taking responsibility. Biden said, Van Jones, he is completely running. He said that at the interview with George Stephanopoulos.

[20:45:04] He said it from the stage in Wisconsin. He said it speaking to voters, to reporters earlier today on the tarmac. Whatever you or I or anyone else says, it's his decision. And to me, based on what I've heard, he does not sound like someone who's considering leaving the race. I wonder if you think differently.

JONES: It doesn't look like he is considering it. I just think the problem is that there are chunks of the iceberg falling off now because people are afraid that not only is he going to lose, he may pull the whole party down and Trump may get a trifecta. That's what's going on.

But I tell you what, Biden was savvy in this interview. He used the opportunity to point out stuff in his record that are positive that people are not talking about. You know, he talked about the 200,000 jobs that were created. So he's actually now doing what people said.

People said, put yourself in the cat bird seat or in the hot seat and answer some questions. He did. He didn't do anything to hurt himself. He actually underscored some stuff that people haven't been talking about. So his back's against the wall. He doesn't throw a staff on overboard.

He doesn't hurt himself today. And he started to remind people about what he's achieved. I think on the whole, this is going to help him. It's not going to reverse the damage, but it should begin to stop some of the bleeding.

SCIUTTO: David Chalian, Van Jones says the president's back is against the wall. Does the president know the degree to which his back is against the wall here?

CHALIAN: You know, the president does consume news media. We know that. And so, I think he's aware, but he's -- he is an -- most presidents are insulated, and he has a particularly small circle of advisers who've been with him with a long time. He relies on their council. And of course he relies on the council of his family.

He was with his family yesterday for the 4th of July at the White House. All indications are there are no cracks in the family. The First Lady, his son Hunter, these are people that want him to give the answers he's giving today and to stay and fight through this.

And you see all day long today, he has been trying to shut this conversation down. I don't see how the conversation gets shut down. He may still be the nominee. He -- as you said, it's up to him. He may stay in this race, but he is going to be the nominee of an entirely different race after this episode than he was prior to the debate.

And not just -- I don't mean just the debate, Jim. I mean, this entire week since the debate, this next week of a conversation that's going to go on with more members on the Hill coming out against him, with more bad poll numbers coming out. And yet he's going to -- if he stays dug in and stays the nominee, he will be atop a candidacy that will be in a very, very different --

SCIUTTO: No question.

CHALIAN: -- slipping position than he was a week ago.

SCIUTTO: And challenge from within. And I understand we have another clip from the ABC interview. Let's play that and I'll get your thoughts on the other side.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have the mental and physical capacity to do it for another four years?

BIDEN: I'm believes so. I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I did. Look, I'm running again because I think I understand best what has to be done to take this nation to a completely new level. We're on our way. We're on our way.

And, look, the decision recently made by the Supreme Court on immunity, you know, the next president of the United States, it's not just about whether he or she knows what they're doing. It's not about a conglomerate of people making decisions. It's about the character of the president. The character of the president's going to determine whether or not this Constitution is employed the right way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a tougher, more personal question. Are you sure you're being honest with yourself when you say you have the mental and physical capacity to serve another four years?

BIDEN: Yes, I am, because, George, the last thing I want to do is not be able to meet that. I think, as some of the senior economists and senior foreign policy specialists say, if I stop now, I could go down in history as a pretty successful president. No one thought I could get done what we got done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But are you being honest -- with yourself as well about your ability to defeat Donald Trump right now?

BIDEN: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.


SCIUTTO: Maria Cardona, that seems to be his answer there, yes.

CARDONA: Yes. And I thought he was very, very strong and an important way to do that. He showed the contrast that so many voters, I think, think it has been missing from the coverage and from, you know, the breathless conversations about his health. That is what it comes down to.

And he's right, it is about character because of all the things I mentioned before and the possibility of what this next president could be depending on who it is. And so, I thought that was really smart for him to have done that in that way.

[20:50:02] There was no hesitation right there in terms of whether he was being honest with himself. And, you know, this kind of goes to the question that you would ask David Chalian in terms of whether he knows what's at stake. He knows what's at stake. He understands what's at stake.

What I think we all know about President Biden is that this is a man who was stubborn, but he is stubborn because when he has not given up and focused on what he thinks is the right thing, he has pulled rabbits out of the hat a gazillion times. There's no question that this time around has got to be the most important rabbit that he pulls out of the most important hat.

So --

SCIUTTO: It's not a --

CARDONA: -- that's what's at stake.

SCIUTTO: It's not a perfect record, though, on stabbing -- the withdrawal from Afghanistan being one very much his decision but did not turn out well. We've seen --

ZELENY: The one question is I've been talking to some Democrats throughout it, is it about Joe Biden or is it about the sort of the full breadth of the party? And I think that is where this conversation will go.

Of course, he thinks he is the best person for the job. He's been at it for a long time and he's wanted the job for a long time. But when you listen to sort of the rationale for these members of Congress who are coming forward, they all have respect for him. But they wonder if he is the best person for that.

One thing I didn't hear in the interview tonight was sort of an acknowledgment in his rally speech in Madison. He used his age. He said, you think I'm not old enough to, you know, support abortion rights and things but in the interview, he was very defensive of his age once again. So it's still something he's working through, but it's all about President Biden, all about Joe Biden himself.

He thinks he's the best person. Democrats increasingly may not think that. So that is what he'll have to reconcile. And if he's insulated or not, he's about to get a sense I think next week when NATO leaders come to Washington and when members of Congress are back. People will get through to him one way or the other.

SCIUTTO: It's quite a direct question, are you being honest with yourself? And I think part of that question too is are you being honest with the American people?

Shermichael, to win this election, Trump doesn't just need to win his base, right? He's got to convince Independents and he's got to convince some Republicans, right, that he's the man for the job. As you watch this, are you convinced that he's making that case?

SINGLETON: I mean, look, I think on two issues that most Americans are principally concerned with. President Biden has yet to make a case for why, if given another four years, he'll be successful on it. He talked about the economy. Well, there's still a disconnect materially for a whole host of Americans.

A polling showcase is even our own polling at this network, that most Americans believe the former president is better on that issue. The same thing for immigration. So if you're Biden and you're focusing on your age versus the future, you're losing.

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question. Well, listen, there's much more to discuss. Everyone, thanks so much. We are expecting more sound from that interview, which we'll bring to you once we have it.

Still ahead, chaos is our friend. That is Team Trump's take on all the Democratic drama right now. Inside their plan if President Biden were to drop out of the race, details next.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news, President Biden remains defiant amid growing calls that he should bow out of the presidential race, saying he is, quote, "the most qualified person to beat former President Trump." And, in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Biden denies that he's behind in the race.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you really believe you're not behind right now?

BIDEN: I think it's in -- all pollsters I talk to tell me it's a tossup.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You won the popular vote in 2020, but it was still deadly close in the electoral college --

BIDEN: By 7 million votes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. But you're behind now in the popular vote.

BIDEN: I don't buy that.


SCIUTTO: He doesn't buy it. As the spotlight remains on Biden, Trump was off the campaign trail today, but his campaign remains ready to pounce with one source telling CNN in their view, quote, "chaos is our friend."

I want to bring in our own Steve Contorno for the latest in Trump world. Steve, I wonder, does Trump's campaign have a plan if Biden were to drop out of the race.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Well, it's funny, Jim, because Donald Trump for really nine months now has been suggesting that Joe Biden wouldn't make it to all the way to November and yet, no, there has not been much serious planning, assuming that Joe Biden wouldn't be in the race and now they are scrambling just like everybody else to figure out what exactly is going to happen yet next.

They did not anticipate that this would be the major storyline from this debate eight days later and they are watching these events unfold and they are starting to get a feel for the other potential contenders that could be in this race. They are looking through binders that the RNC holds that have briefing books of all the governors and senators that are being tossed around right now as potential replacements.

They are starting to attack Vice President Harris in their messaging. So really, you were seeing a little bit of a shift in strategy, acknowledging the changed realities and the uncertainty going forward. But, you know, they also know this, and this is something a Republican pollster recently told me, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. And many people inside that Trump campaign believe that they are -- their path to election is much cleaner with Joe Biden still in this race.

SCIUTTO: Trump himself attacking Harris in sometimes quite aggressive terms. One question on another topic today. Trump claimed today he knows nothing about what's known as Project 2025, which is a plan for quite dramatic changes supported by some in the right wing to the government. Why is he doing that?

CONTORNO: Well, Jim, Project 2025 is a plan that being put in place in a recruitment effort by the Heritage Foundation, which is a conservative think tank, very closely aligned with the former president. In fact, many of the people who are involved in putting together this playbook used to work for his administration.

But they have been increasingly a focal point of the attacks from the Biden administration, Biden campaign, linking Trump to some of the more controversial policies that they say that they would hope that a President Trump would pursue in a second term, including things like restricting abortion and contraceptive medication, banning pornography, a lot of a culture war type issues.

But today's announce -- or today's announcement from President Trump, former President Trump comes after Kevin Roberts, the head of Heritage said, quote, "The country was in the process of the second American revolution, which will remain a bloodless level revolution if the left allows it to be," quote. Obviously getting a lot of attention for the --

SCIUTTO: No question --

CONTORNO: -- violence that it predicts.

SCIUTTO: Well, as you say, the fact is the Trump campaign, Trump himself, had been aligned quite closely with the Heritage Foundation and that project prior.

Steve Contorno, thanks so much.

And the next hour of CNN Newsroom starts now.