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Biden On CNN Debate Performance: "Bad Night" Not A Bigger Problem; Biden Denies Extensive Polling Showing Him Trailing In Race; Biden: I Don't Think Anybody Is "As Qualified" To Be President; Vice President Harris Campaigns In New Orleans Amid Ongoing Biden Debate Fallout; Crews Race Against Rising Temps To Power Navajo Nation; UN: 80,000 People Have Been Displaced In Gaza Since Last Week; Biden Debate Performance Rattles "Never Trumpers". Aired 12-1p ET

Aired July 06, 2024 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

And we begin this hour with a defiant President Biden, vowing to stay in the race and win the 2024 presidential election.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the Lord Almighty came down and said, Joe, get out of the race, I'd get out to the race. The Lord Almighty is not coming down.


WHITFIELD: In the aftermath of his recent shaky performance at CNN's debate, and growing calls from some within his own party to drop out, the president sat down with an ABC News George Stephanopoulos interview last night for a high stakes 22-minute conversation. With voters and pundits hanging on every word, the president downplayed his dismal debate as a bad night and not a sign of a bigger problem.

In addition to saying that, Trump shouting over his muted Mike distracted him, the President also said he was tired from travel and wasn't feeling well.


BIDEN: I was sick. I was feeling terrible. Matter of fact, the docs with me. I asked if they did a COVID test because they are 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.


WHITFIELD: In the interview, the president also dismissed growing concerns about his mental fitness, but refused to commit to taking a cognitive test.

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

BIDEN: Watch me between -- there is 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.


WHITFIELD: We have a team of correspondents covering this for us. Eva McKend is in New Orleans, where Vice President Kamala Harris is set to speak later on today.

Let's also get started right now, though, with CNN's Priscilla Alvarez in Washington, D.C. Priscilla, what's the mood within the Biden campaign, following a pretty pivotal moment?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Biden campaign thinks that the interview last night did exactly what they wanted it to do, and they are -- and they are thinking -- they think that it showed a president who could respond to these questions, do so in an articulate fashion, and really push back against the concerns about his cognitive health.

So, they are looking at this as a win, seeing it as a strong interview, and really what the president was doing in that interview was showing defiance, dismissing the concerns and the critics, the -- about his candidacy.

Now, I will note, as we take a step back here, that it is a remarkable interview. This was an interview that was focused on the viability of the president as a candidate.

Oftentimes, when there are interviews with the president, they are focused on domestic policy and foreign policy. So, in that space, a few takeaways from this 22-minute interview.

First, on the debate, the president said that he was exhausted, that he was sick, and he also gave a new explanation, which was that he was distracted with former President Donald Trump speaking over his mic.

He also said that critics who have said that the president is putting himself first before the party are "wrong". And he also said that he wouldn't take a cognitive test and release that to the public.

So, this was really a president that was digging in, making it very clear that he is staying in the race, and also struck off polling that shows him slipping. Take a listen.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, I've never seen a president, 36 percent approval get reelected.

BIDEN: Well, I don't believe that's my approval rating. That's not what our polls show.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you stay in and Trump is elected, and everything you're warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?

BIDEN: I will feel as long as I gave it my all, and I did the goodest jobs I know I can do. That's what this is about.

Look, George. Think of it this way. You've heard me say this before. I think the United States and the world is at an inflection point when the things that happen in the next several years are going to determine what the next six, seven decades look like.


ALVAREZ: Now, the stakes of the election of the Biden campaign has talked about at length, are the reason that Democrats are so concerned about the trajectory of the race at this moment, with a candidate like President Biden, who voters have expressed concern about, the particularly, his age.


All right. Now, I will say, Democrats, or at least some are not entirely convinced based off that interview. I spoke to one House Democratic lawmaker this morning, who said, look, I'm still -- there are still worries about him regressing, but the president will be hitting the campaign trail to try to bring His message to voters and have more of those candidate unscripted moments that allies have been asking for.

WHITFIELD: All right. Priscilla Alvarez in Washington. Let's go now to New Orleans, where we find Eva McKend. That's also where the vice president is set to speak later on today. She arrived there last night. So, what's the focus for her today?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: You know, Fred, the vice president is under the spotlight like she has never been before. She really has emerged as President Biden's chief defender. I can tell you both publicly and privately that she is dismissing calls for her to be the one at the top of the ticket.

She is not leaning into that at all, instead, saying that she is proud to be Joe Biden's running mate.

But the reason why some Democrats are pushing her is that she could provide some energy to some key coalitions at a time when Democrats desperately need it.

So, talking about women, black voters, young people. Here at the Essence music festival, where she will address a crowd in just a few hours, you have black women that are often described as the backbone of the Democratic Party.

She made a surprise appearance on stage at the concert last night. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will have to stop by just to congratulate Essence on 30 years of the Essence Festival of Culture. So, enjoy this evening.

Let us always celebrate the diversity, the depth and the beauty of our culture. Have fun tonight.


MCKEND: So, Fred, her supporters say that she is perfectly suited for this moment, and point to how she has become such a key messenger on this issue of abortion.

But it's not all that easy. If this shift were to happen, Republicans have mercilessly criticized her for years and are eager to tie her to what they characterize as the policy failures of the administration.

She will address an audience in a Q and A format later today. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. We look forward to that. Thank you so much. Eva McKend, Priscilla Alvarez, appreciate it.

All right, lots to break down right now. So, let's bring in CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer.

Julian, great to see you.


WHITFIELD: So, President Biden's defiance, you know, again, stepping aside, what did that interview tell you about what the next four months before November will look like?

ZELIZER: That Democrats have a big problem on their hands. This is turning incredibly contentious within the party. He doesn't seem as if he is going to step down. There are more Democrats calling on him to do that, donors and some elected officials. And so, we are heading to a clash. We're not far from the Democratic Convention, and they are at odds in terms of what happens to the Biden campaign in the next, you know, few months. WHITFIELD: Biden, in that interview, you know, reminded voters what he has done as president. He contrasted himself with Trump. He tried to reassure people of his cognitive abilities. He also tried to make the case that he can still beat Trump. Listen.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it worth the risk?

BIDEN: I don't think anybody is more qualified to be president or win this race than me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know the heart of your case against Donald Trump is that he's only out for himself, putting his personal interest ahead of the national interest. How do you respond to critics, who say that by staying in the race, you are doing the same thing?

BIDEN: Oh, come on.

Well, I don't think those critics know what they are talking about.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They are just wrong?

BIDEN: It is wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That only you can defeat him?

BIDEN: I convinced myself of two things. I'm the most qualified person to beat him, I know how to get things done.


WHITFIELD: Julian, what do you think of voters are looking for right now and their candidates? Are they looking at the candidates, the two men, or are they focusing more on the future with either of them in the White House?

ZELIZER: Well, they are certainly looking at the candidates themselves, and I think Democrats are just worried not about what he has done as president, but can he manage the campaign, and what would he look like as president for four more years? And those are legitimate given the warnings, the broader warnings you're talking about that Biden has talked about.


That's the essence of the question that was just asked.

And I think after the debate, and from all the polls we've had now for, at least a year, voters do care about his stamina, and might be fair, unfair, but it is an issue. And with approval ratings as low as we are seeing right now, it's a threat to the Democrats going into November.

So, I think voters have been registering their concerns over and over again, and the debate really brought all of this together. WHITFIELD: Stay in the race is the president's call. You know, but now that you've got five Democratic Congress members and some donors who are pressing Biden to step aside, you know, what are your concerns if the divide within the Democratic Party grows, instead of unites, similar to how Republicans are uniting around Trump, regardless of criticism about his now criminal record?

ZELIZER: Well, divisions are never good. They dampen enthusiasm going into an election, not just on election day, but the canvassing and the build-up. The divisions also become the story. I mean, for Democrats, the whole point was, this was going to be an election about, do you want a second term for the former president?

And now, instead, it's a story about a party that's fighting with itself, and about the problems of the President. And so, it totally shifts the conversation to a place where the Republicans will be at an advantage. So, I think we've seen historically, this can be incredibly damaging to the incumbent.

WHITFIELD: OK. And what about the vice president, who is right now in New Orleans? You know, while people's votes are driven by the first name on the ticket, in this case, the incumbent. Why isn't Kamala Harris, you know, as the heartbeat away, you know, for the last 3-1/2 years, the next in line, not seemingly enough?

ZELIZER: Well, this is an unusual mix. Vice Presidents usually are not on the radar for most people. This has been kind of different conversation with so much attention on her.

I do think if she came out into the spotlight more, she introduces herself more, and she kind of shows what she is capable of. Some of those opinions might change, but in the end, people are voting on President Biden, not vice president Harris.

And so, if she is not at the top of the ticket, it's still going to be about the president, not her.

WHITFIELD: Julian Zelizer, we'll leave it there. Thanks so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Nearly 130 million people are under heat alerts as extremely dangerous and potentially deadly heat bakes the east and west coast this weekend. The city is facing record breaking highs as the heat wave settles in.

Plus, Tropical Storm Beryl targeting Texas. Expected to hit the coast as a hurricane. Millions on alert for life threatening storm surge. Our team is tracking it all.

And a glimmer of hope in Gaza, as a framework for a cease fire deal comes into focus.


[12:17:20] All right. Several train cars containing hazardous materials are still on fire today after derailing in North Dakota, Friday morning. Local authorities are monitoring air quality, telling CNN the train was carrying a type of ammonia that can cause dehydration and burns in humans.

Officials say removing those cars will likely take a few weeks. An investigation into the derailment is underway. And happening right now, new tropical storm warnings were just issued for parts of South Texas ahead of Tropical Storm Beryl.

A live look right now, looks quite lovely, doesn't it in South Padre Island, Texas, but they are under new warnings right now.

Beryl could skirt along the Texas coast before making a U.S. landfall.

Texas officials are urging people to prepare, even asking residents of several coastal counties to voluntarily evacuate in anticipation of the potentially dangerous conditions Beryl could bring.

Let's go now to Elisa Raffa in the CNN Weather Center, where Beryl is right now, and looking at the coast of Texas, it looks beautiful, but it's amazing how quickly conditions can change.

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, we still have Beryl sitting in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It is looking more organized now than it did earlier this morning, because it's feeding off of these warm waters.

We're still sitting about 460 miles south and east of Corpus Christi, these winds at 60 miles per hour right now in the center of the tropical storm. But it's sitting in these waters that are more typical of late August and early September.

So, they are incredibly warm, which is what will let Beryl kind of organize better and possibly become a Hurricane by landfall.

That's where we've got some of these tropical storm warnings in effect right now from Brownsville, just south of Corpus Christi, expecting some hurricane warnings later on today, because we're looking at a Category 1 landfall possible, then, that moisture starts to trek inland.

We are finding the probability of tropical storm force winds increasing for places like Corpus Christi and Victoria, Texas, Houston too. Winds up to 73 miles per hour, possible, there you see in that orange color. Something that we'll have to watch as the center of the storm comes on shore.

We're also looking at storm surge, that ocean water that just kind of gets lofted inland because of those winds, could get up to three to five feet in some locations. So, we'll have to watch that incredibly closely as well.

On top of this, we're taking a lot of tropical moisture pretty far inland. We already have a level three of four risk of flash flooding from Victoria, Texas up towards Houston, even a pretty far inland, because we're looking at rain totals of five to 10 inches possible.

Some rain totals could even get up to 15 inches.


So, incredibly heavy rain, even from San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Texas, up towards Dallas. Look at how heavy some of these rainfall totals can be.

Also, when you have this spinning tropical system making landfall, that's where you can have some of these outer bands that have some spinning thunderstorms with them that could create some brief tornadoes.

So, we do have a severe risk as well, a level two out of five. That yellow severe risk for the possibility of a couple of brief tornadoes. All of this happening on holiday weekend where people are flocking to a lot of these beautiful beaches on the Gulf Coast, and we're looking at a dangerous life threatening, rip current situation unfolding even outside of Texas.

We're obviously looking at some of the greatest impacts from the storm in Texas, but we've got rip currents that will stretch all the way through the Florida Panhandle.

So, something that you'll want to watch and be careful for very closely as we go through the weekend, rip currents have already taken a couple of lives so far this season.

The heat domes that are kind of situated right here the West Coast, over to the east, that's what's letting Beryl just kind of head right towards Texas as we go through the weekend.

And again, that's what's churning up the rough seas and the rip currents for the entire Gulf Coast.

So, I just wanted to share with you, if you're not familiar, rip currents are incredibly dangerous. It is the current that takes you out to sea. It goes out into the ocean, and you have to be faster than an Olympic swimmer to get out of it, if you swim this way.

So, the best way to get out of it is to swim parallel to the shore, and that's how you can kind of get out of it and get safely back to the coastline. Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, very --

Yes, very important tips, and it's important to be aware of what's going on along your coast. Thanks so much. Elisa Raffa.

All right. Evacuations, meantime, are underway across California, where firefighters are battling 20 active wildfires, thousands of acres scorched, at least three firefighters injured. The race to contain the flames. Next.


WHITFIELD: As California firefighters work to put out 20 active fires across the state they are fighting against a dangerous and potentially record-breaking heat wave. North of Sacramento, crews fighting the Thompson Fire are facing high temperatures and high winds.

A CAL FIRE spokesperson says eight firefighters there have experienced heat related illnesses.

Then, there is the French Fire burning near Yosemite National Park, and it's already scorched 900 acres and forced residents in the nearby city of Mariposa to evacuate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I had two neighbors said, jump in, let's go. But I told them, I'm not ready to go yet. It was scary. I'm hoping nobody gets hurt. God bless everybody in Mariposa. I hope we're all survivors.


WHITFIELD: Joining me right now to discuss is CAL FIRE deputy chief, Nick Schuler. Chief, good to see you. I mean, let me first ask you about, you know, that lake fire in Santa, Barbara County. It just started yesterday, and it's already grown to nearly 5,000 acres? Any updates that you can give us?

NICK SCHULER, DEPUTY CHIEF, CAL FIRE: Yes. Good morning, Fredricka.

Across the state, triple digit temperatures, red flag warnings, and heat conditions have been challenged for firefighters. Currently, we have more than 3,500 firefighters battling across the state, day and night.

WHITFIELD: And as it relates to that fire, talk to me about what they are up against.

I mean, we're talking about this, you know, heat. It's very dry. Already, that fire has moved very fast. What are the challenges in trying to contain it?

SCHULER: Challenges are immense. We're dealing with the increased temperatures, very steep and remote terrain. Many of these fires, and we get asked quite often about how rain has affected these fires, and the ability for rapid growth from the amount of vegetation that's across the state is a challenge.

WHITFIELD: You know, the other two fires of concern, you know, the Thompson Fire, the French Fire. What are the concerns there, as it pertains to the forecast, the terrain? Are they the same kind of difficulties in battling those blazes?

SCHULER: They are. We are happy to report, that we are seeing an increase in the percentage of containment. Thousands of firefighters are on these fires, working day and night. We're starting to lift some of the evacuation orders and warnings, allowing people to start to cautiously make way back to their homes, but we still have a long day ahead and several days ahead with the continued heat.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And this heat wave is very early in the season. So, what are your concerns as you prepare for what's next throughout this summer?

SCHULER: Yes. Well, just last week alone, on July 4th, we had 232 fires in a single day. Yesterday, more than 68. It's early in the fire year in California, which we see that fires year round here. And we need people to be cautious. 95 percent of fires in California are human caused, therefore, they are preventable. So, we need people to be very cautious of what they are doing and heed the warnings of officials when they are asking people to evacuate. It's a difficult time.

Yes, indeed. You know, and among, you know, the challenges that you all are battling here is, you know, you can't use aircraft at night with these kinds of conditions. So, your department, CAL FIRE is now using kind of a new night vision technology. I wonder what you can tell us about that and how it's helpful?


SCHULER: Yes, I appreciate the question. We are actually fighting fires around the clock, day and night, with our fixed wing during the day and helicopters during the day, and our helicopters at night would have dropped more than 150,000 thousand gallons at night, phone over a hundred hours.

So it is really a 24 hour operation not by just Cal Fire but agencies throughout the state. It's really an effort by all agencies, not just ours.

WHITFIELD: All right, Deputy Chief Nick Schuler, thanks to you and your crews out there all the best in your continued endeavors out there fighting these blazes.

SCHULER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. One of the poorest communities in the U.S. is enduring this summer sweltering heat without any air conditioning. And now crews are racing against the sun to connect the Navajo Nation to the power grid. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Allen Bryant watches a powerline crew with curiosity and wonder. For 70 years he's lived on this patch of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico without electricity.

LAVANDERA: It seems like a life changing moment for you?

ALLEN BRYANT, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: It is it is going to be real good.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): His family's home will soon be connected to the power grid that means air conditioning in the refrigerator. And it comes as the summer heat intensifies.

BRYANT: Yes, yes. It's getting hotter and hotter and drier and drier.

LAVANDERA: Yes. That's dangerous.

BRYANT: Yes. When the sun comes down (inaudible).

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This summer, power line crews have planted 55 poles stretching along four miles through this rugged landscape. The work is part of a nonprofit partnership known as Light Up Navajo. The goal is to bring power to 13,000 families who live without electricity in one of the poorest places in the country.

The crews come from 46 different power utility companies in 16 states. This group of linemen signed up for this assignment. And as the planet gets warmer, they sense the urgency of their mission.

JOE TSETHLIKAI, JOURNEYMAN LINEMAN, TRICO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE: To me it's just unthinkable that here, we're the greatest country in the world and we have Americans that are living without power, water, all that.

BRYAN ENGLISH, CREW FOREMAN, TRICO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE: It's crazy that still happened in American 2024.

LAVANDERA: So well you're less than 24 hours away from getting electricity at your house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, exactly.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This is William Tom's last night living without power. Tomorrow, crews will connect his home to the newly installed power lines reaching his house. He's lived here 15 years and often slept outside because it's cooler.

LAVANDERA: Did you ever get frustrated? Did you ever think, man, this is a hard way to live?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course. You know, there's frustration.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This summer though will feel different with a flip of a switch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go on. Turn on the breakers.


LAVANDERA: All right. Yes, well, we're ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready? Here we go. There we go.

LAVANDERA: All right. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The lights, they're pretty good.

LAVANDERA: All right, that's pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The light bulbs working.

LAVANDERA: Yes, the light bulbs are working. Now you can go buy an air conditioning unit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need to. I need to. Yes, I do.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Light Up Navajo project started in 2019. Almost 850 homes have been connected to the power grid. Navajo Nation is roughly the size of West Virginia with homes spread out across rugged and isolated terrain. It will likely take decades to finish the project. While one family celebrates, it's a reminder that thousands of others remain disconnected, left struggling through the painful summers. Arlene Henry's house has a small solar panel that provides a few hours of electricity but her son needs around the clock oxygen. They use their car as a power source.

LAVANDERA: And they'll come here, they're just a cool off?

ARLENE HENRY, NAVAJO NATION RESIDENT: Yes. Cool often here too because our AC.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): She's lived like this for 56 years.

HENRY: Yes, it wears us out. Yes. It's too hot. That's scary. Like now it's too hot in there.

LAVANDERA: Yes. Because it's almost 100 degrees today?

HENRY: Yes, I get scared. So I -- I'm scared for my son. It's too hot. I wish we had electricity.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): 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.


WHITFIELD: Pretty extraordinary. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for bringing us that report.


All right, straight ahead, we'll go live to Jerusalem and speak with a former hostage negotiator on why there may be a new glimmer of hope in the Gaza ceasefire talks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right new today, the U.N. says 80,000 people have been displaced in Gaza just since last week. Israel's military ordered evacuations in parts of Gaza City as it once again ramped ground operations in the area. Two million people almost the entire population of Gaza have now been displaced since the war began. The latest offensive by Israel coincides with renewed hope for a ceasefire. Report say Hamas may be prepared to drop its demand for a permanent ceasefire and a framework agreement could be close.

Gershon Baskin is a former hostage negotiator and Middle East director for the international community's organization. He's joining me now from Jerusalem. Great to see you.


WHITFIELD: So how encouraged are you about this being a potential breakthrough, right, if Hamas were to drop its demands? What do you see happening next potentially?


BASKIN: Right. I think there's reason for cautious optimism because we have heard that Hamas has agreed to enter into the initial phase of the ceasefire. This agreement that President Biden spoke about last month has three phases. The first phase is for six weeks, during which time Hamas would release about 32 of the Israeli hostages, 18 of them at least are believed to be alive.

Israel would release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners, including those who have murdered Israelis. Israel would redeploy out of populated areas. I'm not sure I know what that means, because I don't know where there are unpopulated areas in Gaza. And President Biden had said that if the six weeks ceasefire begins, negotiations would continue.

And even if there's no agreement, the ceasefire would continue beyond the six weeks. This has been a point that Hamas has not agreed to. And apparently, Hamas now agrees to it. At least this is what we've been told.

WHITFIELD: Do you feel more optimism this go round?

BASKIN: There is reason for cautious optimism because the negotiations are restarted the head of the Mossad was in Doha, Qatar overnight. He was there for a few hours, it gives the Israeli position, heard the Hamas position, came back to Israel. And apparently, tomorrow, the negotiators should be going back to the table and trying to find the agreement. There are lots of sticking points here. And it's very difficult. And the biggest question of all, is whether or not Netanyahu or the Prime Minister of Israel is interested in agreement. And if he can get it through his right wing, a fanatic government, which has been opposed to any agreement so far Hamas.

WHITFIELD: OK. And a senior Hamas official did confirm to CNN that the organization is ready to reconsider its insistence that Israel commit to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Meantime, you know, Israel doesn't appear to be letting up in its military operations in Gaza. How does that impact these ongoing talks or negotiations?

BASKIN: Well, it depends who you ask, if you ask the Israeli side, they will tell you that the reason why Hamas has dropped its initial demand for a permanent ceasefire is because of the military pressure. If you ask other people, they will tell you that the military pressure is only killing innocent Palestinians, killing Israeli hostages and also sending Israeli soldiers expected. So the Israelis believe that they need to finish the mission, which is destroying Hamas's ability to be a threat to Israel, again, militarily, and to ensure that Hamas will not govern Gaza again.

But there is no real agreed upon day after plan for the future of Gaza. And it's one that the rest of the Palestinian community needs to be brought into, because it's the Palestinians who have to govern Gaza at the end of the day.

WHITFIELD: All right. And Israel just to prove the largest West Bank land seizure since 1993. That comes as we're seeing an increase in military operations in the West Bank and attacks between Israel and Hezbollah. Where do you believe this is heading? There are a lot of different signals being sent here.

BASKIN: For sure, the Israeli government is putting in a plan to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to vote against ever allowing a Palestinian state to be established next to Israel. One of the big surprises of this war is that the two state solution is back on the international agenda. And I think that we're seeing growing numbers of Israelis and Palestinians who are recognizing that that's the only way out. This war that we've had over the last nine months has to be the last Israeli-Palestinian war. And we need the international community to be firm with both the Israelis and the Palestinians in telling them that they have to come back to the table. It has to be done in a regional framework. We have the possibility of normalization with Saudi Arabia that the Americans are pushing forward.

These are all stars aligning for a regional defense alliance with the United States with Europe with the region here and Israel, but it's dependent upon agreeing to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. Gershon Baskin, great to see you coming to us from Jerusalem.

BASKIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.


All right. Still ahead, they are former Republicans who vow to never vote for Donald Trump again, with so called Never Trumpers are saying about the backlash rising tide threatening President Biden's reelection bid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Four years ago former Republicans known as Never Trumpers came together and helped deliver the White House to Joe Biden and block a second Trump term. Many were ready to do it again this November. But the first debate between Biden and his Republican rival has left some of them very concerned and unsure about what happens next. Here's CNN's Elle Reeve.


ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This happy bar party is full of people who usually feel pretty bleak.

PAUL IVANCIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN: This country needs to wake up. There is a dangerous thing happening, it is called complacency.

REEVE (voice-over): They are fans of Bulwark, a Never Trump media organization. Many are ex-Republicans who reject Donald Trump, a group that can feel so tiny that some got on airplanes to meet one another. The event was festive and just a few days before the presidential debate.

BECKY HOFER, BULWARK FAN: It is hard for me to wake up every morning and talk to my neighbors, and know that they're supporting somebody that doesn't match any of their values.

REEVE (voice-over): Becky is a former Republican who flew in from South Dakota with her sister-in-law.

HOFER: We are in a very red state and I'm a very not-red person and it is tough to find a community there. We are married to Republican men.

REEVE: Is your husband pro-Trump?

HOFER: I think he is going to vote for Trump. I hope he doesn't vote for Trump, but it is an interesting house to live in.

REEVE (voice-over): We wanted to talk to these people because they represent an important part of President Biden's coalition. But after his struggle in the debate, we had to go back to them to see what had changed. Hofer was shocked and angry.

HOFER: It was terrible. I am completely disillusioned. I -- at this -- they're both a joke. It felt like elder abuse. So yes, I think he needs to be replaced, if for anything, just out of respect for his humanity.


REEVE (voice-over): Robin Hawkland had flown from Salt Lake City to be among Never Trumpers before the debate.

ROBIN HAWKLAND, BULWARK FAN: I fled the district in North Georgia with Marjorie Taylor Greene. She was pretty abusive to people wearing masks during COVID and I was a little traumatized by that.

REEVE: And how would you describe the politics? HAWKLAND: My politics were center-left. My husband was always Republican, and we got along fine for years and then it seems everything is kind of broken, and we both now are registered Democrats in Utah, which is rare.

REEVE: Are you worried about what might happen after the election?

HAWKLAND: Yes, very worried, very worried. I have three daughters, they all live in red states and they're in reproductive age, which is in their 20s, and I really worry about their options.

REEVE (voice-over): When we spoke to Hawkland afterward, she said she'd barely been able to sit through the debate.

HAWKLAND: Initial reaction was shock and then just sadness, and then I think I moved into anger.

REEVE: Do you think Joe Biden should be replaced?

HAWKLAND: It hurts me to say that, but yes. I don't think he is electable. I don't know how you dig out of this hole. He could do more events where he, you know, looks better. He slipped better since then and they can time it right, but everyone knows deep in there -- deep in -- deep in their existence, what they saw may happen again.

REEVE (voice-over): The pre-debate party in Denver was for a live podcast taping from the Bulwark, which was created by former Republican operatives. At the after-party, people told us that this was one of the few places where they could meet in real life, people who didn't make them feel crazy.

DAN MAGILL, NEVER TRUMP REPUBLICAN: I am a relatively conservative Republican. It is almost rather than being Republican, Democrat has become more autocracy versus democracy. Even though I when probably economically agree with more of the policies that a Trump administration would put in place versus a Biden administration, I can't support someone like Trump.

HAWKLAND: You'd feel safe here and you feel like you can speak your mind and people may disagree, but you can talk about it in a rational way.

REEVE (voice-over): But after the debate, Hawkland felt more despair.

HAWKLAND: You feel like you're being condescended to, to be talked to from the Democratic Party, kind of like just get behind the candidate was very frustrating and angering.

This is not about to the Democrat or the Republican Party. They've both put up candidates that are not electable for very different reasons. Trump is a criminal and many other issues. Biden is just aging and there is no reason that people should not be concerned with what they see.

HOFER: He has done a great job. He did a great job the last four years. Right now, if these are the two options that we have in November, I'll vote for Joe Biden's head in a jar before I vote for Donald Trump. I am angry and I mean, I am angry to the point where if Joe Biden stays on the ticket and Donald Trump is still on the ticket, I am fast-tracking moving to Costa Rica. I had it as a five-year plan moving to Costa Rica, and I am going to try and fast track it. I do not want to be here before the Republicans -- Trump's little troll start, you know, reducing more or taking away more women's rights.

REEVE (voice-over): Elle Reeve, CNN, Denver.



WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, what President Biden says it will take for him to drop out of the 2024 presidential race?


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. A new study suggests people who take the popular weight loss and diabetes drugs, Wegovy and Ozempic may have a higher risk of developing a rare form of blindness. CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard has more on what researchers found.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: The study finds there could be an association between using semaglutides like Ozempic and Wegovy and having an increased risk of developing a rare type of blindness that's caused by reduced blood flow to the optic nerve. This condition, it's a form of optic neuropathy, and it's rare in the general population and affects up to 10 out of every 100,000 people per year.

But in this new study, researchers found that people with type two diabetes who had been prescribed semaglutides, they were about four times more likely to be diagnosed with this eye condition compared with diabetes patients who had not been prescribed these drugs and those who are overweight or obese and prescribed semaglutides, were more than seven times more likely to get this diagnosis.

Now this is just an association and more research is needed to determine whether there's a causal relationship here because we already know that sudden changes in blood sugar levels can affect vision. And patients who tend to use these drugs they already may have diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea which can put them at an increased risk of this type of eye condition.


But this correlation, it is something new that we haven't seen much research on before. And while there's no proven treatment for this eye condition, a takeaway from this study is if you have glaucoma or any other optic nerve issues, and you're interested in taking semaglutides, or you already have been using these medications, then you may want to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits and ask them to monitor your optic nerve more closely over time.

Back to you.